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Radio’s Social Media Lessons from Hollywood

Who in the world is Gordon Paddison?

Do you remember the movie Wedding Crashers when that viral video made the rounds where you paste your own face over the face of one of the stars of the movie and you send it to your friends?  That was the work of Gordon Paddison.

What about the social hubbub surrounding Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, one of the most popular movie franchises of all time? That, too, was the work of Gordon Paddison.

Gordon is the head of a company called Stradella Road, a branding and marketing and social media company specializing in the entertainment space and their clients include the likes of Facebook, Fandango, Google, AOL, Variety, Paramount, and the one and only Peter Jackson.

Listen to our entire interview here – or subscribe to all the Mark Ramsey Media podcasts at iTunes.

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Gordon, when I first met you I asked how we spark some social media conversation about this or that and you replied with the perfect question.  You asked, “Well, what do you want people to talk about?”  In other words how do you organize the conversation?  You have to organize that conversation around “assets.” you said.  Explain what that means and why that matters.

Conversations must be contextual.  Radio stations have great assets.  People always say, “Well, movies are easy, because movies have great assets.”  But actually, any brand – any business – can have great assets.  Sometimes the assets are employees, and you can take those “assets,” the employees, and turn them into an editorial toolsets to position your business.  And your business, your brand, gives you a context for dialogue with your consumers.

Then it’s important to talk conversationally, because most of the dialogue online and particularly in social media is a volley of conversation – it’s almost like call and response.

We’re trained from “the old days” in broadcast media, which was more of a one-way conversation.  Now we have moved to a dialogue, and it’s important to allow that dialogue to be partially owned and to be driven by the consumer.

So it’s a little bit like ping pong but with a point if you can make it properly.

You say a radio station has abundant assets.  The norm in radio is to say, “Okay, I’ve got my radio station and I want to use my social media assets to promote my agenda and spread word-of-mouth about my station and its various activities.”  You’re suggesting it’s much more than that, right?

The great thing about a radio station is you have the shows, you have the content, you have your advertisers…there are a lot of different elements that you could exploit.  You have your personalities.  Indeed, the great thing about radio is that it’s driven by personality, so if you take the personality, the promotions, all together, and you look at the elements, each one of those becomes something that in social media can certainly be activated.

It’s about finding the dialogue with your consumers.  A lot of businesses I find are surprised when they start having success in social media.

We’ll set up something on Facebook and Twitter and then all of a sudden they’ve got 1,000, 2,000 people who are following them and they go, “Holy crap, what do we do now?”  And we answer: “Well, you actually have a dialogue.”

That’s the spirit of social media.  You have to be prepared to engage and to be part of an open dialogue.

Now you use the expression “success on social media,” and I’m interested in the definition of that phrase.  What does it mean to be “successful” in social media?

Here’s the thing, success in social media takes all different forms.

Some people will say, “We want to get people to like our Facebook page or tweet a certain number of things so that we can get the most people.”  Realistically, it depends on each business.  For some businesses that are highly transactional and you can actually track how many SKU’s are going out the door it’s going to be very different than for a branding play where someone like BP today has a very different objective than they would have had nine months ago.  At a certain time, at a certain inflection point, your metrics can change and your goals can be different.  Sometimes it’s branding, sometimes it’s direct response.

There’s a feeling among a lot of broadcasters that if we have a Twitter feed, if we have a Facebook page and we post some stuff on there that our job is done and it’s just a matter of counting how many people follow us.  That’s not true, is it?

Well, it depends.  For stations, any kind of platform acts as a syndication point.  Of course there’s a monetization strategy that each station may have but in terms of a marketing toolset, certainly, the stations could think of their websites or their Facebook page or Twitter as a repository that permits syndication, so whether they’re using limited assets or full content, it gives you a place to park and direct people to.

A lot of people always think of the old “walled garden” of portals as their destinations.  Well, realistically, you don’t need a destination, you need a refilling station so when you’re sending people out into the field you want to be able to have them go back and be able to reload, and the same thing is true of your consumers because often your best soldiers are your consumers.  They’re the ones who are going back and reloading so they can go out and talk about how cool you are.  You’ve got to give them some place to go and get a drink of water.

This is one of the challenges I think for broadcasters because there’s a tendency to view the website as the end-all and be-all be – the “portal,” if you will – whereas what you’re saying is that the purpose of social media is to enable syndication, enable the spreading of the word, and essentially take your message off your “home base,” is that right?

Absolutely but also it really does require the marketer or the brand to determine what they want to use the medium for.

Certainly, I’ve encountered a lot of businesses who will say, “Well, our interns are the best ones who know the most about the medium, so shouldn’t they be driving this force?” And the answer is yes, they do know the medium and they’re certainly great people to help drive a dialogue and to identify where the dialogue exists, but people who have years and years of branding experience shouldn’t necessarily put themselves out of the equation.  They know exactly what they should be doing with their brand.  It’s just a slight tweak to understand and to start an engagement effort and to understand what a two-way dialogue is in another environment.

It’s really about just setting your metrics, and then saying, “Okay, this week we’re looking for brand lift,” for example.  To say that the site itself is a be-all and end-all may be true if you’re looking to drive someone through a transactional funnel and that’s what that site is built for, but still you need to go and fish where the fish are.  You can’t say, “Okay, everybody over here,” and expect everybody to come.  That doesn’t work in the real world or the social world, so you’ve got to be able to have the dialogue where the dialogue exists and then have the reference to drive the dialogue where you want it to go.

Where do the ideas come from?  When you work with your film industry clients – with Peter Jackson, for example – where do the big ideas come from?  How do you design programs to gain engagement, interaction, and involvement?

I would say ideas come from Peter Jackson like water from a faucet.  He is incredible that way – in fact, most filmmakers and artists are creative fountains.  Realistically, the job of a marketer is basically to not muck it up.  It’s to do a good job to try and to turn a creative asset into nuggets of dialogue that won’t give away the farm but can hopefully spur a conversation and create excitement.

I don’t want to use a term “engagement” because what’s “engagement”?  It’s really excitement.  Especially if you’re trying to go to the movies or a concert or to buy someone’s new record or someone’s new movie on DVD, you want to be excited and say, “I really want to have that.”

That’s an interesting switch from “engagement” to “excitement.”  You’re really upping the ante.

Absolutely, at the end of the day we’re talking about ephemeral products here.  You buy toilet paper because you’re pretty sure you’ll need it.  But you go to a movie because you think it will be fun.  That’s a very different use scenario.  There are needs in your life and then there are wants, and activating a want is different than activating a daily need.

It’s interesting you say that, because a lot of what happens in radio on the marketing side is need-based, not so much excitement based.  It might be, for example, win this, win that, get your bills paid, get your mortgage paid, get a job for a year, things that have a tinge of practicality to them as opposed to something which is built for sheer excitement.

I’ve done a lot of research on this over the years and I found from my movie experience the consumers that we “gave away” things to, the people who enter contests, are the lowest converting customers at the box office – and I’ll tell you that’s not just true for the movies.  People who are sweepstakes-oriented and win this and win that generally are not your highest value customers or typically your advertisers’ highest value customers.

That’s interesting.  So who are the highest value customers?

Well, very clearly, if you have an email database, people who have decided to opt-in because they have an interest in a particular show, in the type of program you’re doing, and the type of business you’re in  – those people have a connection to your product.

I know when I was marketing, we had a 40% lift in recurring consumers due to our email database.  Those are people who chose and opened emails based on their proclivity to consider what we were marketing to them and discussing with them of great interest.  That was particularly effective.

If I’m a radio station and I were to come to you tomorrow, what are the first things I need to do in order to build and develop a successful social media strategy?

Tell me what you care about.

Tell me the most important thing you care about.  It’s not just about “setting metrics,” it’s about what you care about.

What do you as a business really care about?  What do your consumers really care about?

Too often, what ends up happening is, “Oh my God, this tactical execution I saw is really good, so let’s do that.”  But wait a minute, let’s get 50,000 feet up and say for the business we want to move in this or that direction, and you may suddenly realize you need to do local cable ad placements.  That might be what moves the needle for you.

You need to look at the media mix and what really represents the opportunity for you.  A lot of people go immediately to tactics, but first they need to ask what’s right for the brand.

What do you really need?  How do you talk to your consumers currently and how would you like to talk to them in the future?

That’s the difference between strategy and tactics.


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