Is Your Station Building An Audience, Or A Community?

Written Jun. 4, 2009 by Tom Webster in Social Networking + Terrestrial Radio with 0 Comments

Chris Brogan wrote a wonderful piece today entitled Audience or Community that I'd strongly recommend to our readers in the radio industry (and if you are trying to sort out best practices for using social media for external and internal communication, I highly recommend subscribing to Chris's blog and email newsletter.)

Broadcast radio is in the business of building audience, but "audience" just doesn't cut it online. As I recently presented at the Inbound Marketing Summit in San Francisco, more than one in three Americans (and a majority of Americans 12-34) have a profile on at least one social networking site. These stats, coupled with the enormous growth in 35-54 adoption of services like Facebook, are clear indicators that your "audience" is looking for something completely different online: community.

What's the difference? Brogan offers a simple, yet powerful distinction:

The only difference between an audience and a community is which direction the chairs are pointing.
So, how can broadcast radio stations spin those chairs around online? It would be foolish to try and replicate Facebook, as I've written in this space before--but there are myriad ways to foster community and engagement online that make a good deal of sense for the broadcast radio industry.

Here is one simple, yet powerful idea: open your weekly music meeting to your listeners. You don't need anything fancy for this--no web integration, no fancy-shmancy chat application, no consultant required. You don't need to spend a dime. Just hold your music meeting live, each week, on Twitter: append a hashtag (like #WXYZMusic) to your tweets, and talk about the songs you are considering adding or dropping and why. Use a Twitter client like Tweetdeck or Twhirl (or simply go to search.twitter.com) to search for that hashtag, and start conversations with the listeners that reply. Be sure to promote your Twitter account and the weekly music meeting time on the air, and--here's the easy part--listen. If you get a body of passionate Tweeters fighting for a song or artist they believe in, reward that passion. If the song fits the format, why not give it a few spins? Don't forget to Tweet when you are playing it to let your listeners know that their feedback really counts.

Taking chances on songs and artists that your listeners on Twitter are passionate about will go a long way towards translating that passion to your online--and on air--efforts, and help to turn your audience into a community. You have nothing to lose here--either you are doing music research and can quickly verify whether or not that chance was rewarded, or you aren't doing music research--so who are you to argue with your listeners anyway? Sure, holding public music meetings on Twitter will be good for PR and give your station a temporary buzz, but that buzz will only be self-sustaining if you actually transform your station into a listening entity, and not just a broadcasting entity.

Spin those chairs around.

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