Do you do interweb?

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If you’re in radio now it’s likely you’ll also be talking and thinking about what you do online. We don’t live in a bubble and listeners will be active in social spaces and so should radio. Now, of course the rules around what makes radio great still apply. It’s still about making radio that works as radio and makes people want to listen but what about your online content?

It’s something every station must wrestle with, as the mantra seems to be ‘use social media’…. but it’s one thing to be online, it’s quite another to do it an a way that works. So, what works? Well, if I knew do you think I’d still be doing this? Until I figure it out I’ll offer a few thoughts.

Thought One: What works is what works for you.

Every station and every listener is different, so what works for one station wouldn’t work for another. There’s no point BBC Radio 4 using Snapchat, but it works for BBC Radio 1. Their audience is there, as it’s one of their go to apps. The problem for Radio 1 is keeping up, as these apps will change as will the things they can do in them. For Radio 1 social media is about being social with the listeners. It’s about letting the listeners hang out with them at all the cool parties and concerts. It’s about sharing and letting the listeners share your stuff. It’s being the cool kid that everyone wants to know, you just happen to be a radio station.

So, in this video above BBC Radio 4 are thinking about their listener. If you follow them on social media you’ll see that they curate their content; you get clips of shows, teasers, little insights and short videos you can watch over a cup of tea. It’s not shouting at you for comments, ideas, selfies or shares. It’s simple, discrete and intelligent, just like the radio station.

Thought: If social media is the answer, what is the question?

This is a tough one. Social media might be the answer to lots of what of station wants to do. It might want to tell listeners about a new show, or a competition. It might want the listener to feel more connected, or to have a conversation. What it shouldn’t do is look for likes to get more than the next guy. Social Media should be doing something for you / your show / the station. Is it about telling people who aren’t listening to listen? is it about getting content? Or is it about reminding people who do listen how great you are, so when they next turn the radio it’s to your brand? It’s this front of mind stuff that I’d suggest is a key driver for a lot of social media, because online you are always online and in touch with your listeners.

Thankfully, The Sh** Social Media in Group keeps in check.

Australian radio is way ahead of the curve here, followed closely by the states. The websites of stations like Nova are content rich and look like news sites. On social media they rival Buzzfeed for clickbaiting, not with what the breakfast show did but with stories that the audience want to read and look at. The social media story is not about them, it’s about the stuff the audience want. It’s content and they are the aggregator. Obviously, this then raises an issue of opinions. Shows like Kyle and Jackie O on KIIS in Sydney will share a story and comment on it; offering their sympathy for someone who’s died, or saying how shocked they are that x or y has happened. This does mean the station behaves online like one of your friends. This is great right? Radio should be a friend, but this is where judgement comes in; sharing what makes sense and having opinions that the listener will agree with.

Thought 3. The most important thing about having a social/digital media plan, is having one

It might sound cliched, but actually having a policy is start. Have a voice in mind, knowing what it is you’re trying to say when make online content. Has it got a focus? Does each piece have a point? If you make a video for YouTube, is it worth watching and have you invested time in it? Have you got a plan for how regular your Facebook posts are going to be? Do you track behaviour? As I said Radio 4 tried a few different things, but now seem to have a plan together. Radio 2 have also been developing their plan, which now seems to involve highly focussed pop-up stations that forefront elements of their output. Facebook is still, but mainly at breakfast.

But what’s growing is YouTube. The above is an experimental move using a 360 camera, so you might need to go into YouTube to watch this properly. It also works brilliantly on a mobile. It’s not radio in the conventional way of thinking about it, but it is what radio stations now do. It’s about starting conversations, or showing listeners what the station does. It’s about making a statement, which in the case of this says “who else could do this, apart from us? So, maybe you should listen more?”

Thought 4: If you’re going to do it, do it well.

Now, there’s a lot you could do online. Some of it is really disposable; it pops up in your timeline, you look at it and move on. It’s probably not worth sharing, but then it’s probably not meant to be. However, with some investment in time listeners might be inclined to share, comment and engage.

Take a look at the above video from Heart North West. You can see the time and effort it took, and even though things did not go to plan they turned it into something that really marries well with the brand values. It’s also really sharable. It’s funny, it’s cute and it’s relatable for the audience. But it took time and effort. That’s important, because if we’re thinking that radio stations now make ‘content’ rather than just radio, then the effort put into the other forms of content should be the same as you’d spend on the radio. Obviously, different stations will have different views about the role of this content; it might be about getting the brand out there, it might be about signposting your on-air content, or reminding your listeners how great you are (keeping the P1’s as P1’s) or it might just be content that you want to people to consume – this may or may not be revenue generating. This does mean hiring people who know what to do. For anyone looking to get into radio right now, my top tip would to learn how to edit video. This is not because radio will become TV, but because radio stations will become content producers and they will need people who can work on the web.