Over the past decade, the content provided by radio stations has evolved from over-the-air transmission of linear programming and commercials to multiplatform delivery of audio, video, images and text in a way that gives audiences much greater choice in how, where and when they consume content. No longer focused solely on audio, radio broadcasts today are often complemented by video and enriched content that audiences can access from anywhere at any time, not only on a radio in the kitchen or car but also on connected mobile devices and computers.
No longer limited to traditional FM channels, radio stations have access to much richer possibilities. The emergence of non-linear content, on-demand radio and mobile access has transformed radio stations in terms of both business strategy and technical operations, and in turn opened up new opportunities for growth.
With respect to business strategy, radio stations increasingly are being challenged to extend their brands into the digital world. To this end, social engagement is essential to keeping listeners involved. By going social, a radio station can be where its audience is, and gather data about that audience.
To develop a dynamic dialogue among listeners, radio stations must develop their own social platforms. Establishing a presence on mainstream platforms such as Facebook or Twitter is essential, but this presence should complement the station’s primary social media presence, which is entirely under the station’s control. This way, the station gains visibility in key areas while benefiting from real-time interaction on its own platform.
By aggregating user comments, the station can learn more about listener interests and use that information to target specific groups of individuals with audio/video content that matches their preferences. Increasingly accustomed to personalised services, audiences appreciate a radio station that matches their listening interests and values their feedback.
In using social media to build audiences, radio stations can also take advantage of the fact that many social platforms provide a way to monitor the number of views and click-throughs on the content a radio station has published. This data not only helps the station evaluate its performance in the social realm, but also provides the accurate metrics necessary to demonstrate this performance level to advertisers.
The business gains made possible by effective use of social media are clear. When a radio station successfully uses social media to create and deliver a more personalised experience, it draws a larger audience. When the station demonstrates to advertisers that it has a growing and valuable audience, it brings in greater revenues. So what factors contribute to the successful use of social media?
Fundamentally, effective use of social media requires radio stations to take three key steps. The first is to establish a station-controlled social media platform that facilitates real-time communication and enables the broadcaster to interact with listeners across all social platforms with a minimum of clicks. Staff at the station must be able to manage the platform easily, with the speed necessary to be both efficient and responsive to the audience. As radio stations move into the realm of social media, they also must invest time and thought in developing creative ideas for promoting the station brand.
The second key to success is to make audio and video content easy for the audience to share. When users find it easy to share content on a station’s digital online platform, they are more likely to do so. As users share content, they promote the station in a relevant way that helps the station boost its base of followers.
The third key to success lies in making the most of the information supplied by the online audience. Every vote, comment and contest response generated by the station’s social media platform must be used to build user profiles. With a better understanding of its audience, the station can build a deeper connection with listeners, foster greater loyalty on the part of listeners and boost the time they spend engaging with its brand. All these gains contribute to higher ratings and, ultimately, advertising revenues.
In technical terms, the pursuit of a business strategy that involves social media requires integration of social media and interactivity into daily processes in a manner that preserves ease of use. This may mean using a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) to plug solutions into an existing environment so that third-party applications can be called from a single interface that makes everything transparent for the end user. This model empowers the radio station to reduce the time and cost of configuration, and to move forward in managing its social media platform presence successfully.
Despite intense competition from new players such as online music services, traditional radio stations can prosper and grow if they use social media to leverage their uniquely rich content, including programming that boasts popular host talents, interesting shows and timely, localised news. The good news is that companies are providing tools that not only make this process simple but also support seamless integration into day-to-day production operations, parallel to the linear AM-FM broadcast.
Alexandre Martinez is Pre-Sales Manager for NETIA.