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Social Media In Radio

Last night, I was honoured to co-produce (with Paul Sylvester of Absolute Radio) the ‘Social Media in Radio’ event for the Radio Academy. The event was well populated with people from across all areas of the radio business and at all levels. The subject of conversation was “social media” – and the esteemed panel discussing the successes, pitfalls, opportunities and challenges of marrying the social web with broadcast.

The panel was a mix of commercial and BBC representatives with Tony Moorey (Absolute Radio Content Director) and Matt Deegan (Folder Media Director / Fun Kids) representing the commercial elements of the radio business with Laura-May Coope (BBC Radio 1 and 1xtra Social Media Producers) and Chris Hawkins (BBC 6Music presenter) taking the steer from the Beeb. Julian Worricker (BBC Radio 4) hosted the proceedings claiming that ‘I have a Facebook page’ made him qualified to present the night.

In summary – it was hard for the panel to provide “the answer”, because really there isn’t an answer. The way that radio stations used social media has been positives – there was practical examples including Absolute Radio getting Bon Jovi’s official twitter and Facebook to promote their live coverage of the gig sending the Absolute Radio social media outlets into ‘meltdown’, the saving of BBC 6Music via a Facebook group or online community created to help Chris Moyles and his team during their epic radio fundraising broadcast.

There was definitely an understanding of that it’s a form of instant RAJAR, opportunity to communicate with mass audiences and is great for extending the show beyond it’s everyday four hour broadcast slot.

We got an insight into the BBC Social Media guidelines that Chris Hawkins and Laura-May Coope work with –and while Matt explained ways of how it works in practice in radio by having singular station accounts and presenters ‘tagging’ their handle to the station tweet – Chris added this might not work as well for BBC broadcasters.

We looked at some of the pitfalls. Everyone in the station becomes a ‘broadcaster’ – even your backroom staff. You’re constantly representing the station, and the problematic potentional of commercial advertiser clashes. The difference between DJ’s using their personal social media avenues and then how you deal with them moving on or endorsing other projects. Does this differ for Fearne Cotton versus the daytime presenter on LocalFM? How do we commercialise social media? We can sell display on our websites easily, if we’re driving traffic away are we missing revenue. Tony discussed how he’s aware that some stations are charging £5k – £10k for a tweet. (Please note – my costs are a lot less if you’re interested in this activity! /Plug)

There were also a lot of discussions about making sure we don’t over complicate the on-air messaging with ‘tweet this’ and ‘post that’. A lot of our audiences won’t understand or care. We need to make sure we don’t loose the standard of the broadcast – or can we use the social media outlets to get some of the messaging away on there? One trial of thought was that social media should be an ‘add on’  – however, some feedback via Twitter was that it had to be integral into what we do, but delivered with care. Matt also added that the best way to encourage users to communicate with the station via social media is .. Surprisingly… on social media and talked about some successful things that NME Radio have done recently. Transfer your audiences and don’t clutter your airwaves. We also learnt how audiences are creating their own communities int he social spaces using the example of the ‘cafe like culture’ on the Planet Rock Facebook wall, particularly on a Friday afternoons and the power of the ‘Fan Clans’ who spam radio station accounts together, on mass with artist requests- something along the likes of this.

Audiences questions involved around losing youth audiences to radio – is social media the way to bring this back. Well the panel were keen to share how we’re not loosing youth audiences with reference to the BBC Share of Ear study. Laura explained how they’re using social media to deliver radio content via personality led social media outlets at a time that suits the audience. There were some thoughts that we were becoming too reliant on Facebook and Twitter – what about when these platforms disappear. Future protection? How are we measuring these audiences? Can we really see an impact of a ‘moment’ when compared with a RAJAR quarter diary result. James Cridland also shared some information about his time at Virgin Radio and % of new listeners they developed – just via a good digital content strategy on their website.

A few more surprises came out of the woodwork tonight including the fact that 6 Music didn’t launch with a phone number – because they couldn’t work the phone system!

In summary – an enriching events full of insight and opinion from across the industry on the use of Social Media and Radio. The evening sparked a lot of discussion in the “Twittersphere” and created many questions that will help continue to develop the minefield of social media in radio.

There’s going to be a session at the Radio Academy’s forthcoming Radio Festival in Manchester this November about social media, which is being prepared, by James Cridland and James Brownlow of Capital FM. Definitely one not to miss out on.

You can listen to more audio highlights of the event on the Radio Academy podcast by going to