While in the car the other day, I was listening to a morning drive radio program and I was struck by how many people were calling the station to relay relatively embarrassing stories. As I thought more about it, I realized how good radio programs are at starting conversations. Something with which many companies and brands struggle.
For those radio programs that rely on listener interaction, stimulating conversation is a necessary part of their program. To be successful, they have to motivate listeners to call in to recount stories which will not only interest other listeners but further stoke the discussion.
Picking up a phone and dialing a radio station isn’t a herculean effort, but relatively speaking, especially in this time-taxed age, it does require some effort (it’s more of a time commitment than clicking on a button to re-tweet or forward an email).
So, what can we learn from radio? It seems that there are four key takeaways relating to successfully starting a conversation that we can apply to social marketing:
- Subject Matter. Yes, this is an obvious one, but more companies than you think just appear to ‘phone it in’ (love the puns). There is a lot of competition for people’s attention so you have to select subjects that your audience is going to be interested in – not ones that only serve your company/brand. It takes work. It takes time. This usually means thinking beyond your product or service and really focusing on the customer.
- Need to Ask. Don’t forget to actually ask your audience to participate in the conversation. This is equivalent of the radio station announcing their phone number and asking people what they think. You’d be surprised how many more contribute to the discussion when you explicitly ask (we’ve tested this).
- How to Ask. The way you phrase the question can have a significant impact on the response. Sometimes you want to ask a very open-ended question and sometimes you will want it to be very specific. It really depends on the subject. Over time, you will learn the best approach for the type of question and your audience.
- Listen and Learn. In most situations, radios programs are just asking the questions for the entertainment value. But as marketers, we can learn extremely valuable information regarding the motivations, interests, frustrations, etc. of our target audiences from those conversations.
So turn on the radio and let the old dogs teach us social marketers a new thing or two about social marketing.