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(SOCIAL) Interview: Social Media And Radio

7-25-2012

 

Loyd Ford has been in radio all his life, beginning in High School in Southern California. His father taught him to focus on strategy when he was a boy. In his early 20s, Ford began programming radio stations. He says, "It was a good match for the use of strategy." Loyd has spent time programming KRMD in Shreveport, WSSL and WMYI in Greenville, WKKT in Charlotte and WBEE in Rochester, NY. Ford's latest strategy is his "social networking for radio" Facebook page. We spoke to him about his vision for helping radio stations succeed with social media.

What gave you the idea to start this Facebook Page? 
As a programmer, I always believed our jobs were to "land" the format (whichever format) and "rich experience" in the laps of listeners and really engage them in a life experience they get on their radio every day. This gives listeners an experience they crave and sets your station apart from competitors who may be focused on technical accomplishment without emotional connection. My work at Americalist has me talking with a lot of programmers, market managers, and marketing/promotions directors about what they are actually doing in the "social media space" to enhance their success on radio.

Everyone says they are "active" in social media, but some are confused about what engaging in social media really means. In reality, many have a page on Facebook and a Twitter account, while they are missing an actual strategy. They focus on numbers of "fans" or feel accomplished by only promoting the station on Facebook or Twitter. Having a place on Facebook that focuses on social media and radio is a way to engage professional conversation about how radio can really open up to the true use of social media and have a philosophy that works for their market, their listeners, and their brand. I knew that www.facebook.com/socialnetworking4radio could also be a place to showcase ideas and approaches other industries are using with social media that could easily work even better for radio.

Everyone has a choice today. If you are a personality on radio or a programmer, your value is shown in the depth of your abilities in a wider variety of areas. You have to grow additional skills. For many of us in management jobs, we are 20th century people in the 21st century. To be newly successful in 21st century radio, social media is a new base camp that must be conquered by us and added as an important tool in our overall approach with listeners. I wanted to move the conversation with the creative forces in radio to expanding relationships at the local level using social media. Radio can do this better than anyone else if we approach it as social media space and not radio. We are personalities of radio on social media. Your listeners want to connect with you. You should want to draw them closer to you. We should be listening to our listeners and connecting as friends with these active and social listeners in our market. This can be key to influencing others who are often just like those who already love your station. And correctly participating in social media can also naturally draw listeners back to us and our brands.

What kind of feedback have you had? 
The feedback has been very strong. I hear from every level of radio. There is a lot going on and people want to get it right. It's exciting to hear from people who are openly engaging in learning how to best serve their listeners and interact with them inside social media. It's no different than the new things I and others learned at great seminars like the Country Radio Seminar or the Conclave over the years. Only now, sharing is immediate. Learning social media is really about being open to representing real relationships with active listeners in another of their spaces (in addition to the radio space). That can influence them and others to spend more time with you because of relationship and community.

What is your impression of radio stations' use of social media?
There are some real bright spots. Bright spots happen in places where the PD or market manager determines that the content listeners are seeking in social environments should be the experience personalities should be giving them on their social media space. Content, content, content. You know the old saying, "Find out what they want and give it to them."  Of course, the bad happens when stations only focus on contesting or constant station focused promos or stations set up a Facebook page or Twitter account that then remains dormant. When there is no commitment, there is no real value. I don't have to be specific about this. Just look up different Facebook pages for individual radio stations or look at their Twitter activity. If nothing is happening, you do not have a strategy. If you are not focused on the listener experience in the social media space and what they want, you do not have a strategy. And you will be invisible or worse (unwelcomed).

What, in your opinion, is the best way for a station to use social media? 
It's best when you think of the social media space first. Don't think MY STATION. Think THEIR EXPERIENCE HERE that can involve your personalities and station brands. People are having fun on social media. Don't introduce business. It won't work. That's not to say radio can't make money in the social space; I believe radio can make a lot more money in the social space. It is the approach that must be correct. If you have access to local research, you are likely to know better than most the things that are important to your target audience. Use creativity to apply what you know to your content in social media and have it reflect the spirit of your brand.

I do believe in engaging listeners about appointments on the station and reflecting or influencing them back to the station, but you must provide a much richer experience that goes beyond that singular goal. Why do people choose your radio station? Incorporate that into the mission of your engagement in social media…as long as you have a content-first approach that includes much more than only station promos. Focus on them in a social setting. It's a party. Don't be a drag.

Give us an example of a specific conversation you might have with someone reaching out to you.
There are a lot of specific kinds of calls I receive relating to this. I primarily get calls about how stations can move the needle in diary or PPM markets. I start by talking about how they value their brand and their relationship with listeners. Value IS rich content people want. It's not cheating. Calls tend to focus on experiences stations are having in their approach to engaging listeners to boost occasions of listening or lengthening those occasions as it is represented in Arbitron. Often this comes around to how they value their image, how long it has been since they engaged in good external marketing, what they did to engage listeners and their use of database and social media engagement.

It is important to establish what they have been doing and how that has worked before setting strategy for current gains. Almost every conversation I have touches on social media, direct contact, and how they work together to establish new ratings highs for stations. We work together to put the same value in each tool they use to connect and engage listeners. Winning stations are rich experiences when you come in contact with them. There's so much more that can be done specifically by radio to enhance relationships that turn into ratings and revenue. That's the big benefit to adding proper strategy to your brand, your marketing, and your social media.

Reach out to Loyd via e-mail HERE
Visit his new Facebook page HERE
Learn more about Loyd @ http://about.me/LoydFord



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