With so much emphasis in recent years on tweeting as a low-cost marketing strategy, how are stations engaging with their Twitter followers? Mostly, stations are trying to drive followers to the station Website. Beyond that, their objectives are far more diffuse, and not even as directly marketing-focused as one might think.
The 2013 Edison Research/Arbitron Infinite Dial Study found that the percentage of respondents who had ever used Twitter was up sharply, from 10% to 15%. Stations were encouraged to “engage Twitter users differently than is done with Facebook.”
So last Wednesday, April 12, around 3 p.m., I analyzed one hundred of the tweets from the broad cross-section of stations I follow (too many to count but likely over a thousand) in a wide variety of formats. I didn’t include tweets from individual personalities, except when a jock was clearly tweeting on behalf of a station or as an extension of station promotion. Tweets were classified in to more than 15 categories, and a single tweet could qualify in more than one category.
Out of 100 random tweets, here’s what stations used them for:
53 — Drive traffic to the station site, for any reason. Most of these tweets had some other purpose, such as sending listeners to a station site for promotions, artist or celebrity news, or contesting. But in many cases, there was no second objective beyond driving Website traffic. Some stations weren’t even driving traffic to their own sites; a number of tweets from CBS Radio-owned stations sent listeners to stories on CBS Local sites in other markets. Five years ago, endless on-air attempts to drive listeners to a station site by any means necessary (“Lindsay did what? Go to our site”) became a running joke in the industry. Now that type of content has migrated to Twitter, and, yes, there were several about Lindsay Lohan.
28 — Artist news/gossip. In general, a lot of the artist/celebrity news and other “relatable” bits and factoids that might have once comprised an on-air jock break have moved to Facebook or Twitter. Carrie Underwood’s People interview, in which she addressed the possibility of retirement, showed up in several tweets. So did new artist releases and videos. So did the first week sales of the new album from The Band Perry on KFRG Riverside, California.
27 – Video. These weren’t necessarily tweets that drove listeners to see a video (e.g., several postings on the new Demi Lovato video); they also included other features that were illustrated with any sort of video, whether it was an artist interview, movie trailers, or news reports from a local TV station.
24 — Random Internet goofiness. Drunken man robs Stop & Shop! Deep-fried chicken-head found in box of nuggets? Rapping weathermen! Worst Mother’s Day gifts! Woman’s car hit by iPad! Circus elephant injured in drive-by shooting! If the idea is for stations to market less to their followers, but to interact with them as friends, then about a quarter of the tweets contained the sort of trifling but entertaining content that friends send to each other. Nothing here could be said to have achieved meme status; it was more often “news of the weird” from the other news sources used by station sites.
22 — Contesting/Promotions. This category included crossplugs for on-air contesting and Web-only “secret” contests, but also tweets that supported other station promotions. The common theme here was ticket giveaways, but there was also Majic 100 Ottawa’s Pinterest tie-in, “Pin And Win” and Jack FM Sacramento’s “Shiny Briefcase of Cash.” Again, less than you’d expect, especially attempting to influence behavior at a given moment.
18 – Engage directly with listeners. A few stations retweet listeners’ postings about the station. Some engage in the sort of semi-private conversations that often characterize personal Twitter exchanges. But any tweet that gave listeners a chance to interact with the station beyond merely clicking through to register for a contest was included here. Those ranged from Facebook page conversations or comments on station postings to Listener Driven Radio song voting to other request solicitations. This percentage would have likely been far higher during morning drive when stations use Facebook and Twitter to drive on-air topics. In afternoons, it was shockingly low.
12 – Create a new listening occasion. For all the emphasis, good or bad, on creating additional listening occasions, a surprisingly low number were actually cross-promoting something taking place on the air, either at that moment (Toronto’s “The Flow” encouraged listeners to tune in to hear the new Justin Timberlake single and, separately, to win concert tickets) or in general (KOSF San Francisco’s $1,000 giveaway).
12 – Hear or see music from an artist. This ranged from the handful of stations that were streaming the just-released new single from Jimmy Eat World to US99 Chicago’s links to music from the just-announced Country Hall of Fame inductees. WQQK Nashville posted singer Ray J’s just-released “I Hit It First,” widely implied that day to be about Kim Kardashian, with the headline “All-Time Low.”
11 – Feature a station sponsor. For better or worse, there was surprisingly little of this, even though Facebook and Twitter have often become the new way to keep a giveaway from taking up airtime. Any contesting that even mentioned a sponsor was included. Mix 96.5 Houston’s “Mad Men” prize pack was included, but so were several sponsored ticket giveaways and a station’s sponsored meet-and-greet with R&B singer Miguel. Country KTTS in Springfield, Missouri tweeted a giveaway with clothing designer Cowgirl Clad.
11 – Drive traffic to a station or personality’s Facebook page. Like the majority of tweets that sought to send listeners to a Website, this was a grab-bag category, although it was often the site of those “news of the weird” postings that drove listener comments.
Fewer than 10% of the tweets that were analyzed attempted to do any of the following:
Offer listeners enterprise content. Stations have a special ability to create additional entertainment for listeners, but only seven of the hundred tweets analyzed featured any. Chicago’s 101.9 The Mix posted an in-studio performance from Vicci Martinez. New York’s Power 105 had several clips of jocks interacting with artists, including one playing “slide” with Kelly Rowland. England’s Absolute Radio had the most elaborate: it had built a several weeks-long stunt out of the relationship between a personality’s brother and actor The Rock that culminated in video from a trip to Wrestlemania in the U.S.
Report breaking news. Only nine tweets contained breaking news, weather or traffic information that wasn’t music news or artist gossip, and two of those were from all-news powerhouse WTOP Washington, D.C.
Support charity efforts. With more stations chafing at the notion of turning over the airwaves to an all-day radiothon, one rationale has been that stations have so many other ways to engage with listeners for the community good. But only three tweets fell in that category. Two were part of one station’s anti-bullying campaign; the other was KMLE Phoenix’s “Pack The PODS For The Troops” effort.