We now have more data available to us that at any time in the history of the radio broadcasting industry. And it’s only going to intensify as data collection matures and sources work together to consolidate the metrics we’re often struggling to use. Whether it’s proprietary station research, Nielsen ratings data, Google Analytics, social media numbers, or Shazam data, the diversity of data we have at our fingertips to help guide strategies and decision-making is truly amazing.
And yet, we’re often misusing the information we have. That point was driven home for me in a story by Janet Morrissey in Sunday’s New York Times – “Brands Heed Social Media. They’re Advised Not to Forget Word of Mouth.”
While social media provides spectacular, in-the-moment feedback, a study by Ed Keller and Brad Fay of Engagement Labs suggests that social media can often be a misleading source of information about consumers.
Sort of like basing decisions on feedback we used to hear about from the request lines.
As Fay told The Times, “The danger is you can make some pretty big mistakes if you assume the conversations happening online are also happening offline. Very often, they’re heading in different directions.”
And yet how often do I speak with programmers shaken by social media posts and comment threads they’re reading with horror on Facebook or Twitter?
In the story, social media is aptly described as a useful early warning channel. But the key to nailing down true beliefs and perceptions boils down to conducting offline research to confirm the trajectory of opinions.
Morrissey writes that smart companies diversify their feedback by using familiar tools to radio managers and programmers:
Focus groups, in-store surveys, and even face-to-face conversations with listeners at station events.
From the standpoint of our consulting company, I have always recommended focus and/or listener advisory board groups to supplement perceptuals, music tests, and certainly, social media feedback.
I have leaned especially hard on groups to guide our ongoing architecture of our Classic Rock format, as well as Alternative and Active Rock. Staring at spreadsheets is only part of the picture.
The same holds true with our work in public radio, another arena where there’s never a shortage of data. While the metrics have value, I’ve conducted more focus groups (and one-on-one interviews) in the past 18 months for public radio brands trying to get their heads around “The Trump Bump” phenomenon currently driving many stations’ ratings.
I’ve learned things in focus groups you simply can’t glean from data or social media posts. There is something visceral and very human about truly listening to your listeners.
The fact is, people are more emotional – about everything – than perhaps they’ve ever been. Seeing facial expressions, hearing voice emphasis, and watching group dynamics are all part of the “data collection” process. With all the metrics, feedback, and information pouring into our radio stations, it is essential decision-makers select the optimal mix of data – hard and soft – from which to develop strategies and tactics.
As Fay concludes, “It’s not an either/or question; it’s important to look at both (online and offline feedback). Brands need to look at the total picture if they’re going to be successful.”
So stop getting angsty about Facebook, and start engaging with your audience.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,000 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
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