Whenever I talk to radio stations about their social media efforts, I often get mixed signals. Sometimes, programmers and managers freely admit their social activities leave a great deal to be desired. Inconsistency, too many admins, concerns about using the optimal platforms, and even what to post are common complaints.
Then there are the stations that tell me “We're killing it on social media.” Oftentimes, their evaluations are based on empty metrics like “likes” and “followers,” rather than on engagement or community-building. But that doesn't change opinions because social media proficiency is in the eye of the beholder.
Until now, that is.
A couple of weeks back, “Saturday Night Live” unleashed a real-time social media test. Like a pop quiz, no one saw it coming, so it made for a revealing look at how major brands respond to an unexpected opportunity.
Here's what happened…
Chance the Rapper was the show's celebrity guest. During his opening monologue/song, he acknowledged being a Chicago native – the ultimate “second city.” And from there, he broke into a brilliant rap ditty – giving shout-outs to a variety of brands that are perennial “#2's” – like Pepsi, Burger King, and yes, the Chicago White Sox.
A marketer's dream come true, right? Yes, but only if this free exposure on “SNL” is deftly amplified on social media, providing the opportunity to engage millions more consumers.
And that's what got AdWeek opinion contributor Stephen Spiewak going – to determine which of these brands stepped up to answer the bell on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other channels that Saturday night. As he notes, many brands mobilize their social media battalions around mega-events like the Super Bowl or the Oscar's.
But here was just another episode of “SNL” – a not-so-special TV event. And of course, they gave no warning of what was to come. Radio has experienced similar challenges, albeit under more dire circumstances – weather emergencies, shootings, and other events that often strike at night, on weekends, and at times when few hands are on deck.
Chance the Rapper gave shout-outs to 14 brands during his rap song. And more than half were literally asleep at the switch. Here's the social scorecard:
Only two brands – Redbox and Qdoba (excuse the spelling error) – actually “socialized” during the show. A few others got around to it on Sunday or even Monday. Interestingly, while the White Sox were late to the party, they garnered the most retweets, but as AdWeek noted, Chance was wearing their hat.
So, what can radio learn from this real-time exercise in social media mobilization?
Spiewak leaves us with two takeaways:
1. Timeliness matters – Brands have opportunities in the social space, but seizing the moment is still critically important. Most of the products and services that earned “second best” shout-outs derived little from a late response to Chance the Rapper's gift horse.
2. Don't focus on the competition – Spiewak makes the point that while these 14 runner-up brands reaped some nice mentions, most had to suffer through seeing and/or hearing their competitor mentioned – or at least hinted at. Chance throwing some love at these second best brands was a positive, if their respective marketing teams were smart enough to embrace the opportunity.
I'll leave you with a few more:
3. Make a plan – Some may argue that a free plug at 11;35pm on a Saturday night in early November isn't worth the bother. But when brands – including radio stations – have a system in place when something happens, at least there's the option to respond in a timely and effective manner. You have to believe Bing, DHL and the Los Angeles Clippers had employees watching “SNL” who didn't have a clue about who to call, text, or email to alert them to this opportunity. When there's a go-to person and a system in place, a brand has the chance to engage at just the right time.
4. Know your social media voice – Many different admins may have access to your social media platforms, but over time, a radio station should have a distinct style, in much the same way your production does. Maybe it's funny or snarky or edgy – whatever. That brand voice will dictate the tone in which you respond to the stimulus – whether it's a moment like Chance provided or it's the shocking passing of a station core artist or a famous local celebrity.
5. Use the right platforms – Believe it or not, many brands struggle with decisions about whether to emphasize a particular social site so they often spread their resources across multiple social networks. Most of the time, that's an ineffective strategy. But most radio stations ought to know where their social media bread is buttered. Sorry to be a bit self-serving, but Techsurvey stakeholders know precisely how their fans line up by social media platform – where they have a profile and how often they engage. Of all the social media tests, this one's the easiest to pass.
As we are learning – sometimes the hard way – there are hidden costs to social media – a loss of privacy and eroding organic reach, just for starters.
But despite its flaws, foibles, and failings, social media provides radio brands with a unique chance of connecting with its audience – well beyond the “request lines” or hanging out at car dealer remotes.
Social media provides unique opportunities – a megaphone for your brand that can go well beyond your cume, and even your metro. It's a tool unlike radio has ever had before. When a station has a strategy and a well-managed social presence, good things can happen.
Even when you're #2.
Any commercial radio station in North America can sign up for Techsurvey 2020 which field in January/February. Information and registration are available here.
And you may have noticed Adam Carolla is mentioned in Chance's rap (second to Jimmy Kimmel), but is not listed in the AdWeek chart. I checked both his Twitter and Facebook pages – nada.
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