When it comes to a radio station's digital assets, we often talk about the difference between “renting” and “owning.” Rented digital assets are those which have a “landlord” or middleman who can affect your station's ability to reach its audience. For example, if your radio station has a large following on Facebook, that does not guarantee that it can always reach that following. A couple of years ago, as the social media company was tweaking its newsfeed algorithm, some stations reported a 50% drop in engagement. Unfortunately, there's little that stations can do about this. When the landlord raises the rent, you either pay the increased fee or you have to move.
Social media is the most obvious example of a rented platform, but if your station's website relies on SEO traffic, you're also renting. And, of course, if you're using paid advertising to drive traffic, you're renting in the true sense on the word, not just metaphorically.
Owned digital assets, by contrast, are the ones that your station controls. This obviously includes your website, but more importantly, it includes your email and text message databases. Once you've captured listeners' contact information, you can reach them again without being subject to the whims of a landlord. Sure, not everybody you email will open or click on your email, but you have control over the variables that will affect whether or not they do.
While radio stations should engage with listeners on rented platforms, they also need a plan to bring those listeners to their owned platforms — and in particular, to capture their email addresses and phone numbers. Too often, stations omit this second step. This leaves them vulnerable to the whims of the landlords on those rented platforms.
With that in mind, here are three ways to move your listeners from rented platforms to owned platforms:
Although this is perhaps the most popular method of capturing contact information from the audience, it is arguably the least effective. The problem is that contests essentially bribe people to do something that they might not do otherwise. Listeners who enter a contest do so because they want to win a prize, not necessarily because they want to receive continued communications from the station. If you are going to use contests to collect contact information, be sure to specifically ask participants if they want to opt in to further communications, and respect their decisions. Additionally, make sure that you run contests which require people to provide their email addresses to enter, no just to win, to maximize the number of email address that you capture.
One of the best ways to move people to your owned platforms is to create compelling content. You can either require that people give you their contact info in order to access that content (we do this with our recorded webinars, for example) or you can simply ask people if they'd like to receive your content by email (we do this with our daily blogposts). Both strategies are effective if your content is compelling enough.
The challenge for most radio stations lies in producing enough high quality content. Most radio stations don't have the resources to hire employees just to create online content, and many broadcasters got into the business because they like to talk, not because they like to write or be on camera, so assigning these duties on to existing on-air personalities doesn't always work out.
Creating events — virtual or in-person — can be a great way to move your listeners from rented platforms to owned platforms. You can collect contact info when you sell tickets to events, or create free events that require registration to attend. In the wake of the pandemic, radio stations have learned to produce a host of online events, such as virtual happy hours, which can move the audience to owned channels.
Of course, the best strategy for moving your listeners from rented to owned platforms may involve a combination of all three of these. Remember, this strategy doesn't mean that you don't engage people on rented platforms — you still need to be on them, you just want to ensure that you have the ability to reach your audience even if the landlord changes their policies.
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