If you're going to harness the power of the internet to build your station's audience, you're going to need a few tools. The good news? They don't cost very much.
Here's a list of seven online tools that are essential to a successful online strategy. We explain what they are, what they do, and why they're crucial to your growth.
See the List
1. A CMS Website (WordPress)
The key to growing your audience with the web is a strategy known as content marketing. Content marketing has two steps:
- Create compelling content that is easy to share on social media and easy to find with search engines. This draws people back to your site.
- Once they're on your site, entice them to perform an action, such as sign up for your email list. These actions are called goals.
To do this, you're going to need a website that can handle all the content that your station creates. Specifically, you want a website platform that's called a CMS or Content Management System. These platforms are meant to organize all the good stuff you're going to put out.
My choice for a CMS platform? No question: WordPress. First developed in 2003, this platform is open source, which means anybody can see, edit, and add to the code. So there are thousands of developers working on WordPress code right now. More than 60 million websites around the world use WordPress. Which means if you've built your station's website in WordPress and your webmaster leaves for more lucrative pastures, you won't have any trouble finding a replacement.
WordPress is also easy to learn, even for older DJs who don't like to learn new tricks. If they have mastered Microsoft Word, they can create content in WordPress.
Best of all, WordPress integrates with just about every other online tool out there, including the ones on this list. So it's easy to tie all of your tools together into one coherent plan.
How I Use It: I built at least eleven of those 60 million WordPress sites — including this one.
Cost: $0. (You will just need to pay for hosting.)
2. Social Media Management (Hootsuite)
I don't need to tell you how important it is to stay on top of your social media presence. Listeners expect you to not only be posting to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and YouTube, but to be interacting there as well. This is a daunting task if you have to go to each social network individually.
Fortunately, you don't.
Hootsuite allows you to manage multiple social media profiles from one place. Whether you want to tweet, pin, or post, you can do it all from here. You can also schedule updates to go out throughout the day.
Not only does Hootsuite allow you to manage multiple social media accounts, but multiple people can also manage the same account. This means you can give your entire airstaff access to update your station's Facebook Page or Twitter profile. They can also delegate messages to each other for a response, so if they night jock spots a tweet intended for the midday jock, they can easily call their attention to it.
Hootsuite also comes with some powerful analytics tools so you can see how your social media posts are resonating with your audience. Plus, it offers a smartphone app to make it easy to use on the go.
Yes, it will take your staff a minute to get the hang of Hootsuite; it can be a little overwhelming at first. I recommend a little training help to go with it. But Hootsuite offers a program called Hootsuite University that will turn them into experts.
How We Use It: If you mention @JacobsMedia in a tweet, it's almost certain that our reply will have come through Hootsuite.
Cost: $6 for the basic account, plus $15 per additional user. Additional analytics and Hootsuite University will cost a little more.
3. Search Engine Optimization (The Yoast SEO plugin)
So your station is posting great content on WordPress and sharing that content over social networks with Hootsuite. Now you need to make it easy for the search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing to find this content. If you're using WordPress, the easiest way to do this is to use the trusted WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast. This will let you customize exactly what these search engines will see when they index each piece of content you create. It helps you zero in on specific search terms to help your content get discovered. And the user interface is so easy, even your morning show host can figure it out.
How We Use It: Yes, this site is optimized for search engines with the Yoast plugin.
Cost: There's a free version and a premium version with additional features.
4. An Email Service Provider (Mailchimp)
Once you've created content that attracts listeners back to your website, you want them to do something. But what? You can have any number of goals for your website visitors: Get them to stream the station, click on an ad, or buy concert tickets. But one of the primary goals should always be to get them to sign up for your email list. So you're going to need an ESP, or Email Service Provider, to manage that list.
For years, my first choice for email marketing has been Mailchimp. There are a lot of great options out there: Constant Contact, AWeber, Vertical Response, etc. You could do well with most of them; I've just always found that Mailchimp is intuitive and integrates nicely with all of my other tools.
You want a tool that does all the work for you so that your staff can spend their time creating content for the website, not writing emails. For a station, the features I look for in an ESP are these:
- RSS-to-Email Capabilities: I like to set up automatic email campaign around my new content so I don't have to spend all day writing emails
- Autoresponder Capabilities: I like to set up automatic email campaigns around the best of my older content so I don't have to spend all day writing emails
- Integration with Third Party Services: I like something that plays nice with all my other online tools. After all, the more I can integrate and automate, the less work I have to do.
These three things will allow a station with a limited budget and limited personnel to execute top-notch email campaigns.
How We Use It: You had to sign up for our email list to see this content. The email you receive this week will be automatically sent out using Mailchimp.
Cost: Depends on the number of subscribers you have. It's free for less than 2000 and goes up from there. It can get a little pricey if you have a ton of subscribers. Major market stations may want to go with an enterprise solution, especially if they're really adept at fine-tuning their email campaigns, but Mailchimp will work fine for most small and medium market stations.
5. Bulk Text Messaging (Call Loop)
Your listeners often hear you when they are not in front of a computer, so giving them an opportunity to subscribe by text is more important for stations than most other businesses. Here's how it works: You use a service to reserve a keyword (such as “WKRP”) and people can subscribe by texting that keyword to a number (such as 55555). So you'll want to plaster a phrase like “Text WKRP to 55555 to win cool stuff!” all over the place: on your station vehicle, on the wristbands given out by the local concert venue, in your sweepers, etc.
Of course, when somebody opts in by text, you get their phone number. So look for a service that allows you to send voicemails in bulk in addition to text messages. (Sure, robo-calls are annoying on the eve of an election. But a voicemail from your favorite DJ? That's kinda cool. A voicemail from Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters? Even cooler.)
Other key features include the ability to conduct contests and polls by text message, as well as the ability to send a follow up text message to subscribers asking for their email address.
How We Use It: We don't have as much use for building a text message list as a station would have, but in the past when we have needed this service, we have used Call Loop.
Cost: $10 per month to reserve an opt-in keyword and $.05 per text message sent.
6. Audio Hosting (Soundcloud)
If you work for a radio station, you specialize in creating audio content. Naturally, you'll want an easy way to share that audio over the internet.
Let us draw a distinction here: If your station is producing podcasts — and it should be — use Libsyn or Blubrry to host the audio. These sites are designed for podcasts and will offer you better analytics and options.
But when you just want to share your latest artist interview, morning show stunt, or song parody online, use Soundcloud. Soundcloud integrates really well with social networks like Facebook, so people can listen to your audio without having to leave their newsfeed.
How We Use It: We host podcasts with Libsyn. We keep airchecks on Soundcloud.
Cost: $0-15/month, depending on how much audio you upload.
7. Analytics (Google Analytics)
Finally, you need to measure your online efforts to see how well your strategy is performing. This feedback is important so that you can fine tune your strategy along the way. There are several things that should be reviewed at the station on a weekly basis: The number of new email and text message subscribers (found in Mailchimp and Call Loop), the Hootsuite reports (mentioned above), and — most importantly — your Google Analytics reports.
Google Analytics allows you to measure how much traffic your website is getting, where it's coming from, and what it's doing once it gets to your site. By adding a short snippet of code to the header of every page on your site, it can track the actions of all of your visitors.
You can set up Google Analytics to monitor those goals mentioned earlier. Use it to figure out what's causing people to sign up for your email list or buy your concert tickets.
How We Use It: We use Google Analytics on this site. That's how we know that you're reading this right now.