Arbitron, the country’s dominant radio ratings firm, is warning radio station clients against a number of potential pitfalls related to social media, all of which
trace back to the company’s strict prohibition on contact between radio stations and Arbitron panelists and diary-keepers.
The warning was delivered earlier this week in the form of a memo to clients, which included guidelines for how to avoid running afoul of Arbitron’s rules -- a scenario with potentially catastrophic consequences for radio stations, since Arbitron can punish infractions by removing radio stations from their ratings reports (effectively cutting them off from advertisers).
The Arbitron guidelines instruct stations to never attempt to learn the identity of Arbitron panelists or diary-keepers, via social media or any other channel. Stations should also never attempt to communicate with panelists or diary-keepers, even anonymously, through social media (e.g. “anyone out there who’s an Arbitron panelist…”), nor should they post comments encouraging listeners to become Arbitron respondents.
In fact, stations should avoid discussing their ratings on social media altogether, to avoid the risk of respondents disclosing their identity.
The guidelines also ask stations to let Arbitron know any time a panelist or diary-keeper attempts to contact the station, via social media or other channels. Stations should also report any social media comments that appear to be directed toward Arbitron respondents.
Finally, if station personnel happen to learn the identity of an Arbitron respondent by accident, they should come forward and let Arbitron know immediately.