As it turns out, most of what I needed to know about succeeding with social media in the 2010s I first learned from AM radio back in the 1970s.
The AM radio I'm talking about is
not the Rush-Limbaugh/Talk-Radio/Light-Rock-Less Talk radio of today, but the personality-driven radio of decades past. It wasn't easy for radio stations in those days. They had to deal with
increased competition, the changing tastes of the consumer, a highly fragmented audience, a crappy economy, the emergence of competitive platforms (FM/car stereos) and increased production costs.
The key to being successful in social media is to find and engage an audience with fresh, relevant content, stimulate conversation and react quickly to feedback. If you think
about it, AM radio's been doing that for the last 40 years.
And how did AM radio thrive during that era? In a nutshell, here are a few of the things the aspiring social media maven of
today could learn from the kings of AM radio:
- Make sure you have original, engaging content. With 20 other stations just a push button away (remember, we're talking the '70s
here) it wasn't enough to have the same play list as every other station. You had to add some wrinkles. You had to give your audience something they couldn't get anywhere else. Quirky
personalities. Esoteric programming. One-of-a-kind features.
- Realize that getting them to visit once is not enough. To succeed in radio, you gotta give your audience reasons to
come back, over and over again. Re-engagement is crucial to long-term success. So stations relied on contests, events, promotions, turkey give-a-ways. Anything to keep listeners coming back.
- Think of your listeners in terms of a "community." When I was in college, there were two rock stations in town. You were a listener of either one or the other. Nobody
danced back and forth. We wore our allegiance in the form of bumper stickers and station swag. And when you saw someone else with the same t-shirt, well, you recognized him as part of your clan. You
greeted him as a long-lost brother.
- Give your listeners a voice. AM stations took requests. They took dedications. They had callers rate records, and asked listeners to stop by
during remotes. Sometimes they'd just put listeners on the air for the heck of it. Thing is, AM radio was great at conversing with its audience and accepting feedback.
- Have a
personality. AM radio figured out that outrageous, distinctive personalities create a loyal following. More than anything else, what define a station are the personalities that represent it.
- Above all, stand for something. AM radio never tried to be all things to all people. Some people love country music, some hate it. That's okay. Know who your audience is and
program just for that audience.
In short, AM radio survived by asking the question "How can we be of use to our audience?" That basic question is the basic driver today in
developing a social media strategy.
Success in social media is not as complicated as many would make it out to be. The basics of audience engagement and re-engagement don't really change
much medium to medium, generation to generation.
For many of us, the media we grew up with provide a pretty solid foundation for success in what lies ahead.