The Point: Social media is an indispensable part of radio and should be embraced.
When we’re afraid of failure, we often tell ourselves endeavours are “pointless, anyway.” We give ourselves permission to avoid trying, in order to avoid embarrassment. For you, that endeavour might be public speaking or basket weaving; for me, it’s engaging on social media. It’s promoting myself online and sharing my message.
I’ve avoided heavy investment in social media because I’m afraid I’ll suck at it; ironically, by half-assing it, I’ve realized by fear. Instead of a minimal, but well-curated online presence, I have a decade of random, unrefined content to my name. Many of my fellow millennials talk obsessively about the importance of having a brand. Ultimately, we all have one–mine just sucks.
Like any journey, the long road ahead is often intimidating. Putting aside the feats of superstars like Katy Perry (the first person to amass 100 million followers on Twitter), even my peers in broadcasting have seemingly unattainable engagement at a few hundred thousand followers. All social media combined, I have less than two thousand likes and followers. It’s going to be an uphill battle.
Talking on the radio every day isn’t enough, anymore. Broadcasters are constantly fighting to be recognized and stay top-of-mind with their audiences, and “hosting a show” has evolved to include tweeting, snapping, and live streaming on both company and personal accounts. Funnily enough, a lot of veteran DJs tell my generation of broadcasters we’ve got it easy, with music automation and digital audio editing, ignoring the increased pressure and workload from maintaining an online presence.
Live streaming, particularly, allows me to better connect with my audience. Granted, I can chat with a listener anytime on-air, but not everyone is confident to pick up the phone. But tweeting a comment or snapping a question? Most people are more than happy to–especially if what I say affects them (typically so in a negative way). Mining content from my audience makes the show more democratic, and people have a bigger investment in the experience.
This open dialogue also lets my audience see me as a three-dimensional person. When I have a bad talk break, I don’t hide it. I can’t. If I’m live streaming, I make a conscious effort to discuss it: what I meant to say, and what I’ll do better next time. Instead of privately thinking, “oh man, I’m such a moron,” I can speak critically about my misstep(s). And the helpful, understanding comments from my audience reminds me that, no, I’m not a complete moron: I’m a human and I made a mistake. Engaging off-air with my on-air audience helps me better understand my market and myself.
Maintaining a strong online presence can also fuel content creation. Depending on a radio station’s format, a presenter usually has a minute to tell a story–usually half that. While time restrictions can be great for driving a point or strengthening a punchline, long-form content, within the boundaries of commercial radio, takes a permanent backseat. There’s also the matter of content suitability–visual plot points don’t translate to an auditory medium. By producing content principally for social media, I’ve been able to practice my passion for writing sketch comedy. My recent spoof of MTV’s Cribs, at a ghost town in the middle of the desert, worked online in a way it wouldn’t have on air. And I had a lot of fun producing it!
Engaging on social media also means I can connect with other radio presenters. I can join or initial conversations about the state of the industry, current and future trends, and general news (see: “gossip”). I can also see and hear what my peers are doing: “Presenter X has a unique take on Topic Y. Maybe I can leapfrog off what she’s doing.” It’s a way for people to connect with each other, in an industry that has most presenters sitting alone in small rooms, talking only to themselves.
A presenter’s online presence is important for connecting with not only listeners, but potential hiring managers, too. In addition to a demo, increasingly more job applications also require social media handles and stats. Ultimately, when it affects job opportunities and the ability to put food on the table, “it’s pointless, anyway” doesn’t have a standing, anymore.
I’m not going to commit myself to an arbitrary rate of posting, because that doesn’t serve anybody. There’s no point in cluttering my timeline, just because I want to keep up a streak. Instead, I’m going to continue creating content, but when I think people will get value from it, I’ll make sure I share it online. As I mentioned before, I’m going to use the momentum gained from realizing social media’s potential, to fuel my own rate of production. I know the two will work in tandem.
Social media likely isn’t going anywhere, and those in broadcasting who refuse to adapt are only fooling (and punishing) themselves. The reality is, most listeners want more than just a voice on the radio–they want a genuine friend–to connect with a presenter the same way they connect with their friends and family. I mean no judgement with the above; I’ve worked in radio for seven years, and it’s only now that I’m finally acknowledging that social media is more than complementary to this industry, it’s now part of its foundation.