The similarities between a radio DJ and a social media manager are boundless – if you know where to find them. Having spent some time wrestling with this analogy, I’ve picked out 5 things I feel we can learn from listening to some of radio’s most prominent personalities.
1. A Mix of Content
Radio DJs mix music with conversational content. The music serves as the ‘always-on’ content – in that it keeps the listener engaged and coming back. The more successful DJs use the conversational time in between these songs, however, to take engagement to another level. Two of South African radio station, 5fm's most famous personalities – Gareth Cliff and DJ Fresh - do this on a regular basis, often sparking far-reaching conversation between songs and other scheduled segments.
It’s the troughs, or the time between scheduled content that radio DJs leverage for maximised engagement
Gareth Cliff, for example, is ingenious at leveraging time between songs. He then takes this conversation one step further through his immense social media presence and puts his own spin on real world events, often leading to massive online conversation.
Cliff famously launched the state of the nation drinking game on Twitter. The premise to this was that every time President Zuma made one of his many physical or verbal twitches during his address, users had to have a drink and use the #JZSOTNDrinks hashtag on Twitter. The game generated immense results with nearly as many mentions of the drinking game as there were of the event itself.
Similarly, DJ Fresh often references studies and curated lists of top 10 ‘did you knows’ and other similar facts to generate interaction on his afternoon radio show.
Always-on content, in this instance the play list, is often out of your control and driven by the client, or the radio station. However, it’s how you use the time between to generate conversation. That having been said however, it does not mean that your always-on content doesn’t have to be appealing.
2. Community Engagement
A hallmark of a high quality radio show is user involvement – something that Gareth Cliff, in particular, regularly encourages. He takes phone calls during his show and the conversation is completely driven by the caller, while he and other DJs like Fresh and Ryan O' Connor from Kfm, make answering tweets a regular part of their show.
Your approach to social media should be similarly user controlled. Social media by its very nature is difficult to confine and the strategy of the brand should be to be there when needed – rather than taking an empirical approach.
Radio is a live environment and therefore requires tremendous flexibility in adapting to unexpected events. On the radio any number of things could throw a spanner in the works - such as an incorrect sound bite, a scratched CD or an unruly caller – and similar can be said for social media.
In the social media environment, the conversation is driven by the community, and as such, it can sometimes go in an expected direction. That’s why it is always best to expect the unexpected, ensure that you are armed to the teeth with brand knowledge, and if you aren’t, that you can get your hands on the relevant information within a relatively short period of time. What may also help is an escalation protocol which outlines who to involve and how to handle a crisis.
Radio DJs are always part of a team, often with various members of the team taking care of various aspects of the show. Take DJ Fresh for example, he has someone for sport, someone for news and someone for traffic and then he is, himself, the voice of the show.
The same can be said for social media, depending on the size of the community. Success often relies on a team effort. What’s more, moving towards a truly social business - one that has social media at its core - would require a potentially large team of individuals with various skills, from content creators, to customer service agents, to community managers.
Radio DJs are not made overnight, and more importantly their following is accumulated over time. It is very rare to find a recently graduated DJ occupying a slot when the sun is still shining.
The same principle applies to social media. Even if you do manage to get everything above correct, building that community takes time, and without it nobody would hear your voice. Be patient, keep doing what you are doing and if you do it well the community will grow.
There you go, next time you are driving home or sitting in the office, pay close attention to the voice on the radio and you might learn a thing or two about social media.