Arbitron released the results of an informal study it conducted on radio stations' use of social media and stations' social media engagement with listeners. The bottom line: radio largely approaches social media -- which should be a platform for "engagement" and genuine "back-and-forth" between station and listeners -- as another form of "broadcasting" (the "we talk, you listen" model).
For the study, Arbitron randomly chose 15 stations (6 in markets 1-50, 5 in 51-149, 4 in 150+) of various formats and monitored their activities on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs (apparently, radio's abandoned MySpace) over a recent Thursday-Saturday. As it turns out, almost all stations in every format are on Facebook, but not necessarily Twitter, YouTube and MySpace. Interestingly, the study found the average station has a Facebook audience equal to roughly 7% of its cume (this does vary, however, by genre... small cume stations often have highly-engaged and loyal listeners, e.g. sports talk). [See the chart below-left. We're not sure of the difference between the "7% of cume" figure cited in the study's text, and the "11%" average that appears in the chart.]
The study revealed that nearly three-quarters of stations surveyed didn’t post a single Twitter or Facebook update over the weekend. More than half the stations didn’t manage to elicit a listener response on their Facebook wall for the entire three-day survey period. And for what engagement with listeners there was, almost 80% of those exchanges originated with the station.
More than 1 in every 4 radio station Facebook posts were plugs for contests and giveaways, but those posts generated only 10% of the comments stations got from listeners. "The lack of comments is indicative that these types of post are not actually stirring people’s interests or engaging them," says Arbitron. "To click on the 'like' button takes little effort and is a short term strategy, after all who doesn’t 'like' free stuff?"
Better for actually eliciting listener response were "question" posts ("Who are you rooting for in the World Series?" or "Do you support or oppose the 'Occupy' movement?"). While only 1 in 5 station Facebook posts asked listeners for their opinion, more than half of listener posts on station Facebook pages were in response to these questions. Arbitron does offer the caution, however, "Stations need to ensure they aren’t just pushing out questions though and that they are actually engaging in the conversation."
Arbitron concludes, "Stations must engage their listener. Engage doesn’t mean to push out a message from a social media platform and then count the responses. Engage means to share stories, build community and create deeper relationships. Most stations are not engaging consistently. It appears most stations have not adjusted their communication style from broadcasting to engaging."
Read the summary of Arbitron's study summary here.