Radio 1 vs Twitter

Some interesting data popped in my Twitter feed today from IPSOS MediaCT – the people that do the fieldwork for RAJAR – all about social network use in the UK.

Here’s their infographic.

I thought it would be interesting to look at Twitter’s demographics and compare them to BBC Radio 1. Warning – methodology clearly different. However, it turns out that they’re very similar.

Looking at reach – Twitter’s got 17% of the UK, Radio 1 has 20%.

Then when you look at which ages make up each of their audiences, here’s how they stack up:

Twitter Radio 1
15-24 38% 32%
25-34 26% 27%
35-44 19% 19%
45-54 10% 13%
55-64 8% 5%

I don’t particularly have a lot to say about it, but thought it was interesting how similar they looked!

Radio’s Twitter Obsession

Dick Stone wrote a blog post about Twitter last month, touching on the fact that stations looking at Twitter buzz has replaced “all the lines lit up” as justification for  a particular feature etc. I’d go a bit further than what he said and say that radio has an unhealthy and incorrect obsession with Twitter.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter. I was an early user and still a regular one – Tweetdeck tells me I tweet on average four times a day. It entertains me, I get to hear from people much brighter than I am and it’s helped in work – it’s connected me to people that now use our services and it’s helped us get press coverage too.

I am, however, like many of us, a media wanker. I like showing off and I like hearing from other show offs. I’m so entrenched in using it that I think it’s the cleverest most important and relevant thing in the world. I can talk about those super-injunctions, I can get i-rate about the latest Daily Mail poll and revel in Charlie Brooker’s put downs. The problem is real people, they really couldn’t care less.

They’re not stupid, they know what it is. Well, how could they not, it infects radio and television like a media-spawned virus. It’s just not that interesting for them. The vast majority of every Twitter mention on the radio is clutter that gets in the way of stations communicating with audiences.

Here’s a list of things that radio gets wrong.


Stations have created the most confusing way to tell people how to get involved via Twitter. Often different presenters each have different accounts with different descriptive styles. To take Radio 1 as an example (but similar problems affect everyone) – they go from @chrisdjmoyles (a dj in the middle?) to @fearnecotton to @gregjames to @scott_mills – an underscore ffs! They also mention @bbcr1  (an abbreviation they use nowhere else) sometimes on-air, but not all the time. Often they mention that station account and a DJ account together. There’s also now the introduction hashtags on air – be it for a breakfast feature or for something like #r1bw.

Giving out confusing Twitter usernames is the equivalent of giving all of your presenters different phone numbers or email addresses with different domains. It’s hard for listeners to understand and for people not on Twitter it’s irrelevant clutter that gets in the way of content that’s relevant for them.

Follower Counts

One of the biggest issues is an obsession with follower counts. If you’re a webmaster who gets annoyed at the amount of social network mentions compared to website mentions, i’ll tell you the answer – it’s all because with Facebook/Twitter presenters get to see a number increasing in the corner of their screen. They equate more ‘likes’ or ‘follows’ with success. Presenters crave feedback and this gives them it. It is, of course, irrelevant.

There is little accuracy to Facebook’s ‘like’ numbers and follower numbers are inflated too. Why not go through your Twitter account removing anyone that’s not a ‘real’ person – corporate accounts, spam etc. You’re hesitating aren’t you? Why, because you’re obsessed with having a high follower number! How many times have you seen “just ten more followers and I break 500, or 1,000” etc. Totally pointless metric.

The right things to measure are how many @replies have we had, how many retweets, how many click through – measure the engagement – that’s the true measure of your success.

Follow Me Pleading

“Hi, you can follow me on Twitter, i’m @somethingquitecomplicatedtodowithmyname”. Why? It’s the modern equivalent of hearing “give me a call” without giving a reason why. “Hi, you can follow me on Twitter, i’m @somethingquitecomplicatedtodowithmyname (not that it helps as you probably don’t know my name),  i’m quite needy and I can use my follower numbers to show people like me and replace the fact the PD hasn’t snooped me for a week and I had a slightly poor RAJAR”.

The vast majority of your listeners are not on Twitter. They don’t want to follow you. They can’t follow you. It slightly annoys them because you’re going on about something that they don’t use and can’t be involved in. Every time you mention it you exclude people. In fact, it annoys the people who already follow you, as you’re wasting their time with a link that’s irrelevant to them.

Your aim should be to signify to people on twitter that you’re on it and if they follow you they get a benefit – without annoying everyone else.

“Paul just tweeted @localdj asking for the new Take That song, it’s on next” is a great way to do it. You’ve told people your username, you’ve shown there’s value in getting in touch that way and it hasn’t cluttered the radio station.

Reaching Twitter Users on Twitter

The trap radio people fall into is that they think “Hey, we’ve got 200k listeners – if I talk about Twitter on there that’s the easiest way to get more followers!” whilst ignoring the massive number of people who aren’t interested. This slips into “oh, just one more mention” and on it goes. More clutter on the radio.

A much more efficient way of growing followers is to use the places that they’re more likely to be – Twitter.  Use other presenter of station accounts to retweet your messages and just write interesting messages that will be organically retweetable too! Also remember to follow people who @message you and the station during your show

Depending on how you’ve written your data protection rules, you can also use Twitter’s email checker to see if people who email you have a Twitter account that you can then follow. Just export all the email addresses of people who’ve been in touch to a fresh Gmail account – then just connect your Twitter account to it. It will tell you out of those people who’s got an account and away you go adding them.

Also make sure that the places people go to find you have links to your Twitter account – station websites and email newsletters as well as your Facebook page.

Twitter is about relationships not replicating broadcasting.

A few people just use Twitter to send messages out, never engaging with anyone. This is clearly a bad thing. But you probably don’t do that, do you? You send @replies and reply to listeners that message you, you’re all interactive, right?

How many of you follow back listeners? How many of you actually read the stream of tweets from your listeners that aren’t to do with your radio station? Do you independently get excited about what you’re listeners are up to? They follow you, but you don’t follow them – well, unless you follow them because you feel you have to.

If you can’t bear muggles infecting your feed create a list for ‘listeners’ – you can then read their tweets independently of your ‘real’ friends. But do it and engage with them. Congratulate them on births, commiserate on staying in and doing exams. They will be so impressed that you, that famous person, is interested in them, that you’ll have a listener for life.

Is it really you?

Punters want to follow presenters because they buy into them on-air and want that on-line and in their feed. If you are a personality presenter at the top of your game this is probably fine. You are probably mainly like your on-air persona, even if the volume is turned down a little bit in real life.

If your on-air persona is just that, and Twitter is the ‘real’ you then you have a problem. The reason the listener followed you is because of who you are on-air. If that’s smiley and breezy they’ll be surprised when they find out you mainly tweet about the government’s failings, back and forward in-jokes with the presenter on the station across town and plugs for your club nights. You need to deliver on your on-air promise – whether that’s a lie or not.

Station Accounts

One for the bosses – does your on-air team have a strong enough personality to justify a Twitter account each? You can almost justify the Radio 1 example at the beginning by saying that all their daytime jocks are big personalities and can sustain separate identities. Is it the same for, say, a small ILR? Do your listeners really know the name of the afternoon presenter? Is getting them to engage with a Twitter account for that person adding too many barriers to get a connection with a listener?

I believe that for the vast majority of people, they follow presenters as an extension of the radio show and station. If they disappeared off the radio, following them on Twitter wouldn’t be as interesting any more. For this reason, I think the majority of stations would do better with Twitter if they replaced their individual presenter accounts with that of a station one.

Also from a cynical business perspective, presenters are plugging their own accounts on your time, to your audience. Their growth in followers comes directly from them being on your  radio station. The numbers they amass and the relationship built can then be transferred to your competitor radio station.

When Chris Moyles finally disappears off Radio 1 to a new station, he’ll be giving 1 million Radio 1 fans reasons to switch radio stations.

The way around this is to let each presenter ‘host’ the station Twitter account during their show – but also at other times where it’s relevant. There’s no reason why the breakfast show team shouldn’t be tweeting about Eurovision at 8pm on a Saturday night.

The sell to presenters is that by using the main account they’ll be reaching more people and better improving their chances of growing audience -ie a follower who wants to hear about Breakfast will also find out about reasons to tune into the evening show.

Some people say that this isn’t the essence of Twitter – that brand accounts don’t match the authenticity of individuals. I disagree. Especially in radio, by combining the station’s brand values alongside individuals that live that brand, actually makes station accounts more compelling – and help to drive audience.

Return on Investment

As mentioned before, Twitter and Facebook are often enthusiastically used by presenters because it gives them instant feedback – but sometimes at the detriment of station’s own objectives.

Have a plan for how media is used. Don’t use Twitpics – work out a way to have those snaps go to a station website and link to that. Track all of your links so you can see what’s driving click thrus, measure which presenters are sending the most traffic and share the good practice amongst everyone.

Make sure that station key messages are used on Twitter too. If there’s a big breakfast promotion, tweet at different times in different ways talking about it. Radio followers are probably all P1s – there’s a great chance to increase hours by using Twitter properly.


Overall, Twitter is a great resource and platform to help grow audience and engagement. Remember though that the vast majority of your listeners probably don’t care. It’s not your job to evangelise Twitter to rejectors, it’s about finding ways to reach existing Twitter users with the right kind of content that helps grow your station and improve connection with your audience.

Nature of Retweets

One of the great things about Twitter is it’s asynchronous. You don’t have to follow all the people who follow you. Indeed, you seek out people you want to follow – be it for entertainment, information, your friends, people smarter than you, people you want to spy on – it’s all opt in.

The downside of this is often you concentrate more on who you’re following than who are following you.

People use Twitter in lots of different ways, some use it as an honest stream of consciousness, some to talk to celebrities, some to position themselves.

In the media world, I think the latter is usually the most used. I know it’s how I use it. Whether it’s talking about things that (I think) make me look bright, highlighting things I think are interesting or important or just showing, hey, that i’m funny guy!

Retweets are a good way to achieve these aims as well, letting you bask in someone else’s skill and humour. It’s also a great way to provide evidence reinforcing your own views from third parties. It helps your opinion become more trusted amongst your followers.

It’s important to remember though, that it is just your followers. They are a self-selecting group of people who choose to hear from you because of what you say.

There’s lots of tweets in my timeline at the moment from radio people re-tweeting messages from listeners about their station or particular station events. I generally don’t mind this. It often helps me learn about what station’s are up to. However, repeating similar messages over and over again just become spam.

I know, often, that they’re proud of what their stations are achieving, but personal twitter accounts especially with small (sub 1k) follower numbers isn’t the place to do it.

I know I can opt-out of a user’s retweets, or stop following, but it’s such a shame, when their messages or other retweets are good to read.

I’m still in two minds whether some of these tweets could actually be valuable on main station accounts. Generally it’s P1’s who become followers of main accounts, but even then if these listeners are tuning in for a few hours a day they might not be as across your programming as you would think.

I think if you’re plugging brand extensions, using the right number of retweets of listener appreciation is probably a great way to help build awareness and perception. For big station events it shows that people like you are enjoying the same thing and helps amplify your activity. It’s also more likely to help you with your hours.

However, if you keep telling me, over and over again, it’s unlikely to materially affect your hours and the only brand value it’s going to reinforce is that you care little about your followers.

Going Viral

This blog has been a little neglected recently. It’s been around, in different forms, for a number of years, but it probably really hit its stride from the end of 2007 for about a year. This coincided with leaving GCap (now Global) and having more time to write. Not working for a big radio group also allowed me to talk a bit more openly about radio, and generally be a bit more interesting.

This last year at Folder Media and through our acquisition of Fun Kids i’ve been much busier. I’ve also been more involved with radio industry things that if you’re in, you can’t really talk about. For example, it’s hard to do a post about the industry’s co-ordinated response to Digital Britain when you’re part of it.

The blog’s also become a bit tumbleweed-y because of Twitter. Twitter offers a quick way to get an opinion out, try and be funny or release some information. Pre-twitter they’d be things that you might talk about in a blog post, but now when tweeted, there seems less impetus to write them up.

I’m therefore trying to do a few more regular posts.

My last one – Commercial Radio Bleating – has been my best performing posts in ages. It wasn’t at all designed to be, but looking back, it did, inadvertently do a number of things that makes something ‘go viral’. Therefore I thought it might be interesting to talk a little about how that happened and come up with some tips that might get your content (whether it’s personal, your radio station’s or something else) more views.

1. It was written with passion. Nicky’s tweet really did annoy me. It covered a topic that meant something to me, and something I felt that I could write about.

2. (I hope) it was informative. It added something to the conversation – there are new ‘facts’, it tries to be fair-minded, but there’s a strong argument in there too. Also, whilst a fair argument it leaves open many things that you could disagree with.

3. It speaks directly to the audience. My blog audience is very very specific. Generally it’s people who work in, want to work in, or follow radio. To many of them it strikes at the core of their radio world – being ‘BBC’ or being ‘commercial’. It’s very easy for most of the readers to have an opinion about it.

4. It was posted on a Tuesday evening at 8.34pm. Again, nothing intentional, but I think this meant it entered an interesting cycle. When I publish a new post three things happen.

Firstly, it publishes it to on the front page. This means anyone coming to the site will see it. However – this is far less important than it used to be. Generally, not many people bookmark a load of homepages that they cycle through them when they have five minutes. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but it’s not as if there are people madly refreshing to see if i’ve written something new. Indeed, because i’ve been posting much less recently, my just-stopping-by traffic has dropped quite a lot.

The second thing that happens is that it updates my RSS feed. This means that people who subscribe to the site using an RSS Reader will see the post the next time that they log in. Around 300 people subscribe to my RSS feed and I imagine that over half them will probably see it within 24 hours. This, in itself gives the post a decent amount of momentum. Also, people who use RSS Readers tend to be a little more in the opinion-former category, so they’re probably more ‘important’ in spreading an idea than regular website visitors (no, offence if you’re doing just that, but you’re clearly a muggle of the internet). That is a joke.

Thirdly – when I post, my twitter feed gets automagically updated, so a tweet appears saying “New Blog Post: Commercial Radio Bleating (”. There’s a plugin that does this and you can choose how to lay it out. I think it’s important for this to be really simple alerting someone that there’s a blog post, including the title, and then having a short link to it. It needs to stand out in someone’s news feed and encourage them to click it. I think the title really helps here. Normally, titles on the internet should be very simple and descriptive, because generally we should all be writing for Google. In other words writing in such a way that someone searching for something is more likely to click through. With ‘Commercial Radio Bleating’ – it doesn’t really do that – however, for twitter followers it becomes, just like an old school headline – something intriguing. Is it saying something good about commercial radio? Is it something bad? Either way it’s more likely to encourage people to click through and read. Twitter was in fact the biggest referrer to the post. Which leads me on to…

5. Spreadability. Twitter does an awesome job of quickly getting a message around. As mentioned before, before Twitter i’d have to have waited 24 hours for the feed reader types to get to it to start to build any buzz. With it dropping at 8.30 it meant that many people are at home, have more time, and are probably catching up with their twitter messages. They’ve got the time to see it, and to read the post. They’ve also got the time to retweet it to others. In the next 12 hours, 12 people retweeted it, many adding an endorsement about it too. This spreads it much further than my own twitter network (554) – if I add up the total number of followers that these people had, it was 5,677. Now some of these are likely to be duplicates, or bots, but with relatively few people passing it on, a lot of others can become aware of the post quite quickly.

The third biggest referer to the site was Facebook – a few people linked to the post – and there was quite a bit of discussion around some of the links – this will be flagged up in other people’s newsfeeds and once again spreads the message.

6. Other blog posts. I was also lucky that a few people included links to the post in other articles, James C also very generously wrote a whole post about it and as he’s a radio blog A-Lister, he became the second biggest referer. There you go James – you’re bigger than Facebook, but not yet bigger than Twitter.

When people include a link to you it doesn’t have to be an endorsement – but it does give you social (media) capital as it says to that person’s readers that you’re worth reading too. Out of all the links the one that surprised me the most was Phil Riley mentioning it on his Orion Staff Intranet Blog.

7. Back to timing. A big chunk of this referral activity happened at night and then in the morning, which meant the number of readers was increasing through the morning. Also – another thing happens in the morning – my email subscribers get an email of the post. There’s a little box on the right hand side that allows you to subscribe to the post via email – it’s all handled automatically, but the timing is set so that it arrives in people’s inboxes early.

8. Verbal buzz. Once the idea has spread to enough people, and quickly enough, it becomes something that people can talk about. Now, this might be in the comments in the blog, or it might be person to person. I went to the Radio Academy event on Wednesday evening – about 24hours after posting – and I was quite embarrassed how many people had read it, or said “I heard you wrote something interesting”. Wednesday was then capped off when Nicky Campbell, the tweeter which kicked it all off, re-tweeted the link and responded to the point raised.

Overall it was an interesting 24 hours – and that was all it really took for all of this to happen. What was hugely important was having a number of distribution channels that would get the post out quickly. Though when I say ‘distribution’, i’m really talking about ‘people’. They’re the ones that can give it more momentum and then get it to more people. Having networks that support what you do – and giving visitors multiple opportunities to consume your content on their own terms is important. So for me, people can get to what I write through the web, email, RSS and twitter.

But most importantly it needs to be content that makes people want to consume and spread. I wrote what I thought was a much more interesting post about getting rid of BBC1 – no one was particularly interested and it got no traction. There’s probably a number of reasons for that, but maybe it’s just that radio people don’t really care that much about TV…