Last week at the Radio Show in Nashville, while Gordon Borrell was giving radio executives a realty check about how their advertisers were turning more and more to Facebook to advertise, he mentioned the name Vince Benedetto. Vince (pictured here) is the President and CEO of the Bold Gold Media Group, which owns stations in New York and Pennsylvania. Borrell also mentioned that one of Vince’s radio stations in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre has over 756,000 fans. Not bad for the 72nd-ranked market in the country. We were so impressed by that number we had to find out exactly how the station accomplished that and what they are doing with those fans.
Radio Ink: Why is your Facebook page so successful?
Vince Benedetto: There are a variety of things that make our social media successful in Bold Gold Media Group. Nearly all of our radio station pages do extremely well, however, our Scranton/Wilkes-Barre rock station, 105 The River, has become a social media monster…one of the most followed and engaged radio stations on Facebook in America (and we’re in a medium-sized market).
First, as a company, we focused early on trying to become experts on Facebook. In fact, we have been working on growing our FB reach for years. So much so, that we’re only now starting to focus on other social platforms to the same degree. So, instead of getting distracted and doing nothing well, we focused on doing one thing extremely well, becoming an expert, and finding that synergy between on-air and social for this particular platform.
Second, in the case of 105 The River, we have our on-air studio in a very high-visibility location. The studio is inside the Mohegan Sun Pocono casino in Wilkes-Barre. Anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 people per day see our studio and get to witness radio happening live.
Third, we give enormous flexibility to our on-air talent to post content. Too many operations centralize their social media, thereby running the risk of taking the “social” out of it.
Fourth, we’ve made it a priority in the company, from my level on down, everyone knows that our social media content is not an afterthought, but a critical part of being a modern day media company.
Fifth, we have been successful getting many posts to go “viral,” both by being timely both on-air and online with driving interest in the post.
Sixth, we continually learn, evolve, and adapt to the evolving social media landscape. Particularly with Facebook, things change. What works today might not work so well tomorrow. Noticing the changes and adapting is critical. It also makes you an expert in the space.
Radio Ink: What is it about your content that has resulted in the high numbers?
Vince Benedetto: Our 105 The River page has become known for being a place to get music and entertainment news… but, specifically, a great deal of our content is centered around nostalgia for music, things, and styles that were popular when listeners of late 60s, 70s, 80s, and early 90s music fans formed their musical tastes. For example, we post a lot of pictures of things that a typical 35 to 65-year-old person might have fond memories of from their youth. Such as a popular model vehicle, an artist we play on the air, a particular album on vinyl, etc.… things that will invoke an emotional response or memory, similar to what we want to achieve on-air. While we want as many people as possible to interact with our page, we know our “sweet spot” and stay laser-focused on that. Essentially, if you love the music we’re playing on-air, chances are you are going to love our FB page. Radio is a story-telling medium, and we use social media to complement the story.
Radio Ink: What specific things are you doing to get it out to listeners?
Vince Benedetto: I believe live-and-local radio has an advantage over all other legacy media in its synergistic relationship with social media. Facebook, as we know, works on an ever-changing algorithm. Once content is posted, if it doesn’t begin to get some traction and engagement, the post will quickly fade in reach. It is here that radio can really spark a FB post. As often as possible, when an on-air personality posts something, they should almost immediately tease the post on-air. If you can create listener interest in engaging with a post, you can essentially facilitate its ability to maximize its reach. This is ideally done immediately after you post it. This is a power that radio has over all other media as it pertains to social. In many ways, it’s almost like social media was made for radio. It’s the perfect pairing.
So, in short, don’t promote the page, promote the post, for maximum effectiveness. For example, you can say on-air, “follow our station on Facebook…” Or, the DJ can say, “I just posted something about The Beatles on our Facebook page that I bet you never knew. Check it out! Let me know your thoughts and I might share your comments later on-air…” It’s pretty clear that the latter is going to get a far better response… And notice that it actually complements the on-air presentation as well. Further, on-air personalities should interact with comments to their posts in a timely manner. Liking a comment from a listener, responding to a comment, all that encourages page followers to engage more in the future. Also, by engaging back with your social followers, you are increasing the likelihood they will not only engage more often, but listen to your station more often. It’s another way of forming a bond with your fans.
Radio Ink: Have you been able to use the Facebook page to generate revenue?
Vince Benedetto: There are numerous ways that broadcasters should be using social media to improve their bottom line. I think too many people place too low an emphasis on social because they don’t know how to directly monetize it. In other words, when people ask “Are you making money with Facebook,” what they often mean is “Are you selling direct advertiser posts or campaigns on your page?” As many people who use FB know, if a post is overly “advertorial” FB greatly limits its potential reach in favor of more social posts. So, unless you have a massive following in the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, you are not going to have success with this. So, our focus in regards to this, has been to grow our following and our reach. We are getting to the size now that I believe we will be able to start to directly monetize our page. In fact, 105 The River’s page has gotten so big, that its reach is now well beyond our local market. As a page that has gone totally viral, it has a national, and even international reach. However, we’re not the typical case, and this should not be the primary focus of most stations’ social media goals.
So, here’s how you need to understand how Facebook, and all of social media, helps you make money, and why you need to be a leader in your market with it. Nearly every business has a Facebook page and an increasing number of businesses are allocating ad dollars to social media. Also, most businesses don’t really understand how best to use social media and certainly don’t have the time to be an expert on it. It’s also important to note that it is an evolving space, so what works today might not be as effective tomorrow, which means staying on the cutting edge of social media trends is important for all media companies… Especially if they are going to be a trusted marketing consultant for their clients. As a radio station, if you’re selling digital, or digital expertise, and digital reach, and you have a Facebook page that has fewer likes and followers than the business you’re talking with, it’s hard to have credibility on this issue. Conversely, if you grow your FB page into one of the most followed and engaged sites in your market, you not only are better able to sell your digital expertise and services, but you also are showing the power of radio to complement a social media page.
Also, particularly with younger business owners or media buyers, they are more likely to be impressed with a massive social following of your station over what even a ratings book might show. In many ways, you could argue that social media is your online scorecard. With our massive social following in Bold Gold, we have tangible proof that our stations are of interest and relevant to a growing number of people, and therefore that their business should partner and advertise with our stations. Further, we have enormous credibility that we not only understand broadcasting, but we understand cutting edge, multi-media marketing. This allows us to make a convincing case that we can be trusted to be a reliable marketing partner for off-air advertising as well.
Radio Ink: What advice do you have for other managers about how to best use their Facebook page and social media?
Vince Benedetto: Social media needs to be understood and prioritized at the highest level of a company. Managers need to be using social media too. It’s really hard to understand how it works and its potential if you don’t use it. One of the first things I did when I realized how important social media was going to be for our industry was that I immersed in it as much as I could. I spent time looking at what successful Facebook pages were doing and what unsuccessful pages were doing. I became an expert on it for my company so that I could lead on this issue instead of follow. Also, don’t overly centralize it. Doing so almost always removes the spontaneous, conversational, and fun feel of it. You have to trust your DJs to post. If you can trust them to be on-air with a multi-million dollar FCC license, you should be able to trust them to make a Facebook post. Give guidelines on what the boundaries of acceptability are for your station(s), but then allow them and encourage them to post engaging content that relates to your station’s format. Remember that it works both ways… many of your listeners will become your social media followers, but also, a great social page can turn followers into listeners.
Lastly, you have to keep making social media, and all off-air elements, a growing part of your company culture at all times. We have a slogan in our company: Bold Gold – On-air. Online. Mobile. Social. Live & Local. Everyone in the company knows it, and they all believe it, because we work on improving it every day.