Like it or not, the days of selling ratings and personalities on their legacy alone are just about gone. These days, if a prospective client or employer wants to see if you are a “big deal”, if they want to see how you interact with your audience, and how your audience interacts with you, they’re going straight to your social media channels. Your account has basically become a live action resume.
I’ve heard the old guard argue that this shouldn’t be the way our content and quality is judged. I’ve even heard the old guard say, clients don’t care. I’ve been on the sales calls, I’ve been on the email chains with executives, believe me- they do. To the one’s who refuse to come around and see social media’s value in our marketplace I say, I get it, but the ship has already left the dock. Social media hits the mark on something that radio has never been able to produce.
Real-time data. The analytics of social media are so easy to comprehend and so concrete. Did people react? Are they sharing your content with others? Are they liking your page and your posts? Did they watch that new video? We know the answer to these questions instantaneously and so does a prospective client or employer.
Don’t get me wrong, radio has value. Radio has a tremendous amount of value and arguably even more than social media. But the social media world isn’t baked in reality, it’s baked in perception. And in order to keep the perception positive, there are a few things to consider.
Our natural inclination as hosts/producers is to always be forward promoting. Can I just get you to listen for a couple more minutes, for a couple more seconds even? We’ve been trained that promotion is the key to hooking an audience, the good old fashioned radio tease. Social media is not as kind to this little parlor trick. In fact, it can be more damaging than good if overdone.
Take videos for example. I see people all the time (and I’ve done it plenty myself) whip out their phones, flip that camera feature around, and spend 2 minutes telling you ‘what’s coming up on Show XYZ’. You know what 99% of those videos have in common? Very few views. There’s a reason for this. Contrary to what we’d like to believe as on-air talent, people aren’t going on social media to see what you have coming up on your show, they go on social media to be entertained. People who open their favorite social media app- whether that’s Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook are trying to waste time or want to be part of a conversation. They want to laugh, cry, or get angry at something.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t promote your shows, I’m saying don’t overdo it. Very few shows/stations have a marketing budget, so this is our way of guerrilla marketing our product. Just keep in mind the algorithm to all of this, these sites will punish your future posts if you put out content no one cares about.
Right now there about ten social media platforms that are used by the general public. In fact, another one probably popped up while I was writing that last sentence. Social media is ever changing, its complex, and there are way too many options to choose from. Plus, we live in the real world, and we only have so much time to spare. That is why it’s so important to know where to fish. What sites should you be on? Simple answer, you should be where your audience is.
The primary sports talk radio demographic is men between the ages of 18 to 64 years of age. So, we’ll start there. According to SproutSocial.com, 56% of Facebook users are male between the ages of 25-34. Twitter is 68% male with the largest active group between 30-49. LinkedIn is 51% male with most users falling between 46-55. Instagram has just 43% male users that range between 25-34. Finally, TikTok is 41% male with an average age range of 18-24.
So you can see, the barrels in which you should be fishing: Facebook and Twitter, with maybe a sprinkle of Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn. These numbers aren’t the Bible but they are a healthy indication of how to allocate your time and resources when posting on social media. Of course, there is going to be content that you can share across all platforms, but if you are doing this correctly, each should have its own unique personality and strategy. All these apps have a uniqueness about them, find what makes them unique, and then tailor that to your audience.
A live action resume. In a lot of ways, that’s all social media has become. Think about it, after you meet someone that intrigues you or your curious about, what’s the first thing you do? You check their social media. We all do. That means that your audience does the same, as do prospective clients, and as do prospective employers. Social media also gives you the power to grow your personal brand away from whatever platform your current employer is giving you. You can create your own niche and develop your sound, without even vocalizing one word.
With that, one of the most important things to consider is staying on brand. Ask yourself, what content makes sense for who I am? Not every post makes sense for every person. Not every free-flowing thought in your mind needs to be typed out on Twitter. Your goal should be to entertain, inform, interact, and create scenarios where something happens in a game or a news story breaks and someone out there says “I wonder what Joe thinks…”. If that occurrence takes place and one of your followers opens their app to seek out your page, you’re doing it right.
I asked Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel Sports Columnist and AM Drive Host on 969 The Game, what makes social media so important to you? He said “We are in the reaction business. I love to see the way sports fans react after a story breaks, and I use that to my advantage while building content on my show. I want to know what the people are talking about, that way I can deliver the content they are hungry for”.
When speaking with a young up and comer in the business, Zac Blobner, host/producer for WDAE in Tampa, he said “We live in an era where audiences don’t want to wait a week (or even a day) for the next episode of their favorite show, they want it now and they want us to it keep coming. Obviously, none of us can be on-air all the time, but we can be connected consistently thanks to social media, even after we go off air, you can keep creating consumable content. The less you are available, the more likely your audience is to look elsewhere, and I believe that bleeds heavily into brand loyalty”.
Mike and Zac are two highly skilled individuals who stay plugged in and do it for their own reasons. Between the two of them, they have over 74,000 followers across their active platforms. Not everyone’s motivations have to be the same, that’s what makes our brands unique. Find what fits you and deliver that to your followers.
Don’t Make it Harder Than it Needs to Be
Social media can be confusing and complex but don’t overthink it. You should have the confidence in knowing that what these sites are looking, you are already doing on a daily basis. We in radio are content creators, we are developing strong takes backed by researched opinions, and we deliver those with passion. Take that same energy and apply to social media. Better yet, film yourself in the middle of a segment spewing the latest hot take and post that video. You’d be amazed at how that simple step will get the reaction you are looking for, way more than the 2-minute ‘here’s what’s coming up’ post.
Content on the air is always going to be more important than what you post social platforms. You should never let your social media strategy interfere with your on air product. More than anything, the two should work together. They are symbiotic. Social media is an arm of your content, it should move in conjunction with your daily process of creating good content.
It’s all about prioritizing these elements properly. Hosts who stick their nose up at it will cap their ceiling of growth and popularity. Hosts who overvalue it can create diminishing returns on their radio product. Getting 20 replies on a Tweet looks and feels great, but it pales in comparison to the number of people listening to you live on terrestrial or streaming audio channels. It’s all a balancing act. Find the balance and find what works for you and your brand.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.