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Broadcast Social Media: Audience Focus

November 29, 2010

Remember that time at school when you opted for metalwork or woodwork or something else a bit different from the usual textbook-based studies? You couldn’t wait to get started. Your imagination was running riot. And if it wasn’t, this practical lesson was going to be so different from everything else you did that momentarily you had a sniff of what it was to be a grown up.

Only your teacher had other ideas. There was some theory to get of the way first. Some stern words about health and safety. The brakes were being slammed on. ‘You’ll see why this is important later,’ he’d say as you looked longingly over at the tools waiting to be played with on the other side of the workshop.

So it is, with this particular blog post. Because you might as well know this before you get started. There’s precious little point in splashing around in social media unless you’ve thought about what you’re doing and who you’re doing it for.

And that last point is the most important thing. Who are you participating in social media for exactly? Who are you communicating with? It’s these key questions which will help how your social media participation is shaped.It will help drive how you do it – to put it in crude terms.

Here are some points to think about when you’re making your first steps into the social media sphere which – rather nicely – lead on to helping when imagining your audience. Because, if social media is about participation then the style in which you participate is vital. Your style will be central to everything. And that style can be shaped by the following.

1. Social Media isn’t your Saviour

Quit thinking of social media as being able to make up for the failings of the television or radio programme you’re intending your social media proposition to represent. It won’t. It can’t.

DC Hero Minifigs - Wave 5

Social media doesn’t paper over the cracks. It’s not a miracle worker. It’s not going to save you. The editorial proposition has got to be there already. The audience has got to be interested in the content anyway. Social media can’t make up for it. And if you say to anyone it can you might as well give up now because someone somewhere along the line is going to be disappointed with your output.

2. Work at it

The mentality of “build it and they will come” won’t wash here. If you think that and then attend a conference of social media types you’ll be laughed at because you’re hopelessly out of date.

Work Hard And Be Kind Wallpaper

Social media – interactions with other human beings – needs to be worked at. It doesn’t just happen. Yeah, there might be those rare occasions when you catch sight of a good-looking stranger across a crowded room, but truly they’re probably a psychopath and you wouldn’t want them as the basis of your social network anyway. So, think of every interaction as your first.

Deal with people as individuals whereever possible. You’ll appear more human that way. Being yourself – ie not creating a ‘construct’ or social media ‘character’ – is really important.

3. Social Media isn’t special

Twitter, Facebook, blog comments or messageboards (yes really, Radio 3’s might be closing down but there are some still available) aren’t anything different from normal human life. They are communities. They are clumps of people all grouped together for one reason or another. Consequently, we all of us (whether we’re individuals or broadcasters) have to participate in those communities. We’re not broadcasting to them. We’re participating in them. Fail to do that and every member of that community will spot it a mile off and you’ll suffer a worse treatment than being hunted down by rabid dogs. People. Will. Ignore. You.

4. Audiences aren’t hanging off your every word

It’s true. You’re not that special. You might think you are. But you’re not. The audience is still out there, but they’re spending their time doing different things. They’re also doing more things at the same time. Broadcastesr are competing with other communication tools to.

Hypnosis

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that an audience member is phoning, texting, emailing, tweeting, posting something on Facebook and watching your precious TV programme all at the same time. That’s quite a noisy environment. Participating in such a noisy environment has to be done with panache.

5. Audiences aren’t dumb

You old-school TV people take particular note here. I know what you’re doing. You’re looking at me thinking “What the hell does he know? Failed wannabee TV boy.” You aren’t the top-dogs any more, so listen up if you please.

Here’s the reality. Years of being swamped with considerably more TV (and in some cases audio) from all sorts of sources – a much broader selection from the internet – audience tastes have changed. Audiences are now more savvy. They have a considerably lower tolerance for outdated styles, clunky links, ineffectual TV presenters or stories which fail to live up to the hype.

Audiences are more media aware. They might even make judgments about something being awful without knowing exactly why it’s awful. The only real difference between now and five years ago however, is that considerably more people have a voice to express their disatisfaction with the medium. If something is crap, they’ll say. And as soon as someone says its crap a whole host of others will find a kindred spirit.

And because there are so many different outlets and so many different platforms, people don’t automatically look up to the likes of the BBC as the be all and end all. The BBC isn’t quite as interesting or brilliant at everything it does as you might think. Indeed, measuring the respect the audience has for the BBC can only be done by those people who are objective. And where this is concerned, that isn’t the BBC. So start with the assumption that most probably probably hate you. And when you start out on t’interweb think about convert small groups rather than great swathes of the population.

You have been warned.

6. Be a decent person

Having been deliberately depressing about social media, let’s think about the audience and how you interact with them.

Imagine you’re going to a party round a friend’s house. You’re going to meet some new people he or she has recently met for the first time. It’s not a formal occassion. Just a few drinks slobbing around on the sofa. How would you be in that situation? How would you interact with those people when you meet them in the reasonably familiar and safe surrounding of a friend’s house?

Even a smile is an act of charity

The answer is simple. You’d strive to be a decent person. You wouldn’t want to be vile. Because we all – as individuals – have the overriding desire to be liked.

So before you venture out of the front door to go to the party, remind yourself to be a decent human being. Do the same before you log on to the internet. As a user myself, I want you – broadcast social media producer wotnot – to make you love you. So be nice. If I hate you you and your brand are doomed.

7. Visualise your audience

I do this all the time. I leave it to you to decide whether it pays off or not.

Remember that social media is about interaction. It’s about participation. We’re not broadcasting to the audience. We should never consider ourselves as earwigging either. We’re participating.

So because that’s what we should be doing, imagine what that audience literally looks like. Think of a small group. Think maybe of someone who’s come round to yours to watch TV or who’s listening in to the radio while you make dinner for them. The more intimate the setting the better.

TV On The Radio

What does that audience member interact with you? What do they say? What do you say to them? What’s your connection? Are they watching TV via iPlayer? Are they watching live? Are they tweeters themselves? Are they heavy duty Facebook users? If you were to share something or say something to them, when would you say it? How would you say it? Would you be conversational afterwards? Or would you just say “Go here and look at this link?”

Basically, just as an author would visualise a character in a book, so you should imagine the audience you’re striving to connect with.

This is something which should never stop. It’s a practice which should always be done. Because it’s always changing. And, it’s this very thing which shapes your instinct before you publish anything on the internet. And it’s that which will help shape the network you eventually interact with.

Addictive TV at the National Theatre

If you’re finding it difficult, then just observe what happens at any social interaction where the music isn’t so loud that it’s impossible to chat. You’ll get the idea. Just make sure you arrive at a fairly rich, well-explored imagining of your audience. It’s vital.

We’ll start the next lesson bright and early next week. Don’t be late. Oh. And you TV producers. Take that gum out of your mouths. Chewing gum is common.

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