Social Media

5 Ways Twitter Is Like Radio Advertising

From a marketer’s perspective, Twitter tweets and radio promotions have a number of similarities. Thinking about what these marketing tactics have in common can reveal insights about content creation, message timing, and topic selection. The comparison may even convince some digital marketers to include radio or at least Internet radio in marketing campaigns.

Radio promotion is typically included in the “traditional media” category in many marketing discussions. But the format has a surprising number of similarities to a modern social media network. Five of the commonalities include broadcasting, space or time limitations, a relatively short lifecycle, time dependency, and format or topic.

Broadcast Media

Broadcasting, as a term, is usually applied to television or radio programming and commercials. If you look in a dictionary, you are likely to find a definition that includes the words “audio” and “video,” but there is another, perhaps, more inclusive way of thinking about broadcasting.

What if broadcasting is really the distribution of content over a mass communications medium? If this definition is accurate, then Twitter, like radio, is really a form of broadcast communication.

First, consider that content — including text, links, photos, and even video and audio files — are, in fact, being distributed on Twitter. Consider that any Twitter user may connect with any other Twitter user, distributing short messages to all who care to receive them.

Next, Twitter, like radio, is certainly a mass communications medium. All Things Digital predicted that Twitter will have about 260 million users by the end of 2013.

Thinking about Twitter in was similar to how you think about radio advertising may help marketers use both communications channels better.

Limited Space

Radio commercials are typically short messages bound to 15, 30, or even 60 seconds. Similarly, Twitter tweets are limited to 140 characters, meaning that both platforms require marketers to focus on being persuasive in a very limited amount of time or space.

These limitations can lead to some creativity and innovation. For many years, copywriters have had to compose radio commercials that connected with the audience, engaged listeners quickly enough to prevent them from changing the channel, and achieved some marketing goal. These masters of the short marketing message may have insights that will help folks writing Twitter tweets.

While there are many approaches to writing great radio commercial copy, there are, perhaps, four radio script best practices that also make sense on Twitter — be simple, authentic, articulate, and helpful.

The short form requires simplicity. If your message is complicated, many readers or listeners will ignore it rather than trying to figure it out.

On Twitter and on radio, it is very easy for the audience to “change channels”  — switching to the next bit of content. In this environment, a marketer must be authentic, truthful, and honest, and the marketer must articulate — that is, communicate clearly — to ensure that the message is being understood.

Finally, radio advertisers have known for a long time that they have to be helpful or useful to stand out and differentiate from the competition. For radio promotions, helpfulness can come in the form of an interesting announcement or a special offer. On Twitter a business might offer a link to a whitepaper or a useful fact or statistic.

Short Lifecycle

Some social media experts have suggested that you can predict the success of a tweet in just five minutes. After that, the short message has begun to move too far down the users stream, and may be lost.

Radio promotions are most impactful just after they have been played. Certainly, one should not overlook radio’s ability to build brand or increase how familiar shoppers are with a store. But a single message has a very short lifecycle.

For both radio and Twitter tweets, the implication is that marketers need to consider when messages are broadcast, knowing that the message’s potency is short lived.

Time Dependent

Closely linked to the message’s lifecycle is when the message is aired or distributed. On the radio the number of active listeners changes by the minute. Many folks might listen while they are driving to or from work. Others could be listening to radio — including Internet radio like Pandora — while they are at work; radio promotions are therefore timed to air when the target demographic is most likely to be listening.

On Twitter, a business’s followers are not always on. Rather, there are certain times of day when they are more likely to be looking for messages or more willing to read tweets — even tweets that cause notifications on mobile devices.

The lesson here is that marketers should time both tweets and radio commercials to reach the largest possible audience.

Format Dependent

Radio stations are formatted, meaning that they broadcast a particular sort of content regularly and consistently. On a hip-hop station, listeners might tune in to hear music from Justin Timberlake and Jay Z or even Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. On talk radio, the attraction might be a particular personality like Thom Harmann or Sean Hannity. A break in format can be jarring to the listener.

Twitter accounts should be formatted too. A fishing-and-hunting retailer’s Twitter stream should include posts related to fishing and hunting. If that retailer suddenly started posting tweets about Fashion Week in Paris, the company’s followers would be confused.

For both radio and Twitter, it is important to stay on message.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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