Social media case studies
This page is to give a picture of the ways various stations are using social media. There are some other practical examples of how some stations are using social media for fundraising purposes in the social media and revenue guide.
BCB in Bradford make active use of social media – for a variety of reasons:
- Listen to what people are talking about, locally and nationally
- Inform their listeners about the content of upcoming shows, and live-tweet flagship shows
- Engage strategically with politicians and organisations
- Promote their work as a community station
There are at least five members of staff and volunteers who take charge of social media output. Mary Dowson, station manager, says that “as a manager it’s important to have a grasp of social media, so that I can be sure it’s going to happen, no matter who’s in the building.” BCB has embedded social media into its organisational strategy, so that “it’s not just something that sometimes happens … it’s about saying ‘how are we going to use social media today’.” In the same way that station staff meet to discuss their news agenda, etc, Mary now sees that “we’ve got to embed [social media] into what we do daily, weekly, and make sure that it’s part of who we are and what we do.”
Most of BCB’s radio content is pre-recorded, and much of it is speech-based. This presents the opportunity to inform listeners about what to expect in upcoming shows. Staff member Joseph Emmett explains in the video below how and why he does this: by listening to each show’s intro (and some of the show itself) to pick out the most interesting bits, and to “make sure all the hard work our volunteers are putting in is adequately rewarded with the publicity we feel it warrants.” To aid this process, volunteers are encouraged to edit their carts (i.e. where pre-recorded shows are stored) to identify the most interesting aspects of their show.
Mary Dowson says social media is good for “setting out your stall” as an organisation. However, she feels that it’s more than a publicity or marketing tool: it’s also about showing the work of BCB, and about showing BCB as a community organisation and its connection to the community. She thinks that using social media to create more of a presence online has meant that local organisations, politicians and other stakeholders are now taking BCB more seriously.
BCB has made significant effort to engage and include volunteers in its social media output and strategy. The station has held sessions where volunteers discussed what they use social media for, and what ideas they had for shaping BCB’s social media strategy. This has presented an organisational challenge to BCB – as staff member Dan Carroll asks, “how can you get an organisational culture around social media when so many people contribute to it?” Mary Dowson acknowledges the tension between organisational identity and volunteer diversity: “trying to enforce something which is coherent, consistent and with a style is completely against what we usually do in a community radio station.” Dan Carroll says that “it’s about clarifying what you want to get across, but also valuing the contribution everyone has to create that vision and to create that strategy.”
One of the reasons BCB have thought so deeply about this tension is because they take their online presence so seriously. As Dan says, “how we as a community radio station instil the importance of accountability on social media is a challenge – because it is a bit of a minefield.” However, BCB’s approach to social media is more about enabling their volunteers, rather than being overly risk-averse.
For this reason, BCB are starting to run social media training for BCB volunteers. This will start with a “Twitter for beginners” – teaching people about setting up accounts, engaging in conversations, using hashtags, etc. They then foresee that they will want to move beyond the basics so that they can help people with publicising their shows more effectively, or finding people to interview for their shows. Through building the social media capacity of their staff and volunteers, it is intended to build a stronger BCB social media network, and thereby a more cohesive and connected online presence.
As part of the social media project, Radio Regen supported a fundraiser for ALLFM, the aim of which was to make use of social media to raise funds for the station.
Initiative was conceived as a means of making money, but also to celebrate the work of ALLFM, and coincide with ALLFM’s 15th birthday. Event was called ‘ALLFM Celebration’ (as opposed to, say, ‘ALLFM fundraiser’).
Regular meetings took place:
- Initial meetings between Radio Regen, ALLFM station manager, and chair of volunteer committee; date of fundraiser set
- Station manager sends out email to all volunteers, inviting all to attend next meeting
- Very well attended meeting with ALLFM volunteers & staff
- Planning meetings took place every two weeks thereafter
A Facebook group was set up to coordinate planning activity – this became the main organising space besides face to face meetings.
Initial workplan set out activities and timeline – this was put on Google Drive to enable it to be edited by all fundraiser volunteers.
Planning activity was broken into several areas:
- Fundraising events – gigs, pub quiz, other events
- Prize draw – securing prizes and coordinating
- Schedule & activities for celebration day – guests for shows, and open day planning
- Publicity & promotion – social media, press release, videos, flyers
- Merchandise – t-shirts
Several crowdfunder sites were considered (e.g. Crowdfunder, Indiegogo, Just Giving), but it was decided that the fundraiser would simply make use of the ALLFM website and Paypal. This was partly to ‘keep it simple’, and partly because the fundraiser wasn’t raising funds for a specific project (as some crowdfunding sites work).
Prize draw was run so that each £5 donation bought 1 ticket (so, e.g., a £20 donation = 4 tickets). There was no new platform set up – donations were taken through ALLFM’s Paypal account (as well as in cash, at the station). This process was managed by a trusted volunteer who kept a spreadsheet of donations – which was used to carry out the prize draw. A licence to hold a prize draw also had to be secured through Manchester city council.
A flyer designed for fundraiser (pic above), and two videos showing ALLFM’s work were made. These was shared on social media; also the flyer was printed and distributed locally (e.g. at local community market).
A number of promotional images were made and discussed on the Facebook planning group.
Fundraiser page set up: Also, the ALLFM Home page was changed to include fundraiser info at top of page, and the ‘Support us’ link in the navigation bar was directed to the fundraiser page.
Celebration day 25th July
- Open day for people to visit the station
- Fundraiser gig
- Prize draw was held following day
Prizes were distributed to the prize draw winners.
A final wrap-up reflection meeting was held with staff and volunteers involved in fundraiser.
Reflections on process
People who entered the prize draw did so to support ALLFM, not to win a prize. Or, put another way, supporters of the draw were already warm contacts. This conclusion was borne out from discussions station manager Ed Connole had with prize draw winners, as well as the fact that despite the large numbers of people who saw the Facebook ad, and there being a generally appealing top prize (two tickets to Bestival), none of these people actually entered the prize draw. This suggests that people will only enter a prize draw if they know the organisation running the prize draw.
Scheduling content (in this case through Hootsuite) proved very useful in putting out regular updates that kept the fundraiser on people’s radar.
Including the flyer and video in posts dramatically increased the visibility of those posts. Twitter and Facebook differ in their functionality – how they display images and video in posts – and this proved a challenge.
Engaging volunteers in spreading the word was a source of frustration – despite reminders on the Facebook coordination group, and sending out explicit requests by email to all volunteers to share ALLFM posts, the level of sharing and promotion amongst the ALLFM volunteers was low. This has prompted the station manager to think about running social media training for volunteers – or perhaps finding other ways of engaging volunteers in promoting the station.
T-shirts sales were good, and the initiative was seen as a success and something to build on in the future. There are now plans to create a dedicated online shop selling ALLFM merchandise (t-shirts, mugs, hats, etc).
Ed says that when he and the main fundraiser volunteer, Suzi, were jointly running the fundraiser through social media, they would often be posting to social media without knowing what the other was doing. This could be confusing to the audience if using different tones of voice in messages – or even risky when targeting specific individuals, like celebrities. He stressed the need to coordinate between all people who are posting on the same account.
Suzi had previously had some personal contact with Lemn Sissay (esteemed poet and recently elected chancellor of University of Manchester) – but it was through contacting him on Twitter that he responded and showed his support for the fundraiser and ALLFM, becoming a patron of the station. Ed saw this as a success of social media – taking advantage of people’s (especially celebrities’) desire to publicly demonstrate their support for particular causes.
Ed points out that, when engaging people with whom you’re connected on social media, you’ve already got a warm contact to some degree. “If they’re following you on Twitter they’ve already expressed an interest in what you do” – so you’re already talking to someone who values your organisation in some way.
Ed also points out that use of social media is only going to increase. “We’re in the 21st century, and digital media isn’t going to get smaller, it’s going to get bigger – so as an organisation, you’ve got to be using it, and in a strategic and useful way.”
Twitter stats for July 2015
- Tweets 346 up 1%
- Tweet impressions: 116K up 2%
- Profile visits 2,760 up 6%
- Mentions 586 up 7%
- New followers 96 up 86 on monthly average
Roughly 1000 new followers since doing social media training (6 months ago)
- Facebook likes for ALLFM increased from 3496 to 3545
Paid Facebook Ad
- Amount spent: £10
- Duration of ad campaign: 2 days
- Keywords targeted: UK festivals
- Engagements (clicked link): 148
- Reach (how many saw ad): 4259
- Donated: £10
- Open Mic £36
- Cds/Cake sales £109
- Gig: Out & About £3500
- Gig: Mike Z £250
- Donation: £3500
- Online prize draw (-paypal commission) £1132
- Cash prize draw (Cash) £365
- Total: £8882
Key learning points
- Warm contacts are the most useful – focus mainly on people who are already familiar either with what you do, or with your volunteers
- Start planning early – identify milestone dates and what needs to be done by when (eg promotional materials, images for sharing on social media, text for press releases)
- Use images – these will make the campaign much more visible. Ideally, prepare a bank of images in advance of launching the fundraiser, so they can be used quickly
- Make sure all volunteers know about the fundraiser, and engage volunteers in designing and promoting the event, spreading the word
North Manchester FM
North Manchester FM uses both Twitter and Facebook, but finds Twitter more beneficial to the organisation. North Manchester FM uses social media to:
- connect with people – businesses, volunteers, organisations
- keep people aware of the station
- promote shows and what’s going on in the community
- signpost presenters to interesting events and people in the community so that they can get interviewees or contributors for their shows
- build better partnerships
Station manager Lou Armer is the only one who posts on behalf of North Manchester FM. Previously, all volunteers had access to the social media tools, which didn’t work so well. Five or six people said they’d represent the station, however, in reality, only one person posted, and only about her show. Updates were in ALL CAPS, and sometimes badly spelled (breaking all the rules of social media guidelines). This type of output annoyed some people who were looking at North Manchester FM’s feed. Lou therefore suggests that it might be best to have 1 dedicated volunteer, as opposed to allowing all or multiple presenters post on behalf of the station.
Lou puts out content that she sees as congruent with the mission of North Manchester FM. The aforementioned volunteer who hogged the feed has stated to her that this is boring, but Lou feels it’s important to maintain a certain standard and feel to the social media feed. The volunteer thinks: ‘we’re a radio station, we should be showing that on our feed’; Lou thinks ‘we’re a community organisation that happens to use radio.’
To encourage diversity, Lou encourages volunteers to set up their own social media profiles, which Lou can then RT as it relates to North Manchester FM. This then gives Lou a chance to monitor the output.
Lou tries to promote local causes, events, etc. – but tries not to be too overtly political with the work feed.
It seems to Lou that some organisations don’t think about their output and the implication of what they say and promote on how people see them. She cites a community music festival who have been using Playboy branding in their engagement, which she finds inappropriate. She feels that it’s better to not do social media (or use a particular social media platform) at all than to do it badly.
However, thinking about community radio stations who resist using social media, Lou suggests reflecting on why we got involved in community radio in the first place. Since presumably it was to get people engaged in community life, then “it’s our job to keep abreast of these innovations” – and our responsibility to help people use the communication tools available in order to be engaged.
Presenters on North Manchester FM are encouraged to use Mixcloud – where they are able to upload whole shows (as opposed to using Soundcloud where all music on the show needs to be edited out). These shows are then put out with playlists, which has the added benefit of generating some (small) revenue for the artist.
Lou has seen the emergence of social media, and already had the advantage of knowing about Twitter and other social media sites before using them as part of work. Being familiar with the tools and their customs and cultures made it easier for her to integrate it into her work of networking and promoting the station. In general, Lou recommends that using social media needs to be something manageable, something that pretty much ‘takes care of itself’ and fits around existing work.
Lou has heard people say ‘Older volunteers/listeners don’t use social media’ – but strongly believes that this is not true. Lou has many older volunteers who get lots from social media, and are keen to learn.
Lou’s top tips for using social media:
- Be as natural as you can
- Don’t try to be someone you’re not
- Think about the accessibility of your output – it’s being read by both individuals and organisations
Peterborough FM has in the previous twelve months changed from a station which was concerned about the negativity which Social Media could generate, to a station which has adapted it as a new way for them to interact with their audience while reaching out to new listeners and potential partners.
This Community Radio Station which acquired a license recently, currently makes use of Twitter and Facebook regularly to communicate with listeners, build an online rapport with partners and build on their relationship with station volunteers.
Peterborough FM’s Youth Involvement Officer, Jo Feather, who is also the Acting Station Manager, is presently the sole person who is keeping ventures for Social Media channels up to date. She has discovered that making use of Twitter and Facebook with separate strategies has been of benefit as they have come to understand that you must meet the user’s intent for being on that platform.
‘Twitter is wonderful for getting in touch with new companies and Facebook has made it possible for us to link more effectively with individuals who are already known to us. Earlier actions of Social Media were at the most, ad-hoc and normally involved retweeting the most recent outcomes for football or sharing a tale from a local newspaper. Now we think more about the content people want’
Currently, the station is developing a strategy for their Social Media with clear objectives that their content on the platforms should promote their broadcast activity and possibly more important, concentrate on interactive and engaging topics external to radio for their audience.’
Jo deliberately varies the subjects posted to Social Media in an endeavour to maintain its appeal; most of their latest posts currently have pictures, as doing this has had a huge impact on the vital metrics like shares and engagements. The station regularly looks at the performance of previous content to judge whether it is connecting in the way they want their Social Media output to.
Peterborough FM has been experimenting with various kinds of posts and have discovered that pictures of visitors, presenters and bands have been especially useful. Distributing content from live outdoor events has had a positive impact also and prompted new partnerships and more interest in the radio station.
As Peterborough FM remains committed to continuing their outreach on Social Media, they are thinking of ways they can engage volunteers in the process. The previous fears surrounding the potential mistakes if too many people are involved have been replaced with a fear of losing this valuable tool as the staff’s capacity becomes increasingly limited. Currently, volunteers are making use of their own Social Media channels to promote their shows but to different extents (prolific to non-existent). However, the station has been reluctant to open up any official channels of the stations since they desire a persistent voice.
Jo is aware that as the station develops, she will require extra backing; therefore, she plans to enhance Social Media using the mandatory training which all volunteers undertake. She is already utilising interns to assist her in content posting, as well as work experience appointments, but making sure they are adhering to concise standards laid out by the station staff.
Jo has recently started building her personal knowledge of how Social Media can be used in Community Stations by monitoring and checking other radio stations’ feeds both community and commercial.
She believes that a lot of them concentrate excessively on the radio but not sufficiently on the projects and ethos which makes community radio distinct from commercial. A recent Facebook post for an upcoming training course prompted ten applications from people keen on becoming involved in the station, just one example of how a little more online effort can reap considerable reward.
Jo believes that Social Media content should be a balance of marketing shows, promoting presenters, thanking guests companies, as well as sharing content not related to the radio station but which their audiences would be interested in.
The formation of a Youtube Channel is included in upcoming plans, to enable listeners to view the station as well as hear it, however capacity is a concern. Jo knows that similar to majority of employees of Community Radio, she is already at capacity and any upcoming developments will need to be carefully considered.
However, she believes that Social Media is a necessary element of community radio; by not having Social Media channels you are not providing your audiences with a service that somebody else will, and you will be the one who misses out.
If we want to be seen as a serious radio station and a community initiative, Social Media has to be a part of this. I’m always urging volunteers to set up their own Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.
Jo’s top tips for using Social Media would be:
- Take plenty of pictures, people love to see behind the scenes.
- Try to get volunteers involved early on; it will save retraining them further down the line.
- Don’t make your broadcast your focus, there’s much more that goes on at Community Radio station that people will be interested in.
Pendle Community Radio thinks of themselves as a radio station of a small community situated in rural Lancashire; it caters chiefly to an Asian audience. They possess Twitter and Facebook accounts and primarily use them to communicate with their listeners and to those outside their broadcast remit who would like to be updated on what happens at the station.
Moazzam Ali who is the Station Manager has been running the projects’ development of Social Media and is seeing ways it can enhance the radio station and support their activities beyond just promoting upcoming shows.
‘A number of the volunteers are extremely thrilled about participating; the younger volunteers especially appear extra motivated if they know that they will be making an appearance on Facebook and are able to share this with friends.’
The station uses Social Media to extend the shelf life of their programmes by not only adding content while the show is on, but previewing it days beforehand and then continuing the conversation online. Pendle Radio concentrates a lot on health programming and they are the reach of the health messages achieve a much greater reach than previously.
The station utilises Facebook and Twitter; however, Facebook is more successful for them. The ability to post messages that are a bit longer is enabling them to truly link with the online audience they have.
According to Moazzam, ‘Individuals enjoy viewing the station’s happenings and our volunteers enjoy being observed; wonderful comments are being sent to us concerning how much individuals enjoy actually being able to see us online.’
Moazzam intends to improve on the way Pendle Radio uses Social media in future; however it is necessary to see how the role fits within the rest of his work at the station. “As a manager trying to regularly slot in even 15 minutes is near impossible, there’s always something to respond to.
The radio station is now searching for a Social Media Volunteer to help with this as well schedule the output. However, they believe that guidelines will need to be implemented for the individual in this position to adhere to. When asked on the major changes which Pendle Radio had made to ther Social Media practices, Moazzam stated they are not taking shortcuts anymore. Initially, when they began, they connected each of their accounts to enable automatic sharing with Twitter. They now feel that this may now have appeared unprofessional as it is obvious it is just a shared post, this has now stopped. Consequently, they are now experiencing a boost in communication on Twitter now they are posting directly to the platform.
As Pendle Radio continues to progress with their Social Media journey, volunteers are encouraging the station to do more and across newer platforms, especially with Instagram and Snapchat. Moazzam is looking into how these platforms could be utilised but is reluctant to get involved in too many of them and says, ‘I prefer being extremely successful on 1 platform or 2, instead of having 6 that are doing badly.’
Moazzam believes that Community Radio need to see Social Media as a way of enhancing their interactions with the audience they have; however, its pace is so quick that they need to find ways that they can keep up to date with trends. Moazzam sees additional training as essential and is exploring options with local CVS’s and other community organisations. He also believes that accessing your social media across multiple devices makes it much more accessible for quick updates.
‘Mobile phones facilitate the fast and simple sharing of our newest updates and I believe in following hashtags like #communitymedia on Twitter; I now understand why other stations are utilising Social Media and I can gain knowledge from this.’
Moazzam’s top tips would be:
- Be great on one or two platforms, rather than average on more.
- Make use of the hashtags on Twitter, they can help you reach a whole new audience.
- You don’t need to invest in technology when phones can do some much now.
When Radio Regen talked to Ujima, station manager DJ Style said that “we don’t utilise it as much as we can” – flagging lack of time as the major constraint. The main purpose for Ujima in using social media is to generate awareness about the station, and to try to get message out.
Style has set up a tweet deck account to help track and schedule twitter activity. He would like a designated volunteer (or member of staff) to look after social media. Style, another member of staff, and 3 other volunteers have passwords to Ujima’s social media accounts. Style gives access to people who are trustworthy enough – he operates on the basis that if someone asked for the password, that’d be ok – he would just ask them to be sensible. Style feels that “social media should be a team effort”.
Ujima do not have a social media policy – but have disclaimers that presenter’s tweets are their own. Ujima has had some negative tweets in the past from a disgruntled presenter in the past. Style lamented the fact you can’t delete a tweet you’re mentioned in – but this could also be seen as an opportunity to publicly engage, and challenge if necessary.
A social media success story is when, in 2014, the station’s electricity supply was cut off due to their then landlord not paying the energy company – meaning Ujima had to stream music from a server rather than host live shows. This prompted them to get on Twitter and Facebook, alerting people that they had been cut off and challenging why this action was taken. This was a “massive campaign” with lots of engagement. A protest was held outside station – and local TV stations, radio stations and newspapers covered the story. On the back of this exposure, Ujima representatives had meetings with the council, and the issue was ultimately resolved. Style feels that social media was quite instrumental in being able to “give our account of what had happened”.