Digital tools such as social media have helped engage listeners on the radio, ensuring that these stations remain relevant and grow their audience. But it also helps to know exactly who is listening — as well as why they are listening — in order to build your brand.

This enables your radio station to provide listeners with content that resonates with them, keeping them hooked to your channel. At the same time, your audience will only continue to expand, allowing your brand to become even stronger. It's symbiotic!

media update’s Maryna Steyn spoke to JD Mostert, business manager of 5FM and Good Hope FM, to find out exactly how radio stations can cater to their listeners

How can radio stations ensure their content remains relevant to their listeners?

Research is key. Understanding what the audience wants and needs is paramount to inform all content decisions of the station. Nowadays, research is easier than before, and that is mainly due to the rise of digital.

Using digital platforms, either social media or station-owned properties such as a website or an app, can provide the station with key insights on consumer behaviour and content preference. It is not difficult to ascertain when a piece of content is doing well.

For example, you can almost instantly gauge interest on a particular piece based on the amount of engagement received from the audience. Most radio stations use voice notes as a form of audio engagement.

If a call to air does not receive a significant or appropriate amount of response, then clearly the content missed the mark. It is important to track these trends in order to become more accurate with content creation and curation.

Lastly, if the right content creators are at the forefront of the station, in a way where they are representative of the audience, then the 'hit rate' of content will naturally be higher. These professionals will intuitively understand what will work.

Simply put, considering both factors above, there must be a feedback loop of some sorts between the audience and the station.

Do radio stations need a good brand image to attract new listeners? How often should you update your brand image?

Firstly, the station must decide where it wants to position itself and determine the market size of that particular positioning and whether or not there is a possibility of attracting a new audience. Naturally, with this comes the risk of losing existing listeners.

Once the positioning of the station and the target market has been identified, then the station must fully understand what will attract that particular target market. Thereafter, the media channel must create a product appropriate for the listeners. Only once the product is good enough, should the radio market itself and make noise about itself.

Updating a station's brand image depends on a few variables:

The first consideration is the target market. More mature brands or those with an audience who are averse to change, may not appreciate frequent updating of their brand image. However, if the target is always looking for something new, then a new renovation may need to be done more frequently to keep the brand “fresh”.

External factors may also play a role. For example, is the station’s brand image becoming dated or has the competitor landscape changed causing the need for it to update its image to remain complete? Station managers need to consider many things when it comes to their image, and there is, unfortunately, no silver bullet answer as to how often this should be changed.

Does being a youth station make it harder or easier to stay trendy? How does this impact the engagement of your listeners?

It makes it easier actually. The reality is, many trends are being created by these individuals. Being a youth radio station, and being the youth, means they are at the forefront of trends. Content creation is all about this generation. These creators are part of this crowd, so they have the first-hand experience of what this audience wants.

Young people are also rather vocal. Be it through their engagement on social media or directly with the station. Furthermore, the youth are digitally savvy and drive content trends online, particularly on platforms like TikTok. Radio listeners set the trends, and the stations are there with them for the ride.

It makes for interesting engagement with listeners. Media channels get to learn and experience new things almost on a daily. They also get exposed to all sorts of experiences that allow them the opportunity to continuously grow and develop.

What advice do you have for radio stations looking to give listeners what they want to hear?

Make sure to give your listeners a platform to express themselves — freely. And when your listeners engage with you, treat them with the respect they deserve. Remember, that person took the time and effort out of their day to give you valuable insight into what they want.

Additionally, don’t be afraid of trial and error. You may put something out there that will not resonate well with your audience. Use this as an opportunity to learn.
You must also not be afraid to push your listeners to the “next level”.

Audiences are overwhelmed with information from all sorts of platforms. As a content creator, you need to understand what will make you stand out from the rest. You also need to know what will make a person choose your brand over another.

Radio broadcasters are being challenged even more these days. Convenience has become a key determinant for consumers in content preference. Think of on-demand content, specifically video-on-demand. Consumption behaviour has changed and is changing. With a limited linear offering, you have a finite opportunity to grasp the attention of a listener and make them want to come back for more. Make sure it counts.

How involved do radio presenters need to be on social media in terms of engaging with the listeners?

Some radio stations may need it more than others. However, for the most part, it is rather important. Social media provides an opportunity for a presenter to broadcast 24 / 7. It also provides an opportunity for constant two-way communication from the presenter to the audience.

Engaging with listeners on these platforms does provide an opportunity to create new content, as well as distribute it. It allows the presenter to generate new ideas, gauge interest on particular topics and remain top of mind of the listener. It also is a great tool to grow your FM audience — presenters should ultimately use social media as a tool to grow the overall audience of their radio station.

How can radio stations use social media to cater to listeners’ interests?

Social media and digital should be used to complement the radio offering. A perfect example of this is offering live, visual content of what is happening in the studio as well as on the ground.

With almost everyone having access to mobile phones that can play video, audiences have become accustomed to seeing many things. Listeners also want to be part of the conversation — an audience should be spoken with, not spoken to. Social media provides this platform and allows for the conversation to have a life beyond the immediate on-air moment.

Listeners can also share content across social media and have access to it at their own convenience. It is, however, important to understand what works on which platform. Not all of them experience the same behaviour or expectations. Thus, create content to suit each individual platform.

It must however be mentioned that stations should not use social as a crutch. Radio is particular in terms of its content delivery. Creators should always make content for radio first, then determine how to repurpose it for other platforms.

The copy-and-paste model doesn’t work. A listener’s interest is a listener’s interest —regardless of the platform. The key is understanding how best to use the platform to create and deliver content to address the needs of the audience. Technology is a tool.

In the case of digital, this tool has made it possible for stations to rethink how to create content that extends beyond radio.

Do you understand your listener’s and what they need from you as a radio station? Let us know in the comments below.

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Looking for more brand-related information for radio stations? Check out our article on Why radio stations need a brand refresh.