If you oversee the operations of a contemporary radio station in 2021, you’ve likely had a conversation that includes a line that goes something like this:
“Do we focus our strategy on younger, harder to reach people that we know aren’t listening as much to Radio? Or do we skew older to the upper end of the demo to reach those that we know are listening more and that Nielsen has a better chance of finding?”
It is a real challenge, and it isn’t going to get easier.
The fact that many younger listeners are more likely to consume music via streaming services like Spotify and YouTube rather than local radio stations more than older listeners isn’t a secret, nor it surprising. Now that most local radio stations are available on a multitude of platforms, programmers can reach younger listeners on their devices. The big question of course, is “Are they gettable?” That very question, while completely valid, is also a gateway to a very dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy for the industry.
First things first, make sure you’re not referring to your younger listeners as Millennials, because they’re not so young anymore (sorry, Millennials!). Born between 1980 and 1996, Millennials now squarely occupy the young and middle range of the coveted 25-54 demographic. (Side note: I’m in denial that us Gen Xers are on the older end, but I’ll get over it. ☹)
Gen Zers were born between 1997 and 2012, so today these 9- to 24-year-olds occupy that special area of influence (and it’s worth pointing out that, while they may both carry the same generational label, today’s nine-year-old and 24-year-old are hardly the same.)
Hey, wouldn’t it be great if there were somewhere local radio stations could hyper target their marketing to Gen Z consumers?
If you ask Chipotle, Guess, the NBA, Levi’s, and The Washington Post how they reach them, TikTok is going to come up in every answer.
Wait, back up. Yes, I just said THE WASHINGTON POST.
You know, the traditional old guard media publication founded in 1877? The Washington Post adapts its content by platform. It posts serious journalistic content on Facebook and Instagram, but its TikTok page is filled with memes, skits, and behind-the-scenes videos. Dave Jorgensen, the man behind the company’s account and unlikely star of many of the videos, starts every day making a TikTok video. The Washington Post–THE WASHINGTON POST!–has over one million followers on TikTok
Watch this interview during which Jorgensen discusses why The Washington Post invests so much time and energy on TikTok:
While we were all in stir-crazy mode during the pandemic, TikTok was experiencing a flamethrowing growth curve. This time last year, the platform had 667 million users worldwide, while today it reports over a billion. Leaning about 60% Female, 28% of TikTok users are under 18 and 63% are under 30.
One of the ways legacy brands have adapted to using TikTok is by specifically tasking employees with the responsibility. Chipotle has a team of “culture hunters” that seek out viral trends and turn them into social media campaigns. So many of these successful campaigns integrate music, like Chipotle’s Guac Dance Challenge. Used to promote National Avocado Day, the campaign resulted in a 68% jump in avocado usage at Chipotle locations. Holy mole!
Challenges are a core component of TikTok’s brand, and so often they use music that contemporary radio stations play. The “Beautiful People Challenge.” The “Old Town Road Challenge.” The “Blinding Lights Challenge.” The “Toosie Slide Challenge.”
If contemporary Radio’s biggest challenge is attracting younger listeners to the format, and those potential listeners are on a massive, often music-based, platform for an average of over an hour a day, shouldn’t strategic discussions involve that platform?
Here are six ways contemporary radio stations should incorporate TikTok into their strategic planning:
- Designate a younger member of the team (and heavy TikTok user) as a “culture hunter.” Have them monitor trends on a daily basis and report to the team.
- Create channels to regularly brainstorm ways to integrate the station into the trends. If there is no time for formal meetings, use tools like Slack, Chatter, and Teams to bounce ideas back and forth.
- Find TikTok users that already love your station. You may have influencers with robust followings in your audience. Find them and find ways to use them. Include them in the previous idea. And pay them (use trade if you need to!)
- Mobilize your personalities on TikTok. Personality has always been a key differentiator between local radio stations and streaming services. Make sure your talent is inviting TikTok users to your station.
- Advertise on TikTok. Up until recently, advertising for local brands was a challenge due to the lack of DMA targeting. That changed this past May. TV and outdoor should not be the only media that are discussed when precious marketing budgets arise. Run some test campaigns on TikTok, track them, and see how they do.
Just because Radio is “legacy” or “heritage” media, it cannot be an obstacle to reaching younger consumers. None of the brands mentioned in this blog are particularly new (the newest is Chipotle, founded in 1993 – 28 years ago.) If The Washington Post – THE WASHINGTON POST! – can figure out a TikTok strategy, I feel pretty confident Radio can do it too.