Pandora Surpasses 40 Million Users (and what it means for terrestrial radio)

According to an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Pandora, the personalized online radio service, reached 40 million users in 2009.

On average, 15 million people stream internet-only radio stations like Pandora every week.  That’s not far from matching the number of those streaming terrestrial radio station sites (22 million, according to the article).  Think about that for a second.  A handful of internet-only radio stations have nearly 3/4 the listeners as do all regular radio station streams combined.

“What’s the big deal,” you say.  “Besides, internet-only stations can’t compete with radio’s ubiquity, right?”  Guess again.  The last real advantage radio has is quickly evaporating.

Here’s the kicker quote from the article: “Unlike Pandora, CBS and Clear Channel don’t necessarily require users to register.” Did you get that?  Many stations, mine included, aren’t asking visitors/users to register (the first time) in order to consume the station’s content.

For my company, that’s nearly 50,000 unique streamers every month we’re NOT collecting information on.  For Clear Channel it’s 8 million a month.  For CBS, 9 million.  Want to take a guess at how many Pandora users give up at least an e-mail address for the chance to consume Pandora’s content?  I’ll tell you.  It’s 100%; as in, all of them.  That’s a database of 40 million e-mails.

Remember, back in the day, when your station first put up its streaming player and someone on staff argued against requiring registration for fear your users would find it off-putting?  I guess it’s safe to say now that that’s a hollow argument.

Maybe the real problem isn’t the various barriers to entry, but rather the experience (or lack thereof) we’re offering and the content we’re streaming. After all, we’ve removed all the hurdles, yet Pandora and its ilk are still kickin’ our tail.

Apple’s New Nano: Radio Reinvented

If you own a DVR and have realized that watching television is an entirely new and fresh experience when you truly are in control, then have I got a product for you.

In case you missed the announcement yesterday, one of the many features of the new iPod Nano is an FM tuner.  But not just any FM tuner mind you.  Side note: I honestly think those in the industry clamoring for an FM transmitter to be added to everything from your toaster to your blow dryer are wasting their time.  The need still exists to think of your radio station beyond your terrestrial FM signal.

Having said that, I underestimated the power of a company like Apple to completely reinvent the experience.  If you’re like me and own a DVR, or listen to podcasts often, or generally appreciate the power of time shifting the content you consume, you too may have found yourself reaching for your radio dial attempting to do the impossible: rewind the feed to confirm you did indeed just hear the phrase “F hole.”

Guess what?  You can do that now.  Interrupted while listening?  Pause the song that’s playing and pick up where you left off.  If the station allows song tagging, you can even “bookmark” the song so that the next time you sync your Nano with iTunes, you can go through your list of tagged songs, preview them and purchase the ones you want.

I’ve recently begun to notice more and more the “radio is not where it’s at” montra.  If you’re an artist or a label, replacing radio as a destination for your music is not only unwise, it’s just plain dumb.   Why would you when radio listening could directly result in the purchase of one of your songs?

Don’t look now but I think listening to the radio just became cool again; for the average consumer as well as the industry.  Thanks Apple.

Am I wrong?  Do these seem like cool features to you as a consumer?  Do you like the idea of being able to pause your radio?  Rewind it?  Fast forward it?  Tag a song?  What difficulties does this present for advertisers, if any?

All Access Interview

Recently, I was asked by Jackie Chapman (jchapman[at]allaccess[dot]com), the editor over at allaccess.com, to participate in their “10 Questions with” series.  All Access is a very useful and informative broadcast and music industry, members-only website.

Questions and Answers signpost

I thought I’d share my answers here before the interview is published on their site and, in the event you’re not an All Access member, give you the chance to see into my radio philosophies are little more deeply.

In addition to the “10 Questions,” I was given the option of answering 6 bonus questions.  My answers to the first 10 are wordy enough, so if you decide there’s not time to check out the whole interview, I’d skip the bonus questions.

10 Questions – Jeff Brown

NAME:            Jeff Brown (@thejeffbrown on Twitter)

TITLE:             Operations Director

WEBSITE:       wayfm.com

STATION:       88.7 WAY-FM (WAYM).  Also  88.3 WAY-FM (WAYQ) and 88.1 WAY-FM (WAYD)

MARKET:       Nashville (also Clarksville, TN, Bowling Green, KY among others)

COMPANY:   WAY-FM Media Group, Inc.

BORN (WHERE AND/OR WHEN): Indianapolis, IN / January 11, 1966

RAISED:          Indianapolis

BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:

Jeff did stints at several Indiana stations (WERK, WLBC and WXIR) in the 80s and 90s before moving to Nashville in 1996 to accept a radio promotions position with Myrrh Records, helping launch the career of Jaci Velasquez.  After stops at three other labels, Jeff joined WAY-FM full-time in 2000.  Jeff was promoted from production director to program director in January 2005.  After co-hosting several award-winning incarnations of the CHRSN Network morning show, he retired from full-time on-air duties in July 2008.  Now, as operations director, he is heavily involved in the day-to-day community impact of three of WAY-FM’s middle Tennessee stations with duties encompassing the areas of traditional marketing, social media (including his own music, radio and social media-focused blog at thejeffbrown.me), creative writing and community leadership.  He lives in Spring Hill, TN with his wife Annie and their two boys Fritz and Frank (miniature Dachshunds).

1) What was your first job in the industry? Did you have any mentors early on?

My first job was with WLBC in Muncie, IN (Top 40).  I did weekends until I pissed off a bunch of high school basketball sponsors with my on-air comments one night (my music-oriented show followed the sports coverage).  Seems those small markets are all about the sponsors.  Not many mentors back then.  It was sort of an every-man-for-himself environment.  Maybe a mentor or two might’ve helped me keep the job longer; though I can say losing that job directly led to my salvation, so maybe mentors are overrated.

2) What does your routine for morning prep include?

Not unlike most I would assume.  I incorporate a combination of showering, shaving and brushing my teeth along with getting dressed, patting my puppies on the head and kissing my wife as I leave.  Apparently the person writing these questions doesn’t realize I haven’t done mornings for a year.

3) What has been your favorite feature/spoof/promotion in the past year at your station?

It would have to be one of the most simple.  In March, a neighborhood in the nearby community of Murfreesboro was seriously impacted by a tornado.  We teamed with a Murfreesboro church to collect new and partially used gift cards for victims.  The response was very encouraging.  Because of the time of year this happened, the gift card idea (as opposed to cash) seemed to resonate.  Many who had yet to use all or part of gift cards received at Christmastime forfeited them for the benefit of others.  Local businesses (which we didn’t anticipate) even got in on the act.

4) Who is your favorite on-air personality NOT at your station?

Since you weren’t specific, I’ll say Brant Hansen.  He’s ON my station but not technically AT my station (I like taking advantage of loopholes).  Don’t try to hire him away from WAY-FM.  If I find out, I will kill you (watch out AIR1).  Second would be Scott Smith (apparently, Z88 is a kill-free zone).

5) What does Christian radio need to do to break through to a mass audience on a more consistent basis?

To be brave enough to hire personalities who know how to communicate like real, transparent, fallible, imperfect human beings (a la the aforementioned Brant and Scott, along with Donna Cruz and Wally from Total Axxess), and be prepared to back them up when all the crusaders start coming out of the woodwork who didn’t give a crap about your station when you played it safe.  As long as stations are content with “good enough,” “great” will always be just out of reach.  Sure, with the top talent, you have to deal with the occasional ego, but I think it’s worth it in the long run.  Having said that, I wouldn’t want to be Wally’s supervisor.

6) What are the greatest challenges in your position/job?

Same as everyone else: finding the time to do all the things I want to do.  Social media participation, for example, can sometimes be a time suck when you add it all up, but ignoring it or making it one of my ‘back burner’ items is not an option.

7) And what are the greatest rewards in your position/job?

Working for the same company for 10 years, a new personal record, times five.  I am blessed to be surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the business (Matt Austin chief among them), as well as up-and-coming talents like Katie Sivyer.

8) If you could have any other job outside radio, what would it be?

I think I’d enjoy consulting other stations/companies on the effective use of the social media tools available to them. At one point in my life I thought I’d be performing in front of arena-sized crowds singing and writing songs that make the whole world sing (or acting, writing screenplays or any other number of creative outlets).  Fortunately, radio provides many similar outlets.

9) Any favorite or funny artist run-ins? Highlights from a promotion or interview?

With few exceptions, I’m underwhelmed by most artists.  Many are horrible at the interview process (as are most radio people, unfortunately).  Even if they’re not horrible, often they so hate doing yet another interview with yet another unprepared, wasting-my-time radio jock that they can’t help but let their boredom and disdain show through.  It’s sort of the chicken and egg question though.  I’m not sure which came first, the lazy jock or the bored artist.

I’ve already mentioned the on-air talent I admire.  On the artist side, I think the true pros are people like Matthew West.  If every artist were of his caliber insofar as their ability to communicate minus the instrument, we’d have some pretty fascinating interviews taking place.

10) You’re an active Twitter user. Why? What is your reason?

Anyone who believes Twitter is for idiots (or “stupid crap” to quote David Letterman) has obviously never taken the time to investigate what can happen when you tap into its potential.  I often hear the phrase “too much time on your hands” from people critical of those of us who tweet.  I don’t know about you, but it takes me about 30 seconds to type 140 characters.  I repeat that process anywhere from 5 to 15 times a day for a total investment of about 3 to 10 minutes daily.  And, yes, I’ll occasionally dip my toe into the Twitter stream to see what’s happening.  But, if you’re convinced that tweeting alone requires much more time than that, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you didn’t graduate from a respectable college.

In regard to our station’s use of the platform, we have one account dedicated to traffic and weather updates, having recently separated those updates from our main account.  Anyone following @WAYtoWorkUpdate on Twitter (or any other account for that matter), can elect to have our “update” tweets sent straight to their mobile device.  When you consider cell/smart phones are probably our single biggest competitor for in-car listening, I think getting your listener’s attention (with their permission) on that very device and reminding them of who you are (while providing a valuable service) is a pretty good use of the technology.

Our main account (@wayfm_nashville) is branded with a human face.  This face (Katie) happens to handle the local elements for 88.7 WAY-FM during Mornings with Brant (the network morning show) so listeners know who she is.  She’s young, hip and right in the demo.  She tweets from a personal perspective as well as occasionally about things happening on the air right now or at the radio station in general.  Probably most importantly, she’s engaging our listeners in this space on a daily basis and developing relationships, giving listeners yet another “touch point” with the station.

Additionally, I’m contemplating a Casting Crowns ticket give away via this Twitter account.  Followers would be instructed to simply write a tweet that includes the hashtag #castingcrowns (or some other specific tag we choose) in order to be entered.  These are instantly searchable.  I can use a third-party service too if need be to select a random winner.  The cool part is it has the potential to be seen by everyone who follows each person who does this.  Currently we have 1,800 followers to our @wayfm_nashville Twitter account.

There are pros and cons.  If you allow each participant to tweet the tag multiple times (much more “viral” potential and better for us) you may risk ticking off the Twittersphere because you risk filling Twitter timelines with what might be viewed by some as spam if it gets out of hand.  Our plan to combat that is to suggest one “entry” per person.  It’s not quite as viral, but it’s much closer to a win-win for all involved than is the other scenario.

I’m also monitoring our company’s brand mentions on Twitter (along with blogs and the web in general).  Sure, I could monitor our brand on Twitter without an account, but maintaining one allows me the opportunity to engage those who do mention us?

Finally, if you don’t want to invest into it then don’t (time is the only investment, as it’s free).  That’s your call.  But please don’t criticize those who do.  I’m serious when I say that simply “following” key people on Twitter and just “listening,” even without any real engagement on your part, can be a near college education all by itself.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

1)      Do you read everything or nothing? Do you have any favorite magazines, books, newspapers?

I read Fast Company & Wired religiously.  I try to get my head out of the broadcast-only pubs mindset (are there any left?) and force myself to think about my station existing beyond the terrestrial signal and more as a media company.  I think we should be formulating plans for other ways for listeners to consume our content and consistently creating new and compelling content in a variety of spaces and formats (including online consumable, bite-sized audio and video, blogs, social media, etc.).  But while you’re at it, make sure you approach everything from a WIIFM camera angle.

I’d also recommend the following books (not a complete list): Tribes, Pyromarketing, Faith-Based Marketing, Good to Great, Made to Stick, A New Brand World and Tribal Knowledge.  You might also want to read the blogs of Chris Brogan, Seth Godin and John Haydon to name a few.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say Friendfeed, Seesmic, TweetDeck or Google Wave, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

2)      What music is in your CD player/on your iPod right now?

Not much. I’m a podcast guy.  Most 21st century music has sucked thus far (save for Brandon Heath, Mat Kearney, Fireflight, Downhere and a few others).  I have hundreds of songs on my iPod but I rarely listen to them.

3)      Cat or dog person?

Cats are of the devil.

4)      Describe your favorite meal.

It would involve the killing of some animal and then eating said animal, just the way God intended.

5)      What is your favorite quote?

“Revenge is a dish best served cold.”  Refer back to answer 4 in the original 10 questions.

6)      If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want to have with you and why?

I really don’t know.  Stranded in an airport is a better scenario.  Strand me on an island and all I’ll be able to think about is how to get off it.  Strand me in an airport and give me my laptop or smart phone, my iPod, etc.  In other words: any electronic device that can allow me to continue to be productive OR completely waste away the hours.  My choice.  Islands don’t have electricity.  You may as well feed me to the sharks.

Oh Ye Consumer of Little Faith

Have you heard the news?  You want, no, you desire something you don’t even know exists.  As soon as you realize it exists, you’ll no doubt find it all but impossible to control the impulsive urge to go out an buy one right away. 

Best Buy thinks so.  And so does much of the radio industry.  How could these two behemoths possibly be wrong?  From All Access:

Portable HD Radio Comes To Best Buy
Insignia Radio

Portability come to HD, as BEST BUY has launched the INSIGNIA HD RADIO PORTABLE PLAYER. As the first-ever portable HD RADIO player, the INSIGNIA HD RADIO Portable Player will make it possible for listeners to take the HD RADIO experience on the go.

“The sound quality and LCD screen features of the INSIGNIA HD RADIO portable are phenomenal,” said INSIGNIA PORTABLE HD RADIO Product Manager MIKE DAHNERT.

“We applaud BEST BUY for setting a precedent in the audio entertainment marketplace by offering the first-ever portable HD RADIO receiver,” said iBIQUITY Pres./CEO BOB STRUBLE. “With new HD2/HD3 digital channels, crystal-clear sound, no subscription fees, and now, thanks to BEST BUY, the ability to take digital radio on the go, it’s a total win for the consumer and one more indication that the HD RADIO momentum is continuing.”

No word yet on whether they’ll be stocking them in the dieing, after-market car audio/satellite radio section, or at a brand new HD radio kiosk near you!

Oh ye consumer of little faith, do you even know what programming is available to you right now in your town via an HD radio you have to buy in order to receive said programming in the first place?

I didn’t think so.

Past, Present and Future

Recently, I was asked to respond to a list of interview questions from HisAir.net’s Ted Kelly.  His website serves as a “one-stop shop” for all things Christian radio and Christian music industry-related, complete with station links, job postings, show prep and research, among other things.

Future Past & Present signpost in the sky

I decided I’d post my repsponses to his questions here before they’re actually puplished on the HisAir.net website, beginning with a brief career capsule.

Jeff, born and raised in Indianapolis, did stints at several Indiana stations (WERK, WLBC and WXIR) in the 80s and 90s before moving to Nashville in 1996 to accept a radio promotions job with Myrrh Records, helping launch the career of Jaci Velasquez.  After stops at three other labels, Jeff joined 88.7 WAY-FM full-time in 2000.  Since that time, Jeff has served in a variety of rolls including afternoon and then mid-day host, followed by six years as co-host of several incarnations of the CHRSN network morning show (Marcia and Jeff, Jeff and Elisabeth, and Jeff and Stace in the morning).  Jeff was promoted from production director to operations director in January 2005 and is thrilled that he no longer has to wake up at 2:45am.

How has WAY-FM evolved over the years?  I’m not going to talk here about how the company has evolved but instead how the product and content have evolved. There was a time when everything on the air seemed to go through this “let’s clean it up” filter.  I had this fear of offending someone and felt the need to homogenize everything I said and did on the air.  That has definitely changed.  No topic today is off limits.  Granted, we might encourage each other to choose certain words carefully, but Wally is offending people every day.  I love it, actually.  Brant is probably second in line when it comes to who’s offending the most people.  He rocks.  I don’t know if you know this or not but Christians, as a group, are easily offended.

Has WAY-FM made any changes due to the economic situation, or been affected in any way? You’re kidding, right?  Is the Pope Catholic?  Is Brant Hansen a hottie?  Is Wally a woman trapped inside a man’s body?  It’s safe to say we’ve been affected, probably more than most in the WAY-FM family.  Business underwriting is way down, though listener giving is actually ahead of where it was last year.  Radio, as a medium, has to get better at monetizing content.  In the future, that may or may not include “selling spots.”

How is WAY-FM able to connect with listeners on a local level? Several ways actually.  A recent example is the not-so-Good Friday tornadoes that ripped through the nearby community of Murfreesboro.  We asked listeners to donate new and slightly used gift cards to those affected.  This really seemed to connect.  People didn’t have to go out and get something.  They just looked in their purse or wallet and said, “Oh yeah, I do have a gift card I haven’t used yet.”  In one week we collected nearly $3,000 dollars in cards and cash (I’m happy to report that I successfully resisted the urge to sneak a card for myself).  We also use social media extensively (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) for each of the four stations we operate from the Nashville office.  This has aided us tremendously, especially in markets we can’t be in every day or every week.

What criteria do you require for a song to be played on your station? WAY-FM is structured such that music decisions are made at the network level (Network PD, Network Music Director).  I like this because it means I don’t have to make time for people like Brian Thiele, Tara Stepp, Andrea Kleid, James Riley, Kai Elmer, Grant Hubbard, Josh Lauritch, Mark Giles, Brian Dishon, and Chris Hauser…is that everybody?  Sorry if I left you out of my list of people I’d rather ignore.  Most of you are on Twitter as much as I am.  That’s probably enough.

What kind of promotions work best for WAY-FM?  Simple but compelling.  Right now, listeners are calling a number we’ve set up to share how their mother sacrificed for them as a child.  Some of the calls are pretty compelling as you might imagine.  We’re pulling the best of these calls and incorporating them into new promos that prompt more of these types of compelling calls.  Makes for a compelling presentation on the air.  I like using the word “compelling” in case you hadn’t noticed.  The non-compelling calls we just pretty much laugh at and make fun of.

How do you think Christian Record labels can better serve Christian radio? While I ignore most of their calls and e-mails regarding local promotions, give-aways, interviews and such, I think that, over all, they’re doing a pretty good job.  Fortunately for me that whole “ignoring” thing just goes the one way.

In your opinion, what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio today? Does anyone really care what Jeff Brown’s opinion is about this?  I highly doubt it.  I suggest, however, that you care about what Mark Ramsey’s opinion is about the obstacles radio faces.  If you read his blog and are familiar with Mark then you already know what I’m driving at.  If you don’t, it’s too late for you so you may as well begin working on your career “Plan B.”

What do you believe is the primary role of the Christian radio air personality? Did I mention “to offend” already?  That one comes pretty easily.  What I really mean is when you’re connecting in a truly honest and transparent way, listeners will naturally be drawn to you.  I’m fortunate to be associated with three of the best in the business in this regard: Brant Hansen, Donna Cruz and Wally.  I’d add Dean O’Neal, Scott Smith and Lisa Williams to that group.

What (if any) Christian radio stations do you consider as innovators today? Not many actually.  We’re not innovating nearly enough in my opinion.  To me, innovation means remaining relevant.   Z88.3 in Orlando is head-and-shoulders above the rest of us in this area.  Instead of sitting on their hands and saying, “Well, we can’t be THE severe weather station” or whatever because they’re the Christian station, they said “We WILL be that station and we’ll do it better and more consistently that anyone else.”  They made a commitment to it and stuck with it.  You can no longer call them a niche format in Orlando.  They’re as main stream as any other station in their market.  Several hundred radio stations across the country are a few years (maybe months) from becoming obsolete and irrelevant.  They continue to do radio as it’s always been done. If you’re content with disseminating your content via a terrestrial FM signal and complementing it with a website and stream, begin now to think about what you might do if it all went away.  Because it will.

Where do you see Christian radio in 5 years? It’s no different for Christian radio than it is for main stream radio.  Please go to http://hear2.com and familiarize yourself with Mark Ramsey and his way of thinking.  He is radio’s best thought leader today and I believe he is dead-on in virtually every way.  If you’re working on approaching your station’s future as Mark suggests, I think you’ll have a legitimate chance of existing in 5 years.  Otherwise, again, dust off your “Plan B.”

The Importance of Consumable Content

I read with great interest a recent post from one of my favorite social media bloggers, Chris Brogan, on USA Today, CNN Headline News and the world of bite-sized media.

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His observations of the two media giants won’t be revelatory to most media veterans, but they do serve as timely reminders.  Are you offering your content (your station’s, your blog’s, your label’s, your company’s) in bite-sized, consumable portions?  Or do you view doing so as bastardizing your business model?

The music industry, of course, has had no choice but to revisit the bite-sized model with the advent of the iPod.  No longer are long-form album projects the default purchase for a wider and wider swath of consumers.

For radio this means, among other things, taking advantage of more and more ways to distribute your content (be that podcasts, behind the scenes video from the studio or backstage at concerts, or wherever).   Furthermore, every break has to, from beginning to end, stand on its own.  If I’m new in town and just hearing your show for the first time, will I “get it” from the moment you open the mic, or feel like I’ve joined a conversation already in progress wondering what I missed?  If not, go back to the drawing board.  Study broadcast industry veterans like Tommy Kramer and John Frost for more.

For the publishing industry, the scenario is similar.  You must take advantage of newer and bolder ways to distribute content, as opposed to shunning those opportunities (including the Amazon Kindle and the iPhone).  One of my favorites to follow in the publishing industry is Michael Hyatt.  For more on his thoughts on where the publishing industry is going, check here.

As Chris Brogan puts it, “we’re trending more towards the short info.”  I’ll put it this way:

If you’re not ready or willing to adjust the way you distribute your content or product in order to meet the needs and desires of those consuming it, you will not last.

Twitterverse Navigation: Public Figures Who Get It Wrong (And a Few Who Get It Right)

I’ve been a participant on Twitter for several months now.  In that time, I’ve read dozens of articles on how to and how not to interact within the Twitter community.  It’s certainly safe to say that there are as many opinions as there are participants on how Twitter can best be utilized.  And, for each individual or company who chooses to set up shop, goals can certainly vary.  Heck, ask 14 people to describe Twitter and you’ll get nearly 14 different answers.

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When it comes to traditional brands, a handful are content to strictly abide by the Twitter mantra, “What are you doing?” Their tweets are often a continuous stream of broadcasts.  In other words, an on-going, one-way conversation.  Rare are the responses, or @replies, to the questions or comments from others.

Most would agree that companies using Twitter in this way would be better off not showing up at all.  No one wants a product constantly pushed in their face while at the same time feeling company X is oblivious to what’s going on around them.  Thankfully, it seems more and more companies are putting a great deal of thought into their Twitter strategy.

Are You Not Entertained?

I often wonder though why similar, traditional brand behavior seems to be the rule and not the exception for many of the public figures I follow on Twitter.  While I’ve been encouraged by the number of Christian musicians, authors, radio personalities and consultants I’ve discovered on Twitter, with most there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of interaction taking place between them and their followers.  In fact, the sense I often get from their tweets is, “Isn’t it cool being a fly on the wall of my life?”

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If you’re a public figure who uses Twitter in this way then that’s your call.  And I’ll be the first to say that, for some of your fans, it might be enough.  But have you ever given any thought to what it says about your personal brand?

Having said this, I realize that in the Twitterverse it’s entirely possible that those I perceive as not interacting very often with fans are indeed doing so via DM, or direct message (a message that can be sent only to people who follow you that no one else can see).  Michael Hyatt (@michaelhyatt) is a good example.  When he responds to a tweet from me he often does so by firing back a DM.  My experience though shows that he’s likely the exception.

Engagement vs. Convenience

This limited interaction on Twitter is often coupled with another phenomenon.  Most artists, authors and radio personalities I see on Twitter aren’t following even 5% as many people as are following them.  In fact, many seem to be following only other people within the industry (and maybe personal friends).

When asked about it, one artist I talked to expressed the difficulty in choosing one fan over another. I wonder if some worry about being inundated with DMs from followers.  There are certainly plenty of cons when it comes to DMs.  How about following everyone by default, then leaving yourself the option of blocking the occasional nut case if and when necessary?

To me there seems to be a desire for the best of both worlds as long as those worlds don’t intertwine.  It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George’s two worlds – the world of “relationship” George and that of “independent” George – threaten to do just that.  George views his independent world as his sanctuary and Elaine’s decision to develop a friendship with George’s girlfriend Susan may ultimately mean the demise of that sanctuary.

Twinfluence?

I recently received an e-mail from a record label rep touting the popularity of a particular artist’s Twitter stream.  According to TwitterGrader, this particular artist ranked in the top 2,000 out of over a million twitterers.  Now, I don’t pretend to understand all the algorithms TwitterGrader uses to calculate their rankings, however I do know your number of followers and the power of their networks plays into it heavily.  What is truly unfortunate though is that the number of people you’re following along with the frequency and quality of your engagement with them has little to nothing to do with it.  Shame on Twitter.

To quote @johnhaydon from CorporateDollar.org, “On Twitter, it’s less about how many followers you have and more about the ‘health’ of your conversations with them.”

Instead, try this.

Is Twitter a passing fad?  Possibly.  Will it exist in even 5 years?  Probably not in the same way it does today.  In the meantime then, I hope this post can serve not as an indictment, but a challenge.  While Twitter is in the mix and growing more popular by the day, why not make the most of it?  If you see some of yourself in this post, I hope you’ll accept the challenge and venture outside your comfort zone a little more.

Twitter’s Pied Pipers?

Finally, for fear of not delivering on the title of my post, I’ve compiled a couple of lists, in alphabetical order by first name.  The first is a list of those I think need to be challenged to follow more fans; fans they’ll attempt to regularly engage.  Keep in mind this list is by no means exhaustive.  Remember too that the opinions I’ve expressed here may in fact be mine and mine alone.  If you disagree, then say so by all means.  If you agree, tell me that too.

Please understand that I believe every public figure mentioned below is an absolute pro.  I’m confident each and every one of them goes out of their way for their fans/readers/listeners/clients.  All I’m saying is I’d like to see them take what they’re already doing in the real world and consider applying more of it to this platform.  That’s all.

Some you’ll recognize as recording artists, while others are radio personalities, authors and colleagues.  In each case, note their following to follower (F2F) ratio.  The number of people they personally follow is first.  The number of people following them is second.

  1. Aaron Shust (recording artist) – 13 to 701
  2. Alan Mason (Consultant, Good Ratings Strategic Services) – 3 to 90
  3. Bart Millard (recording artist, Mercy Me) – 26 to 2,250
  4. Bebo Norman (recording artist) – 21 to 856
  5. Carmen Brown, Dave Cruse, Bill Martin, Jayar and “The Morning Cruise” combined (On-air Talent, The Joy FM / Tampa, Florida) – 140 to 1,843
  6. The David Crowder Band (recording artist) – 18 to 1,697
  7. Jeremy Camp (recording artist) – 92 to 2,481
  8. Leeland (recording artist)- 24 to 1,574
  9. Michael W. Smith (recording artist) – 10 to 2,105
  10. Phil Wickham (recording artist) – 25 to 2,582
  11. Rebecca St. James (recording artist) – 61 to 1,287

I’ve noticed too that not everyone who strives to follow more than a few people is actually doing a lot of listening.  Glenn Lavender of Downhere, Shaun Groves, Bryan White, Melinda Doolittle and Phil Stacey have decent F2F ratios, however, all do quite a bit more broadcasting than actual engaging, at least right now. 

Lastly, here is a list of a few folks I think are doing a pretty good job of engaging and listening to their followers/fans.  Again, note their F2F ratio.

  1. Cameron Strang (publisher) – 552 to 2,127
  2. Charlie Neese (Newschannel 5 Meteorologist) – 209 to 304
  3. Jeff Cruz (Music Director, Z88.3 / Orlando) – 132 to 145
  4. Mark Lee (recording artist, Third Day) – 2,078 to 2,143
  5. Matthew Paul Turner (author) – 1,827 to 1,747
  6. MC Hammer (former recording artist) – 20,349 to 31,047
  7. Michael Hyatt (CEO, Thomas Nelson Publishing) – 4,948 to 4,700
  8. Pete Wilson (Pastor, Cross Point Church) – 1,220 t0 2,034
  9. Star 99.1 FM / New York (radio station) – 1,999 to 715

Max Lucado, Charlie Lowell (Jars of Clay), Stephen Mason (Jars of Clay) and Vicky Beeching don’t follow many people relative to the number following them, but they’re interacting with others constantly.  This is great to see!  Natalie Grant and Mark Hall are two others I’d like to see follow more people, but recently they both seem to be deliberately interacting more.  Same goes for Fee.

Still, for much of the industry, the focus seems to be on gathering more followers and not necessarly the conversations along the way.  I predict that if you’ll put more effort into the engagement part of the process, at least one residual affect will be exponentially more followers.  They’ll also likely be a lot more loyal and passionate about who you are and what you do than if you continue to view them as customers you can sell your message to.