In London, 40 years ago this month, a revolution in communications began with the first ever broadcasts from LBC, the speech-based radio station. It was the first official non-BBC radio station to hit the airwaves and it was responsible for a dramatic change in the landscape of radio. It introduced the concept of dual presentation, with two presenters hosting a programme – something that is now commonplace. Plus it made the radio phone-in an essential part of the radio mix.
Nowadays, we take dual presenters and phone-ins as par for the course. And on top of that radio stations of all kinds now include text messages, Tweets, emails and Facebook page messages as part of their output.
The phone-in led the way, but all these other more modern forms of listener involvement add to the feeling amongst the audience of being “part of” the station. Instead of it being “their” radio station, it has become “ours”.
Even though we have 200 TV channels and so many YouTube videos you would need 60,000 years just to watch one year of uploads, radio is still immensely popular. In fact, radio listening is MORE popular then ever before. Nine out of ten of us tune in every week, listening to just over 21 hours. In spite of the vast amount of online entertainment and information, radio is INCREASING its popularity.
That heritage of phone-ins is fundamental. Radio makes us feel part of it. Instead of being “broadcast to”, which is the default position of TV, radio is “broadcasting with”, involving us and making us part of its output.
On the whole, websites are not like this. Facebook and Twitter clearly involve us, but how much does the average business or service website make us feel “part of them”? The fact is, the web is still stuck in “broadcasting to” mode.
Back in 1973, LBC was instrumental in showing the stuffed shirts of the BBC at the time that audience involvement was key. The BBC did have some involvement at the time, but it was limited; nowadays it is a fundamental part of the corporation.
So why don’t websites learn and make it fundamental to their existence? Partly it takes effort – all those phone-ins don’t just happen; radio stations put a lot of time into making them work. All too often, websites are a place where businesses post some content and then forget about it. The extent of hard work in getting people to be involved is – well – minimal to say the least.
Here are three quick wins, three ways you can increase the sense of involvement with your website so that people keep coming back, just like they do to radio.
1. Hold a conversation
Radio is conversational, we feel as though the presenter is talking to us and us alone as individuals. How many websites are written on the basis of just speaking to one person? Far too few. As you and I know, we are both attracted much more to conversational websites than formal, stuffed shirt ones. If your website content is not conversational, one good way of increasing the sense of visitor involvement is to get it written in conversational tones.
2. Allow people to contribute
Whether it is through commenting, Tweeting or even writing entire guest articles, providing a means of people being able to contribute is essential in the involvement stakes. Yet you can find millions upon millions of web pages that have no ability for you to take part, reducing your sense of involvement.
3. Create a community
Giving people a sense of community also fosters a feeling of involvement. You can do this through membership sites – even free ones – or providing people with badges, mugs, stickers, or t-shirts, to say they are part of your readership. Forums are also a good way of doing this, or a LinkedIn or Facebook group where you extend the conversation.
There are many other ways, of course, that you can make your website visitors feel involved. However, fundamental to achieving this kind of success is thinking in the same way that radio stations think. They believe it is “our” station (as in “the listeners”) not “theirs” (as in “the broadcasters”). Your websites is not yours; it is your readers’.[twitter style=”horizontal” source=”@grahamjones” float=”left”] [fblike style=”standard” showfaces=”false” width=”450″ verb=”like” font=”arial”]
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+