“Twitter Sucks” For Brand Engagement: Mark Ritson

Mark Ritson, Marketing professor and award winning columnist, speaking at National Radio Conference 2016

Marketing professor and award-winning columnist Mark Ritson was at his provocative best at this year’s National Radio Conference, bringing social media down a couple of pegs and providing some words of wisdom on how the radio industry should prepare for the threat of digital media in 2017.

Huntley Mitchell
Posted by Huntley Mitchell

Ritson began his presentation by noting that “Twitter sucks” when brands use it to try and engage customers (B&T offered Twitter the right of reply to this comment but declined).

“It’s not as impressive as we’ve been led to believe in the media,” he said.

“I think social media is a social media. I think for me and you, it’s a tremendous medium, [but] I think when brands get involved it’s a very bad fit.

According to research commissioned by Ritson and conducted by the Online Research Unit,  64 per cent of Aussies don’t follow any brands on social media.

“Social media has been built up so big in Australia that we overstate it to some degree, but perception is reality when you’re dealing with advertising budgets and marketers,” he said.

In contrast, Ritson said radio has always been – and remains – a medium designed for brands.

“It’s DNA is interlinked with brands, with sponsorships, and with consumers to some degree welcoming brands into the radio medium,” he said.

“Radio is a vibrant and successful social medium, but it’s not being sold as well as it could be against what’s frankly this gigantic force of bullshit that represents digital.

“When the tsunami of digital bullshit which is digital video properly crashes into the shores of Australia, radio – like all the other non-digital mediums – will find itself in a tsunami of nonsense – a tsunami of numbers which will befuddle and entrance clients.”

Ritson urged the radio industry to get out of the silo of being seen as traditional and not digital, or risk being in the same amount of trouble as TV and newspapers.

“You know how this narrative plays out,” he said.

“The new age of digital marketing sets up a dynamic where digital is awesome – maximum people, immediate communication, versatile – and traditional media like radio is just shit, basically – limited audience, bad signalling, delayed communication. This is how clients are increasingly thinking out there – ‘we want digital, we don’t want traditional’.”

According to Ritson, there are four reasons why radio needs to kill the traditional versus digital mentality:

  • Traditional is becoming digital.
  • Digital is becoming traditional.
  • It’s killing strategy (he believes the versus mentality is forcing marketers to look at the idea that it’s tactics over strategy)
  • It’s about “and” and not “versus” (he believes that radio plays well with others, and recommends marketing it as the great multi-player).

Ritson then offered the radio industry the following points of advice for 2017:

  • It’s going to get extraordinarily bumpy

“There’s no doubt about it [that] this will be the most volatile year of your careers, and the reason should be simple: when two relatively new players in Facebook and Google are about to take almost half of all advertising spend in Australia, and they didn’t exist 10 years ago, that volatility is unavoidable,” he said.

  • Don’t let anyone put you in the traditional bucket

“It’s bad, lazy thinking,” Ritson said. “Traditional means nothing – push back against it if you can.”

  • Emphasise the simplicity and independence of industry research group Gfk

“One of the things that’s going to happen next year is that Facebook and Google will be grading their own homework and clearly getting [it] wrong and not showing us the answers, [which] will become more and more a source of tension,” he said.

“The transparency and simplicity of radio metrics is should not be underestimated.”

  • Challenge the numbers from your digital rivals

“Most of them are wobbly, [and] some of them aren’t even true,” Ritson said.

“Push – squeeze on those numbers, because some of them need to be pushed, and frankly no one’s pushing on them at the moment.”

  • Play the and game rather than the versus game

“Radio wins when it works with rather than against, and that would suit I think the long-term potential of the medium,” he said.

  • Don’t sell radio like it’s social media

“It’s too good for that,” Ritson said. “Radio’s strength is its unique differences from other media – play radio as a separate entity.”

  • Remember how good for brands radio is

“Remember how it’s a much more natural fit for brands to work their magic with editorial, with reach, with interaction, with proximity to the place of purchase,” he said.

And Ritson’s final point for the radio industry… “remember that you’re definitely not f**ked”.