Written by Radio, TV

“Join the conversation on Twitter…”

We’ve all heard this on air.

We’re extolled to get in touch with some programme using Twitter, Facebook, text or whatever. The presenter regularly lets the audience know what their social media handle is. Perhaps the programme has a hashtag.

“Let us know what you think!”

And then?

Well they don’t really use those contributions to any extent at all.

This is particularly the case in big national broadcasts – presumably because someone is looking a bit panicked at a speedily updating column in Tweetdeck. So they stick with the known. Time and again you see the obvious candidates’ Tweets get used: Gary Lineker; Rio Ferdinand; Stephen Fry.

I’ve absolutely nothing against those people, and like the fact that they’re big users of Twitter. But the entire audience is capable of finding out what they think they think already. You’ve just asked a potential audience of millions to get in touch, and then ignored them completely.

If you’re only going to use the Tweets of famous people on your programme, then you might as well ask the audience: “Send us your Tweets, and if you’re a professional sportsperson or once appeared on The Apprentice we’ll read them out!”

Or frankly don’t ask anyone at all to send in their thoughts.

You’re not “engaging” the audience by asking them to participate and then ignoring them when they do so.

Some TV presenters can be particularly poor at using social media in their programmes. Perhaps it’s because you need to create a quick graphic on-screen? Or because people’s handles don’t easily identify them: with a phone call you have “Steve from Leeds”; on Twitter you have “@laughingboy1992.” Not easy to use if they’re trying to make a serious point about something.

The other issue is that the programme’s running order is packed, and having asked the audience up front to contribute, nobody has time to read anything back out because you’re out of time.

Make time. Otherwise don’t ask.

Or try to be clever and use some kind of sentiment analysis of responses to a particular question. Then dash through some of them. Radio football phone-ins tend to be pretty good at piling through a load of responses quickly.

Yes, you might be deluged with comments. But you did ask for them! You need staff to be able to sift through to bring interesting contributions to the audience.

But if you’re not going to use social media properly as part of your programme, then don’t bother. You wouldn’t repeatedly give out the phone number for your phone-in if you’ve already got about 50 calls lined up on the switchboard. If you do that, you know that you’re just annoying listeners who haven’t got a hope of getting through to the studio. So treat the social audience the same.

(Oh, and you might at least want to have someone in the office favouriting or retweeting good comments, even if they’re not going to make it to air.)