Radio 5 live and our use of Twitter
One of the things that sets 5 live apart from many other radio stations is that we're engaged in a constant conversation with our listeners. That usually means via text message, email or over the phone but recently another form of communication has gained popularity among the 5 live audience and our presenters... Twitter.
In this video 5 live controller Adrian Van Klaveren and Drive presenter Peter Allen discuss the ways our audience get in touch.
We know that not everyone is a fan of 140-character updates - just a few weeks ago Janet Street-Porter berated Richard Bacon and his "club" of followers. But on the whole Twitter is a boon for 5 live for the following reasons.
Engaging with our audience
As Adrian says in the video above, alongside text messages and emails Twitter is another way that listeners can tell us what they think of what's on air. What's different of course is that when using Twitter they do so publicly. Sometimes this can be positive:
Other times less so:
Often our listeners do our marketing for us via Twitter too. On Tuesday afternoon there was a raft of tweets from Misfits fans telling each other that the cast of the Channel 4 series were Richard Bacon's guest in the studio.
Perhaps an even more important function that Twitter allows is instant and direct engagement with listeners. As well as looking at people replying to @bbc5live we also keep an eye on the various search permutations of "5 live" "radio 5" etc to see what people are saying about us. It's always satisfying to reply to someone like @Locko8668 with an immediate answer to their question.
What's brilliant about Twitter and the way we can instantly connect with people is that listeners evidently really appreciate it when we reply to their comments:
Promoting our content
Outside of the main search engines we now get more referrals to the 5 live website from Twitter and Facebook than any other non-BBC site. The main 5 live Twitter feed @bbc5live has nearly 30,000 followers and we do our best to share the best audio and video clips, tweets from our presenters and correspondents and details about upcoming programmes.
Thirty thousand is obviously a small proportion of our 6 million plus total listeners but there are a range of other 5 live related Twitter accounts that engage with the audience in different ways. Because Twitter is by its nature a social network we also benefit from our followers re-tweeting our links to their followers so Twitter can be a way of bringing brand new audiences to 5 live.
Greater access to presenters
You'll have noticed that many of our presenters are on Twitter and a lot of them use it to get contributions to their programmes. Today Twitter was used to find eye-witnesses at the student protests at Millbank. Even if you don't have a Twitter account you can still see any public Twitter feed in a web browser and all @bbc5live tweets are visible on our homepage. Each morning on the 5 live Connect page we publish the best tweets we see during Your Call. You also only have to look at Nicky Campbell or Victoria Derbyshire's feeds to see how listeners welcome the personal interaction they enjoy with presenters.
It's still early days for Twitter and how 5 live makes best use of it. There are obvious drawbacks: it's not as democratic as email or text and contributions we receive via Twitter are obviously restricted to those who use it. But an important part of my job is keeping aware of new technology and working out what scales and what works. I see Twitter as something else that's now part of our toolbox alongside other established forms of communication - this blog included of course.
On a recent Radio Academy podcast Simon Mayo said that Twitter is a "fantastic resource for making programmes" and that's something we should certainly keep in the forefront of our minds.
Whether you're a Twitter addict or can't see what all the fuss is about I'd be interested to hear your views on what's certainly a phenomenon.
@bbc5live - follow us on Twitter!
@bbc5live/lists - links to all 5 live related Twitter accounts
BBC Editorial Guidelines - notes on personal use of microblogging and social networks
Why Twitter matters for media organisations - Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger enthuses