Tweet Insight: WBCN According To Twitter

As technology fuels and amplifies consumers’ desire to interact and connect, it’s providing interesting new insight into previously undocumented impact of time-honored traditions like format changes. While  format changes have been around since the dawn of radio (and have seemingly increased since the dawn of PPM), we’ve only recently been able to track the conversation and connections resulting from them.

In addition to employing and tracking social impact of our marketing campaigns, dmr has begun tracking the social impact of a major programming change. Using some new technological tools, we decided to “listen in” on the conversation that surrounded the announcement that Boston’s WBCN was moving to HD to make way for WBMX’s switch to 104.1.

Here’s a short summary of our findings: The WBCN switch according to Twitter.

The Timeline – Like most similarly-formatted stations around the country, WBCN had been a relatively active contributor to Twitter prior to the announcement. The station was featured or mentioned in 6.5 Tweets per day prior to the switch. Not surprisingly, the majority of the Tweets were posted by the station.

On July 14 at 5:11 a.m. word got out that something was changing for WBCN. Interestingly, the first Tweet about WBCN was from their competition. WFNX morning show Tweeter, @sandboxfletcher announced it on the air and posted this tweet: “@sandboxfletcher R.I.P. WBCN. What an odd week this is shaping up to be….” Shortly after, the WFNX news director posted a similar Tweet. All the while, WBCN remained on Twitter mute.

Soon after the initial 5:11 a.m. Tweet, the Boston “Twitterverse” ignited with Tweets and Retweets. Non-station Twitter mentions of WBCN vaulted from 3 per day to an average of over 350 per day after the word got out. In fact, during the 24 hour period between the initial Tweet on July 14 and the next morning, 718 Tweets were posted about WBCN’s switch. The majority were nostalgic recalling the impact WBCN had on Boston or their lives, while some didn’t care about the switch (yet had to post that?), but many more did care.

The Insights – Several interesting insights emerged as we evaluated the social commentary of this local brand change. First, the competitor, WFNX, started the Tweet thread, not a listener, not an advertiser, and not WBCN. What would have happened if WBCN had posted it first? Did WFNX inadvertently fuel more listening to WBCN? Through its posting, WFNX fueled a massive increase in chatter and activity for WBCN. WBCN couldn’t have bought that volume of PR. (during the short time since the announcement, WBCN’s Facebook Fans have increased by double-digit percentages and fans have set up a Save WBCN Facebook page – and t-shirt of their own). Should WFNX have remained quiet on its competitor?

The second insight is the sheer size of interest the Twitterverse had for this change. Few brands, in any industry – and even nationally – that we’ve tracked get the volume of Tweets that WBCN received in the 24 hours after the word got out. Might this social groundswell demonstrate the emotional connection consumers feel with a radio brand versus virtually any other media? And can that emotional engagement be illustrated to advertisers?

Finally, WBCN’s Twitter record clearly illustrates that word-of-mouth is waiting to be triggered as a critical marketing channel. How can your marketing campaign be optimized to trigger a more significant groundswell aside from a format change?


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