Who are the tastemakers of your audience? Can they be courted? How do you identify them? What are you doing to court them?
Are personal tastes so individualized and dispersed that tastemakers are a dated concept? While it's true that the user generated/user controlled content has/is growing by leaps and bounds we also know that when consumers find things they like they very much like sharing their "find" with their friends. What if radio could be thought of as a find? It's gonna take something special and more than 10-in-a-row of today's biggest hits to get it done.
So it would seem there might be a new group worth going after -- the "Micro-Tastemaker." It almost seems counter-intuitive, doesn't it? How can it be micro and be on Twitter? Like any other community, the greater community may be very large but you will not be close with everyone in that community. And the reality of in-person interaction must be factored in.
In businesses we hear about and witness --the "Inner Circle." Gaining admittance to the inner circle is limited to the leaders closest and most highly trusted associates. The Micro-Tastemaker will have a similar profile--a very small group of the most trusted and closest friends. It might only be 1 or 2 people.
One of the challenges of infiltrating and influencing the micro-tastemaker group is they may not be P1 to your station or heavy radio users at all. However, these are people that can influence opinions and maybe even audio entertainment choices.
As all traditional media struggles to remain mass appeal, identifying these micro trends could be a catalyst to identifying some flavor capsules and potential secret sauce recipes that can set you apart from all of the competitive noise. Maybe we should call it user generated spice. This is tricky business. It might be a bubbling under music style; it might be a new on-line community; it might be a new video game; it might be a new air talent that speaks a language that GenX and Boomers have trouble relating to.
OK, sounds intriguing. Where do I look?
Here are some thought starters to get that ball rolling.
On-site: station events, non-station events, casual conversation as you go about your business--maybe a place like the Apple Store or at a restaurant at lunchtime.
On-phone: start answering those request lines again and ask questions.
On-line: live blogging, polling, and database blitzes are three areas that come to mind.
On-air: contesting? Yes, contesting. Reward listeners for nominating friends that are cool and have a positive influence. The nominated person also receives a reward and the ego boost of being nominated. (disclosure: this is an idea I thought of as I was writing this piece and hasn't been field-tested)
Research: no matter what type of research you are currently doing, start asking a small battery of questions to identify the tastemakers. Additionally, if you are fortunate enough to have extra research money there are a number of methods one could use to extract this type of information.
Is this a realistic new reality? Small micro groups having an impact to help bolster our mass-appeal model. Admittedly, this post is a thesis of sorts--thinking out loud how we might take advantage of today's reality, understand it, and use it for the betterment of our industry. As always, your thoughts and ideas are always welcome.