How Radio Should Use Twitter

To love Twitter is to understand Twitter. For most, it takes quite some time for the light to finally turn on. Each social platform is unique, and Twitter is one of the most confounding of them all. It’s radio’s red-headed stepchild.

Instant gratification from social platforms like Facebook and Instagram have spoiled us. With little effort, friends and family validate our posts with likes and comments. When they do, our brain gets a pleasurable hit of dopamine. It feels good! It’s the same feeling air personalities have when the phones light up with callers.

But, Twitter is a different social media animal. Facebook and Instagram’s algorithms withhold and re-prioritize content. Twitter, however, is a linear, realtime experience.

How Twitter is Different

Social Media experts have plenty of advice about how to behave on each platform. They’ll tell you how often to post to avoid being annoying. Some preach the benefit of building a massive account online under your brand name. But that general advice doesn’t apply to Twitter. It’s unique.

On most social platforms, we originate content and start conversations. But Twitter is as much about engaging in existing topics as starting them. Don’t be the person that walks into a cocktail party and changes the subject! You won’t be invited to the next party. Be topical. Listen. Join the conversation.

So how often should you tweet? How should you manage your account? When is the best time to tweet? Let’s examine what some of the world’s top radio stations are doing.

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How Top Radio Stations Use Twitter

One of the fastest ways to learn best practices in social media is following others in your industry. You’ll discover what to do…and what not to do.

Here are some radio stations that are doing Twitter well:


NPR gets how to use Twitter. They have almost twice as many followers as their nearest radio competitor. Their 6.9 million followers is partly due to their large national platform, of course. But that’s not all.

NPR publishes a wealth of updated, timely, quality content.

But study their tweets. They’re masters in participating in conversations to guide their audience in new directions.

NPR leads the way with consistency, quality and community engagement. Since their first tweet in April, 2007, NPR has learned to be part of a conversation. And, they keep a finger on the pulse of their audience.

Here’s something that will surprise you. NPR tweets an average of 119 times per day! 119! That’s almost 5 times per hour, or once every 12 minutes. Why so many? Because NPR understands that the average shelf life of a tweet is about 10 minutes. Even those fans that follow you aren’t scrolling back to check out your prior tweets.

As a result, NPR is on a whopping 63,597 Twitter lists!*


BBC’s Radio 1 signed on to Twitter for the first time in June, 2007. With 2.8M followers and counting, BBC Radio 1 is one of the most followed music radio stations in the world.



The station has multiple accounts, which allows them to focus each content stream. For example, they have a “Now Playing” account (@BBCR1MusicBot) that displays the song on the air now.


The station’s social media team manages each stream. This helps them maintain consistency in the brand.

The main BBC Radio 1 account tweets an average of 27 times a day and is being tracked on 7,253 Twitter lists.*


This may surprise you. New York’s Hot 97 is the only local radio station on the “Twitter Top 100 Most Followers” for radio stations list.



902,000 people follow the hip hop station on Twitter and the station tweets an average of 56 times per day.*

Much of their content features video. Also interesting: Many tweets direct followers to their air personality’s Twitter streams. And those personalities have large audiences as well. @Rosenbergradio (Peter Rosenberg) has 331,000 followers.

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Using Twitter on Your Local Station

What can we learn from these big radio brands for local radio? Several things.

NPR, BBC Radio 1 and Hot 97 teach us that Twitter is a global audience, even if you are a local station.

For one thing, your brand has no boundaries. You can reach your local market and extend the conversation beyond your station’s signal.

Also notice that every tweet from the three brands includes a photo or video. If you want your message to stand out in the stream, you have to get attention.

They also prove that it takes more time and effort than you think to reach your audience.

Don’t Be Intimidated

A co-worker once conducted an experiment in a radio station meeting. He asked everyone jot down what they did over the long Thanksgiving weekend. He gave them one minute, then went around the room asking people to read their answer out loud.

When all 25 people had shared their answer, he made his point. Every person in the room created a piece of content from start to finish, in under a minute. And each message was fewer than 140 characters!

Yes, managing social media takes time, but you can do it. If you are the person assigned to manage Twitter, engage and interact! And be great at it.

Join conversations and start new, topical ones. Twitter is a linear, real-time experience for radio stations and listeners.

In fact, Twitter is very much like radio in that respect. When a segment is over, it’s over. If you weren’t listening, you missed it. You won’t hear it again.

If you’re an air personality trying to build a Twitter audience, start a new habit. Each time you turn on the mic, follow it with a tweet. If you find that you have nothing tweet-worthy, there’s a content problem!

It’s a commitment, for sure. But anything worthwhile is. And there are tools that can make this easier. For example, use Hootsuite to schedule tweets in advance. You could write and schedule tweets the day before during the show prep meeting.

Integrate Twitter as part of your Radio Station storyline.


Your influence on Twitter will grow when radio stations devote time and attention to managing the stream.

Join conversations. Tweet often. Be thoughtful. Engage and respond. Use multiple accounts.

Don’t get hung up on likes, retweets and comment. Over time, they will come, but you have to be consistent.

Work smarter, not harder. Use the tools and talent that you have in front of you.


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By Tracy Johnson

Recognized as one of America’s most innovative radio programmers and managers, Tracy Johnson’s broad background in traditional and digital media spans more than 25 years and has influenced hundreds of radio stations, programmers and personalities. 

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