Sunday, July 08, 2012

Talent and Listeners: A Paradoxically Strong yet Fragile Bond

You don’t have to look far to find documentation about the bond between listeners and talent.

For the past 6 years, A&O’s Roadmap Study has revealed the significant level of importance listeners place on air talent in their overall listening experience.

Last month a Katz-funded/University of Southern California’s Annembert School for Communications’ study discussed the parasocial relationship (‘illusion of intimacy’ where one party believes they know a lot about someone else) listeners have with talent.

Among the study’s observations (see results and methodology here) was social media’s power to give listeners a feeling of connectivity with the talent.

Over 70% of the respondents indicated they followed their favorite personality via social media including more than half (55%) who said they did so “to make them feel like they know the host better.” These encounters led listeners to perceive the talent as real, trustworthy, and ‘one of us.’

This is powerful of course, but not impervious to self-inflicted damage.

Case in point: A wonderfully creative talent whose tweets were typically character-reflective, fun, and often filled contained ‘behind the curtain’ content began delivering a non-stop pitch for a limited appeal sales promotion.

While tolerable initially, the push became increasingly disappointing and finally annoying as the days passed.

It was if my friend next door was suddenly and relentlessly trying to sell me insurance every time he could catch my eye.

In the process, my social media relationship with this talent changed from one of anticipation to one of avoidance. And now, although the subject matter has returned to what it once was, I'm left with some residue of suspicion.

Bonds that take years to build and appear to be/are in fact strong, are still fragile enough to unravel quickly when trust and expectations are violated.

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