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702 takes to Twitter

Four weeks ago Talk Radio 702 started to experiment with Twitter… and what a few weeks it's been!
At Talk Radio 702 we like to think we have a good interactive relationship with our audience. If something happens in Gauteng, the chances are that someone will give us a call, drop us an email or send us an SMS. Anything from a traffic light being out on the corner of Rivonia Road and Grayston Drive to floods in Alex.

If it happens, we'll hear about it. Talk Radio 702 is a giant clearing house of information. We broadcast news and information to our listeners but also receive it from them. It's a two-way thing. If they're talking about it, so are we.

And that's why we are having such fun with Twitter.

We started experimenting with Facebook last year. The great thing about all these social media platforms is the way we can use them to interact with our audience. We set up a Facebook group asking listeners what they wanted to hear on 702. We've had some great suggestions from the group for shows.

It's also a new way of doing business. Opening yourself up, being transparent, making yourself vulnerable. Using social media platforms means that your audience can post things and say things about you that you may not like. You can't control or manage what people are going to say about you. You have to have faith in yourself and your brand when using third party social media platforms.

Tweeting on twitter

Just over four weeks ago we started flirting with Twitter, and what a great relationship we've had so far! [See our profile at @radio702]. Twitter's ideal for radio. It's such a great fit, particularly with talk radio and the interactive nature of our format.

What have we used it for?

When I started tweeting, I wasn't really sure why we should be doing it. From last year I'd had a gut feeling that we should be playing in this space and I signed up, but was not too sure what to do with it!

One of our freelance presenters, Simon Dingle, @simondingle, finally convinced me to take the plunge. I set up the 702 profile and started following a few people such as @simondingle and @barackobama [I began following @radio702 almost immediately - assistant editor @SimoneBiz] I was slightly startled but delighted when Barack Obama started following 702.

Talk Radio 702 punches way above its weight in the media space. “But surely Barack Obama can't really be too interested in what is happening on 702?,” I thought. Turns out he pretty much auto-follows anyone, although disappointingly he's stopped tweeting since being inaugurated, despite reports of his special presidential encrypted Blackberry. I suppose he doesn't need Twitter any more. Unlike DA leader Helen Zille, @helenzille, who started tweeting two weeks ago.

The first tweet I sent out four weeks ago was “Jenny is talking about SAA crew arrested at Heathrow for drugs”. A touch of déjà vu about that particular tweet!

The more I tweeted, the more followers we got. We're close to 350 followers at the moment. That's a lot of followers, compared to some of the other South African media groups that are using twitter.

But the thing about social media is that it's not just about numbers. Talk Radio 702's followers are an influential group of people. And they all have their own networks to which 702's messages - tweets - can be forwarded and spread. It's all about the community of people that follow you. That's part of the power of social media.

I've been tweeting about what happening on the radio. Hopefully, with these tip-offs, our followers will tune in if they are interested in the topic or guest. I've also sent tweets about what's coming up on 702. Tweets about things in which I think our audience may be interested. There's a service element to these tweets. I've also been sending breaking news tweets. [By the way our sister brand Eyewitness News has recently just started a Twitter news feed: @ewnupdates.]

Twittering on Carl Niehaus

Twittering, in my brief experience, seems to work best when there's a big story, for example the Carl Niehaus fall-from-grace story.

The story broke in the Mail & Guardian two Fridays ago. After seeing the M&G's story and hearing John Robbie speaking about it on 702. I sent this tweet:

M&G has story of 'tearful' Carl Niehaus admitting to fraud ... John Robbie speaks to him after 7am. 6:59AM Feb 13th from Power Twitter

Just after Robbie's interview with Carl Niehaus at 7:20am I sent this update:

The ANC's Carl Niehaus has offered his resignation as ANC spin doctor this morning following the M&G story. 7:28 AM Feb 13th from Power Twitter

We got the podcast of the interview up by just after 8am and then I sent this:

The ANC's Carl Niehaus tells John he'll resign ... in a very emotional interview. The podcast: » link to 8:23 AM Feb 13th from Power Twitter

It became the issue of the day on 702:

Redi Direko about to replay John Robbie's interview with Carl Niehaus. 9:07 AM Feb 13th from Power Twitter

Lots of media, including, picked up on the story and published the transcript, which I RT (retweeted) in case our followers had missed the radio interview or had not listened to the podcast:

RT@ News24 Niehaus: I am mortified: ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus says he is "mortified" by a short-lived attempt » link to Niehaus: I am mortified: South Africa: Politics: News24 1:37 PM Feb 13th from Power Twitter

And this article was posted:

Carl Niehaus fraud admission while working for the GEDA putting political heat on Gauteng Premier Paul Mashatile. » link to 10:51 PM Feb 13th from TweetDeck

I then let listeners know that Bruce Whitfield was going to discuss the issue from a corporate governance point of view on his World at Six show:

Bruce Whitfield's World@Six looking at corporate governance issues in the light of the Carl Niehaus story. 4:17 PM Feb 13th from TweetDeck

And finally, at around 4:50pm the news broke on 702 that the ANC was removing Carl Niehaus as its spin doctor. I was stuck in traffic at the corner of Bompas and Oxford roads at the time, and sent this tweet from my cellphone:

Carl Niehaus to step down as ANC national spokesperson .. More on 702 shortly. 4:56 PM Feb 13th from mobile web

The first time round, the ANC did not accept his resignation, and the ANC said that he was to be “re-deployed” within the ANC. The weekend newspapers had a field day, including revelations in the Sunday Times about Carl Niehaus not paying his rent.

click to enlarge

That was one of the issues picked up on Monday morning on the various talk shows on 702, including on Direko's show:

On Redi this morning ... more on Carl Niehaus 9:04 AM Feb 16th from TweetDeck

Sister station 94.7 Highveld Stereo had fun with the issue on its breakfast show, the Rude Awakening. It was worth letting 702 followers about it:

You've got to take a listen to this: Whackhead and Bongani from our sister radio station 94.7 singing about Carl Niehaus » link to 10:56 AM Feb 17th from TweetDeck

There was more on Carl Niehaus on Chris Gibbons' Midday Report on 702:

The latest in the Carl Niehaus saga coming up in Chris Gibbonms' Midday Report at 12 noon. 12:00 AM Feb 16th from TweetDeck

The afternoon edition of The Star on that Monday afternoon had a very creative front page:

Look out for the powerful front page of the Star this afternoon ... Carl Niehaus protrayed as Pinocchio. 3:06 AM Feb 16th from TweetDeck

click to enlarge

On the Tuesday morning, the ANC finally accepted Carl Niehaus' resignation:

The ANC's NWC have giving Carl Niehaus a leave of absence to sort out his personal financial problems. 10:33 AM Feb 17th from TweetDeck

The Carl Niehaus story was still an issue on 702 on Wednesday morning. John Robbie tackled the ANC's Jessie Durate:

Carl Niehaus resigns ... but why was he appointed if the ANC knew he was guilty of fraud, John Robbie asks Jessie Durate, 7:20am 6:52 AM Feb 18th from TweetDeck

Direko took on the ANC's Gwede Mantashe a little later:

ANC Sec Gen Gwede Mantashe on the Carl Niehaus saga .. on with Redi at 9:905am 8:55 AM Feb 18th from TweetDeck

And so the Carl Niehaus saga continued...

Feedback and interaction

But tweeting is not just one-way traffic; it's a two-way interactive process. We've also had great feedback from followers about what they want to hear on 702, as well as suggestions for interviews.

We've interviewed a number of followers. Recent examples include @Twestival_Jozi about the recent Twestival, @grantthornton on the Budget speech and @AfricanABC on his African ABC.

For us, the strength of Twitter is its interactive nature - its ability to engage and interact with our followers - giving us yet another platform which we can use to interact with our audience.

Updated and adapted from original blog post published on Moral Fibre on 18 February 2009

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About the author

Alastair Teeling-Smith is Talk Radio 702's programme manager. He started as a producer at the radio station and produced just about every show on the station, including the breakfast show, before becoming programme manager. Alastair has recently been experimenting with social media as a way of interacting with listeners. Contact Alastair on and follow him on Twitter at
welcome to the twitterverse...-
Posted on 24 Feb 2009 13:59
So you've finally discovered Twitter. And clearly felt the need to inform the entire world just how far behind the tech-curve you guys are. Good grief. IOL, the BBC, CNN et al have been doing this for well on a year or so. Anyway, welcome to the new world.
Posted on 24 Feb 2009 16:56
vincent hofmann
Just to give you some behind the scenes info. I asked Alastair to write this post, not to shed light on radio broadcaster's use of twitter but rather to illustrate how effective it has been for 702 thus far and furthermore how 702 is embracing it as a communicative medium. So yeah there's a little context for you - cheers for now
Posted on 25 Feb 2009 09:43
President Jac was there first-
Ha ha ha
Posted on 25 Feb 2009 13:01
Community radio - been there, done that-
Bush Radio, Africa's oldest community radio station has been using blogging, facebook and twitter for quiet a while... see and also see Matthew Buckland story on them
Posted on 2 Mar 2009 17:00
Might be old news to you-
But it is useful to those of us out there who are not quite dinosaurs but haven't yet worked out how to use Twitter as a business tool.
Posted on 2 Mar 2009 18:45