Creative Ways Radio Stations Use Texting to Engage Listeners

Radio station mic in the studio

When a radio station introduces texting to their listeners, engagement becomes easy. Engagement is commonly driven by encouraging active participation or running contests, and radio stations have found that Keywords and picture messaging (also known as MMS, or Multimedia Messaging Service) offer a personalized and on-demand experience that listeners want.

Zipwhip has supported more than 11 million text messages in the last year to our radio and media customers, and we love seeing creative ways they use texting to reach their audiences. Read more about why texting works for radio contests and engagement, and consider using the examples below as inspiration for your own communications.

Texting for your branded studio number

Text-enabling your existing studio phone number allows your on-air talent and listeners to engage in two-way conversations. This also provides the listener with a simple, preferred way to reach the station using the same number they can already call.

Portland radio station 98.7 The Bull had been using a short code for texting but was frustrated with the limitations. Since text enabling their existing number with Zipwhip, The Bull has been able to build the close listener relationship they wanted to achieve.

“[Zipwhip] just creates an ultimate bond with the listener,” said morning radio host Chunky from the Chunky, McKinzie, and Jake Show. “It’s their favorite radio personality on their phone. That’s the closest you can get.”

Listeners regularly message in plenty of entertaining content for the show, like stories about their day and contest participation with photos. Two-way texting has been boosting audience retention for 98.7 The Bull.

Radio listeners feel valued when conversational texting is an option because they’re getting one-on-one attention. There’s no defeating busy signal to deal with and no annoying automated responses from bots that can’t discern additional texts from listeners – just an actual person interacting with them on the other end.

What about using short codes?

Short codes are five or six-digit phone numbers that radio stations have traditionally used to text their listeners. While short codes are a great option for blast messaging, they’re typically cost prohibitive in that the price can be more than 10 times greater than simply using the studio’s existing 10-digit phone number for texting. As for your listeners, short codes are not ideal for true engagement.

Short codes may limit how listeners can interact with you. For the most part, they offer only one-way texting, meaning the recipient of the text can’t send a message back to the sender. That doesn’t sit well with a majority of people: three out of four consumers are frustrated when they can’t reply to a company’s text message according to Zipwhip’s 2019 State of Texting report.

Additionally, having to promote one number to call and a different number to text can be confusing for both the listener and on-air talent.

Getting in touch with your station should be as easy as possible. When barriers are placed in front of texting, listeners may want to give up. The less work to reach you, the more likely they are to reach out to you again and again. Giving listeners the option to text the same number they call is so much easier and can be done by text-enabling your station’s existing 10-digit phone number.

Revenue generation using your station’s 10-digit phone number

In addition to benefiting your listeners, your station’s 10-digit phone number can be used as a branding asset for revenue generation.

Offering naming rights to a radio station’s phone number is a key reason that many stations choose to implement a texting platform. Simply put, the generated revenue far exceeds the expense of a texting solution. Our customer 103.1 The Wolf in Florida named their phone line “The Pizza Hut HOT Line” and included Pizza Hut’s branded banner at the end of every Auto-Reply message. Text line sponsorships are an ideal way to secure long-term revenue and ad spend that otherwise wouldn’t be used.

Advertising banner for The Wolf 103.1 FM

A branded text message banner from 103.1 The Wolf.

Examples of radio contests using Keywords and picture messaging

Contests are the bread and butter of a radio station’s engagement strategy. Listeners love winning free stuff! Using a 10-digit number for texting not only allows conversational messaging but it lets your station use Keywords to drive participation and stir up excitement.

Keywords trigger pre-written responses. When listeners text a designated Keyword to your station, such as NEXTSONG, they’ll receive an automated response related to the word.

Below, you’ll find ideas on how Keywords can be used for radio contests as well as a few examples of how to get your listeners to be a part of the show.

Selfie contests

Have listeners text in a selfie with the keyword SELFIE and tell listeners to Like their favorite on Facebook. Add a bounce-back message to the keyword with a link to your Facebook page so they can easily vote. The one with most Likes wins.

I spy game

Choose a landmark in your city and give your listeners hints about it on air. The first person to text in a picture of the landmark and its name wins.

Music videos on demand

Talking about Taylor Swift’s new music video on-air? Set up the keyword SWIFT that gives listeners a link to the music video.

Audience voting

Let listeners choose the next song to play on air. Winona, Minnesota station The River 101.1 FM asked its social media followers to choose in a battle of the bands between The Doobie Brothers and Boston with a text or a call.

Radio station The River 101.1 FM Facebook status

A Facebook post from The River 101.1 FM asking listeners and social media followers to vote for the next stong played on the radio.

Contests during remotes

Run a contest by having listeners text a picture of themselves at your remote location and choose a winner at random.

Let listeners tell the story

Ask listeners to send in pictures of the day’s weather and traffic and feature a few on social media.

Double down on engagement

For your next Keyword contest, add a bounce-back message that instructs the listener to tune in at a later date to hear the winner announced.

Other ways radio stations use texting with Zipwhip

Organize incoming messages with Message Feed. Zipwhip’s message feed is an essential tool for radio stations, offering the option to view incoming texts for campaigns and contests in a single feed. It’s a convenient way to quickly organize, review and respond to a large volume of timely inbound messages. See how it works in our quick tutorial video below.


Analyze listener engagement with Zipwhip Reporting. Understanding listener engagement with your current campaigns is crucial to improve and refine future efforts. Zipwhip makes this easy with Keyword Reporting. Show value to text line sponsors with monthly usage reports, and gain a deep understanding of listener interactions and engagement levels with every keyword campaign.

Learn more about how we connect radio stations to their listeners.

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