Social Media Gurus Come from C/J Program
For communications professionals, the industry that they once knew as faxes and manually developed media lists now consists of tweets, direct messages, and bloggers. The industry has seen a dramatic shift over the last few years. Those professionals have had to change with the industry, as many of them have absorbed the title of Social Media Manager into their once traditional communication role for their companies.
The Communication/Journalism Department at St. John Fisher College has been responsible for churning out several social media experts, who have evolved their careers to fit the increased demands on them as professional communicators.
Kristy Guerra ’08, Senior Communications Specialist, Bausch + Lomb, started at the company in the Corporate Communications Department as a Communications Specialist. Her responsibilities included providing public relations support and guidance for the company’s internal communications efforts, writing news content for the company intranet, managing the company-wide internal employee recognition program, leading the logistics for the CEO’s quarterly business meetings, and supervising the company’s global social media presence.
She said when she first arrived at the company as an intern while she was a student at Fisher, they did not have a presence on any social network. She saw the opportunity that the company was missing then, and proposed the idea to a variety of stakeholders in the company. She was able to successfully convince them that there was value in having a social media presence, and the company launched its first corporate Facebook page in January 2009.
And it hasn’t stopped there. Guerra said the company now has a global YouTube channel, more than a dozen Facebook pages, and several Twitter pages which all target specific countries to localize not only the language but the information and promotions they have to offer.
When Guerra graduated, she said social media was just starting to have an impact on companies and organizations, and was even considered a novel idea for a company who was trying to figure out how it could affect the business or help with their return on investment.
“Today, I think for any service or product-driven company, it’s imperative to be where consumers are – on social media,” she said. “At Bausch + Lomb, we work daily to respond to customer inquiries and comments that are received on all of our pages worldwide. What you’re seeing today for organizations is an even greater marriage between marketing, communications, and customer service through these networks.”
David Baker ’09, Community Relations Coordinator, The Salvation Army of Greater Rochester, is responsible for the organization’s public relations, event planning, media relations, and marketing efforts. Additionally, he maintains the social media presence, acts as the webmaster, and offers guidance on crisis communication and other issues.
Baker inherited the organization’s Facebook page and Twitter feed on his first day. He says that he has worked to evolve it from a medium to post pictures and basic information to making it a tool to keep connected and stay one step ahead of potential issues.
His prediction is that over the next decade, people will see many more social media savvy individuals finding ways to be “the expert,” exposing others to topics and discussions that traditional media has no way to deliver.
“I think that the delivery system for this method is yet to be seen, but after watching the adoption of Pinterest and even the evolution of Facebook, it seems clear that it will most likely be a system that takes away the mindless chatter and offers us more of what we find right in today's social media,” he said.
Janet Aronica ’09, Head of Marketing at Shareaholic, Inc. in Boston, has held a variety of positions since graduating from Fisher. Her first job was at Kel & Partners, a public relations agency in Boston, where she was an account coordinator and dealt with a mix of consumer and B2B clients.
After taking the Introduction to Digital Media with Jeremy Sarachan her senior year, she started her first blog, which she says ignited her interest in social media.
“I continued to focus on learning more on my own all about blogging, social media and SEO and learned that this is where the marketing was heading, so I wanted to be there,” she said. “I'm interested in different aspects of it now - more interested in analytics and content marketing than being the social media voice for a brand - but this space continues to captivate my interest day in and day out.”
Looking ahead, Aronica says that based on research companies like hers have been conducting, social media won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
“We do a lot of research around the implications of social media and found that last month, 33% of traffic sent to publishers' sites was social media traffic,” she said. “That’s an opportunity for great writers with the brand-building skills to create the content companies need to get discovered on social and search engines.”
Her advice for students who may be gravitating towards social media management as a career: “Start a blog. Start a blog. Start a blog.”
She says students need to just start writing, and learn how to measure traffic and analytics. She also encourages them to develop a perspective about how social media efforts tie in to bigger marketing goals.
“Social media has a lot of moving parts, and it's easy to be reactionary, get overwhelmed by all the communication, and get stuck in the weeds. That isn't a road to leadership though,” said Aronica. “Students need to be focused, step back, and tie their efforts to bigger goals.”
Lindsay Campbell ’09 is a Senior Account Executive at Access Communications, and started out at a global advertising agency, Hill & Knowlton. She was responsible for pitching stories to media, securing media briefings, preparing executives for trade shows, and working with her internal team to strategize for major campaigns.
In her role with Access Communications, she executes communications strategies for B2B and B2C technology clients. She says social media became part of her first job, and that the responsibility has only grown through her career.
“Whether I am reaching out to reporters on Twitter or helping to manage my client’s Facebook page, I'm constantly surrounded by social media,” she said. “I also use it as a tool to monitor news trends that could relate to my clients, and use it to build awareness around a particular campaign.”
Campbell remembers that even in 2009, people were still skeptical of putting their brand or executive on Twitter because they weren't sure of the sticking power a micro-blogging site would have. But that has changed in a dramatic way just three years later.
“Clients have fully developed strategies behind their social media channels. We now develop ‘Twitter Editorial Calendars,’ and have specific campaign content geared towards Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest,” said Campbell. “Every single 140-character tweet that you see from a brand like Kraft or Coca-Cola has likely been through a few rounds of approvals or carefully constructed based on the goal of their strategy or needs of their followers.”
She advises students to keep learning and absorb as much as they can.
“Learn the basics, learn how to adjust and change. Pivot your strategy and thinking with the trends that come your way. Social media is still very much in its infancy and has a lot more growing up to do,” she said. “I truly believe that social media smarts can be one of the best tools you can arm yourself with early in your career. Use it effectively, wisely, and responsibly.”
Selena Cochran ’09 started her career as the Beauty Editor of Blissfully Domestic magazine. Three years later, she now serves as the Editor of the online magazine's beauty, faith, technology, business, health/diet, and exercise channels. She manages a team of a dozen writers, and has brokered successful partnerships with well-known companies including Dove, 20th Century Fox, and Sleep Number.
She says she started a blog after taking a class with Professor Kyle Reinson so she would have a social media presence to showcase in her portfolio. In addition, she started a Twitter account, and early on, responded to a tweet looking for contributing writers. She applied for the position, and was instantly hired. Today, she has several blogs, two Twitter accounts, two Facebook pages, a Pinterest account, and Instagram, to name a handful. She credits her social media presence for the great connections she has made.
“Connecting with like-minded individuals with the drive to live out their passions gave me the courage to do the same,” she said.
In April 2012, Cochran launched Write Now Communications, a firm that provides professional editing and writing services for graduate students, authors, businesses, and entrepreneurs. She says that after posting a few references on her social media sites, she was overwhelmed with response from potential clients. Since then, her business has evolved, and Cochran spends much of her time providing consulting services and editorial coaching.
“For my line of work, social media is used as an important educational and business resource. The more I learn, the more I grow. The more I grow, the more I can adopt,” said Cochran.
Cochran says that since she left Fisher, social media has morphed from being something people do to kill time to being the way they forge quality connections, exchange ideas, and promote awareness. And she predicts that the industry will become more user-friendly, more efficient, and more interactive with various platforms.
“I foresee more platforms that will usher in new ways to engage and connect people,” she said. “News programs are highlighting popular YouTube videos, trending Twitter topics, and the latest virus or funny thing to sweep through Facebook. It's not a coincidence.”
To the students who are interested in pursuing social media as a career, Cochran says that the need for savvy social media managers is high, and that she in fact will be looking to hire one shortly.
“Learn all you can about social media management. Learn about building blogs, growing traffic, marketing, rules of engagement, Facebook, Twitter, and the others. Social media management creates a world of unlimited opportunities,” she said.
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