By: Scott Moore
Working as an intern managing Ohio University’s official Instagram account has exposed me to many industry professionals as well as create many connections. Gabrielle Johnston, the Marketing and Online Media Coordinator at Ohio University, looks over my responsibilities and serves as my resource for ideas, competitive strategies, and campaigns.
I chose Gabrielle to conduct an interview with a social media professional because – who better than to provide some great insights on social media managing and communication strategies than the coordinator of OHIO’s social media accounts?
In order to gather the best responses from Gabrielle, I met and sat down with her while recording our conversation. Right off the bat, I wanted to get a sense as to what kind of information or advice she could offer me as I look to enter the professional industry upon graduation in May.
(Throughout the interview, I consistently refer to Ohio University as OHIO in respect to the campus and because, well, I’m a Bobcat!).
Scott Moore (SM): What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring social media professional?
Gabrielle Johnston (GJ): Be organized. Since I run all of the University’s official accounts, organization and scheduling are extremely important in making sure posts go up in a timely manner. Paying attention to when people are active online helps in making sure when is the best times for posts go up in order to the receive most engagement/interaction. Organizing content is an effective way to control brand presence and consistency with online media.
SM: Why do you think social media is important to build consumer engagement?
GJ: Well, it’s a direct line of communication. In this case, it’s the University to the student. Being an advocate of the University and being that human face for the students gives us the opportunity to promote and put the best foot forward for OHIO. With everything we post we want to be able to present the University in a positive way that goes beyond just getting the message out. Being a reliable source of information and content for Bobcats allow us to humanize the University’s image and encourage participation.
SM: What people/organizations do you follow to stay up-to-date on social media trends and why?
GJ: I feel like higher education is a slightly different animal than most brands on social media today. There is a high, unending stream of intelligent and entertaining content coming out from major brands every day. So what I really try to do for OHIO’s brand is pay attention to our peers and try to keep tabs on what is happening on other Universities in attempt to mimic the same kind of voice and keep similar content and information flowing on all platforms.
SM: You mentioned establishing a face for OHIO’s brand through social media, do you feel like establishing a strong community and connection with the students is an important aspect in the way you coordinate online media for Ohio University?
GJ: Oh, absolutely. If someone doesn’t have something to connect to, their not going to connect to it. It will just remain that giant faceless anomaly where a student will think “yeah I go to this University, and yeah they have social media. But who cares?” So what I try to do is make the platforms a place somewhere people can go for information or interaction and maybe some fun stuff. With the top feeds I run, I walk a fine line between frivolity and the official nature of the platforms as well as pushing out the information that needs to be out there. I do this while making sure people are aware that this is not just an automated robot of headlines or stories but we also provide the opportunity for interaction on a one-to-one basis. You know this well with your work with me on the Instagram and the #whyOHIOwednesday hashtag, in this sense, students aren’t just receiving massive amounts of information but also learning about and being able to connect with a wide range of diversified students on campus.
SM: So is there a way you conduct your posts in order to encourage the most interaction/engagements?
GJ: Yeah! For every one original content I post on Twitter and Facebook, there is the opportunity for three curated pieces of content in an hour model. As I said in my first response, organization is what I emphasize the most in this sense. So there’s four quarters in an hour, my original content goes at the bottom of the hour and the other 45 minutes [content every 15] are all spaces for curated content, which are opportunities for me to retweet, respond, be casual with folks. I follow and monitor a number of search terms, hashtags, and handles across campus in order to provide that curated content.
SM: Being the face of the University as a whole, do you look to assist in the promotion and recognition of other organizations and colleges on campus?
GJ: Absolutely. This department, University of Communication and Marketing (UCM), hold a conference every semester called SM3. This conference is for everyone [mostly faculty/staff] who operates an official social media handle on campus in order to bring everyone up to speed and discuss best practices as well as any problems that have been run into. Another important aspect I’ve found to be included in my job specifically is to promote those other identities on campus. These organizations are more skilled in their specific areas of interest than I am so in representing OHIO’s brand we try to market to a specific type of student.
That student who decides to make Ohio University their home is someone we see as having an individual edge, ready for opportunity and to take on challenges. We’ve constructed market research before that led us to the conclusion that overall, the students who are attracted to the University are attracted for a number of different reasons and if you mix them all up, boil it all together, it comes down to: What does Ohio University have that other Universities don’t? – It’s that opportunity to promote that individual edge. What I try to do is focus on those individual areas and expose students to the various organizations on campus in attempt to broaden their interests and implement themselves into the conversations. I provide this for all students on campus whether it’s the business whiz kid, the engineering star, or the journalism student who may be writing for the New York Times one day.
SM: So it’s important not to be too biased in one area of interest in order to expose opportunities for other students?
GJ: Absolutely, that’s important. It’s also important to encourage fellow communicators across campus to interact as well. That’s an issue I find myself facing on a regular basis of emphasizing importance of such interactions and emphasize the need for professional level folks to take the same kind of steps.
SM: I take various of sales and marketing classes as well and see myself in that sense of selling ideas of various social media strategies. Do you believe sales, and having skills in sales, play a large role in conducting social strategies?
GJ: I believe at the heart of a good salesperson, is a good communicator. If you are not a good communicator, you will not be a good salesperson. In that respect, I would say absolutely it plays a large role. With any kind of communication strategy, social media strategy, or marketing strategy, you’re trying to accomplish a goal. Therefore, you’re trying to persuade your demographic to see it your way, buy your product, agree with you in some way, and essentially, sale your idea.
GJ: I feel like it is contingent on what we are trying to accomplish in each campaign. It’s specific because whenever we run a campaign I try to make it with the angle in mind. For instance, if your campaign has something to do with alumni, then you’ll probably skew towards Facebook because the demographic is older. If you’re looking to do something younger, we may try on Instagram. On Twitter, for us, is kind of middle of the road in appealing to both young and old audiences. We use the platforms in different ways but also they’re definitely connected with Twitter being the workhorse to get information out. Instagram does this as well, however it focuses more on visuals and interaction that people can connect to on more of an artistic level. Google+ isn’t in the mix much as the the posts seem to largely mimic Facebook.
SM: Snapchat is a platform on the rise for marketers finding ways to market individuals. There’s a Snapchat live for OHIO’s campus, do you see yourself or the department establishing a presence on the platform for the University?
GJ: That is something we are not planning to do in the near future. There is not capacity within the job right now to add on the responsibility of another media platform.
I almost didn’t want the interview to end as every time I sit down with Gabrielle I get the opportunity to be exposed to some great social media tips and ideas. For this reason, I really appreciated her taking the time to sit and talk with me about her work as well as strategic communications that I often assist her with while managing OHIO’s Instagram account. There were three key points that stood out to me from my interview with her:
- Emphasizing the importance of interaction. I believe this to be key as I have seen in my own experiences in talking with organizations who have trouble creating an online presence. The common factor I have seen as well as discussed by Gabrielle, is the lack of true communication, or giving the organization a face instead of the perception of a robot or computerized message. The Canadiens’ hockey team’s Twitter account recently discovered the dangers of having that robotic voice after they eclipsed 1M followers.
- The importance in establishing an online community. Reiterated in the interview and within my internship with Gabrielle, I learned how creating a community around your social media platform can be exponential in success. This surrounds the account with people, or in this sense Bobcats, who trusts the account to provide them with information that we deem important, leading to engagement, followers, and conversation.
- The responsibility behind being the online voice of an entire University. Gabrielle controls a lot of content coming in and out of Ohio University’s feeds. It’s important that every post that is created, no matter the platform, that the University’s brand and online presence is kept in mind. One can truly appreciate her ability to conduct research on what works and how she maintains success across all of the University’s platforms.
The opportunity to pick Gabrielle’s brain and gain a little insight on her day-to-day duties has helped me to better understand what it takes to be a professional in the social media industry. It’s more than predicting trends and posting consistently. It’s about connecting with your followers, being consistently creative, and knowing how to monitor social platforms in order to understand when and how to create interactions and campaigns.
Anonymous (2015). Social Media Gives Consumers and Brands a Direct Connection. Retrieved February 25, 2016 from: http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog/empowerment-social-media/
Sandritter, Mark (February 24, 2016). The Canadiens’ automated Twitter celebration became a nightmare of offensive tweets. Retrieved February 25, 2016 from: http://www.sbnation.com/nhl/2016/2/24/11103866/canadiens-twitter-replies-slurs-offensive-tweets