Who #brands the brands? Recently, I’ve been talking with someone
who’s been working as a professional social media manager for the
past seven years, architecting Facebook posts for maximum
engagement and transforming corporate Twitter accounts into
“personalities” for some pretty huge brands. This person, who
wishes to remain anonymous (obvs), agreed to tell me a bit about
the small armies of people who quietly mill content for brands, day
in and day out, hopefully without incident (except, of course, a
huge viral hit).
How many followers have your accounts had?
I have managed social media accounts ranging from ten thousand
to twenty-four million. Usually entertainment brands have a higher
follower/fan count because it’s a natural behavior for people to
proactively share and express what TV shows, movies, and music they
like. Also, they are more willing to subscribe for updates like
changes in show times, updates on tour dates, or announcements
about live events.
Another huge factor in audience sizes are ad buys to acquire new
fans and followers. It’s one thing to organically grow an audience
from two hundred thousand to over a million, which can take months
even if you have a solid brand name. But if you are willing to
spend money, you could go from two hundred thousand to a million in
a few days, even if you have a crappy brand. What sucks the most
about social is that sometimes the teams who are most familiar with
the content and audience don’t have much buying power because of
What goes through your mind composing a tweet? Do many people
have to approve it? Does it have to maintain a consistent and
Thinking about a post is like drawing a Venn diagram. One side
is about what your audience wants to hear, the other side is your
brand message, and the trick is figuring out what overlaps before
attaching the right call to action (buy this/click here/watch
For the past few years, I’ve always created a fake persona for
my brand’s feeds, often giving him or her a name that I jokingly
use with my fellow social managers. These personas are usually
fairly developed—to the point my team and I identify their favorite
movies, TV shows, shopping habits, hopes, fears, favorite color and
how they use smiley faces with friends. This creepy exercise is
necessary, because there’s often multiple people drafting and
posting content but we all have to sound the same.
Right now, I’m the approver of our social content but further
back in my career there might’ve been up to five people to review
content before it went live. There’s usually an ad team, a
marketing team, and a content team or agency working on content.
Each link that’s shared is carefully monitored for both engagement
and revenue purposes. And, even though I am the final approver now,
I still have to factor in my brand’s identity and our content is
strategically helping our overall brand and business.
But if you’re using social media to try and build your brand
reputation instead of product sales, it’s necessary to have a small
team. Whenever there seems to be too many cooks in a social media
kitchen, I bring up the Obama vs. Romney Twitter campaign,
where Obama’s social media team proved that being able to be
nimble is sometimes better than being over-prepared.
Do you have a certain number of tweets you have to send in a
period of time—maybe the best way to ask this is, “What’s your
Creating a social media calendar is like going on a family
vacation. You plan everything out but then it all changes while
you’re there (that tweet featuring a photo of Hilary Clinton on her
phone along with top ten email etiquette tips was great two weeks
ago but suddenly is horribly wrong!). That being said, finding the
right posting frequency is a bit of a science, especially thanks to
Facebook’s temperamental algorithm that encourages more brands to
spend money for ad space.
In order to establish the right posting frequency for a brand, I
start with my go-to post strategy, which is: three to five tweets
per weekday and two tweets per weekend day; three Facebook posts
per week, with at least one over the weekend; and daily on
Instagram—or five times per week, if it’s not a very
After a few weeks of this basic post strategy, I’ll begin
looking at data and determine the following: What days are seeing
the most engagement? What hours are seeing the most engagement? Am
I seeing more engagement on Saturday or Sundays? What are the
purchasing behaviors of my audience members and how does that align
with my engagement? Are there periods where people are posting on
my FB page or tweeting at me when we’re not posting content? If so,
we should plan on pushing content at that time.
Based on all the findings, I’ll work with my teams on outlining
the ideal posting strategy. However, that posting strategy evolves
every few months. When you’re with a brand for more than a year,
you can start comparing historical data with current data to
determine if trends are remaining the same or if they’re changing
over time. If they’re changing over time, it’s usually worth
looking into why and making sure your posting strategy and content
is aligning to those changes.
There are essentially two reasons why your content on social
will fail: It sucks, or you’re promoting it when your audience
If something hits (like the dress), do you need to address
From a brand perspective, it’s usually best to let individuals
create content that goes viral and “trend jack” it in a way that
gets people engaged with us.
Do agencies believe that social media is actually working, in
terms of sales?
Tracking social media sales is hard. I equate it often to the
jingle in ads. An effective jingle gets stuck in your head and when
you’re standing in front of a bunch of candy options, you see a
product with a memorable jingle, the jingle starts playing in your
head, and because that jingle triggers a craving of some sorts,
that’s the candy you go with. However, there aren’t real strong
ways to track the effectiveness of a jingle. The same can be said
with social. While a 1-on-1 interaction with a customer doesn’t
create an immediate sale, the chances of that person going and
using your product after having a favorable experience on social is
And again, this is where some of the struggles in proving the
effectiveness of social lies: Often the people who are creating the
best content don’t have the same tools to quantify their work.
Meanwhile, the people who can quantify the work don’t necessarily
know how to create meaningful points of engagement online. At the
end of the day, I find it’s easier to teach creative people the
metric side of social media than try and teach a quantitative
person how to be super engaging.
On something like a national day of mourning, are you
instructed to write some kind of nationalistic tweets? Does that go
without being said, or is it up to the social media
Typically these decisions are up to a social media manager.
While it’s fine to celebrate holidays, jumping on things like 9/11,
MLK day, Columbus Day, and other historically charged days is risky
and I prefer avoiding them. As a social media manager for a brand,
you have to think critically about when people want to hear from
you and when they don’t. It’s best to err on the side of silence
because it’s more likely someone will call you tone-deaf for
posting rather than staying silent.
Knowing what you know, if you were heading a campaign, how
would you change how social media is currently being used?
Marketers, content creators, and advertisers alike tend to
create campaigns without thinking about how to use the
sophisticated technology built around social networks to create
unique, branded experiences for customers. Often campaigns are
over-simplified to “Like this,” “Customize a photo of you with our
image generator,” or “Post with a hashtag to win.” These are all
flat campaigns. My favorite social media campaign was a map I
created by pulling in people’s Facebook movie interests to map out
what movies were the most popular with their friend group. The
client was in the movie industry and it gave us an opportunity to
remind people who participated in the campaign how the brand
optimized their movie-going experience.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and