During this blogging journey I have shared many stories that have revealed my passion for guiding college students and young adults to discovering their niche. However, there is one other passion of mine that I spend a lot of time on: social media and digital trends. In 2014, social media has become a buzz word that no longer serves justice to the magnitude of impact it is capable of. I am fascinated with the strategy behind social media, and how brands or people can use it connect in new and powerful ways. I am specifically intrigued by the psychology of how platforms are being used and how 18-30 year olds are experiencing life in the digital world.
In day 16 & 17’s posts, I touched upon the fact that I created a digital media team for my department. In the last few years, I have spent countless hours finding ways to teach myself several technical skills like DSLR video/photo, Final Cut Pro, Adobe suite, etc. Now, anyone that really knows me, knows I look up to entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. After reading his books Crush It and Thank You Economy (two books that have helped me with my social media career and The Niche Movement) I did whatever it took to get Gary’s attention. The relationship started when Gary tweeted me back and invited our digital media team into his agency, Vayner Media in August 2012 as part of our training. Then, one of our other students Jay Anandpara, was accepted to intern there during the summer of 2013. Again, in August 2013, the relationship grew stronger when our team visited for an even better training.
*Side note: A lot of why our team is successful is because of Vayner Media’s insights and execution on social. Thank you to everyone at Vayner including Gary.
In addition to this relationship our team has established, I have spent time analyzing data and rapid prototyping different engagement strategies to find our brand’s digital voice (ie. the social media sweet spot with our audience). Yes, I used the word brand and not department. Even though we are managing 5-10 social media accounts as part of our day to day duties. The big picture of our role is to serve as the department’s voice, imagery, and ultimately, brand in the digital space. That’s what I love about social media, when it is done with intentionality it can be a powerful force for your brand.
A lot of social media is humanized - from emotions to the way we talk to the way we share (or broadcast) information. So how did we humanize it? Well, I realized this year, you need to work hard at it while continually tweaking your strategy. In addition, it most certainly can be trained - especially to 18-22 year old students. Sometimes though if you are lucky, you just come across the right person who “gets it.” In 2012-2013, our department hit the digital voice jackpot when we hired Brittany Katz.
In the last eight years, I have never worked with a student who was as well-rounded as Brittany. She came with the personality, the energy, the work-ethic, the brains, the common sense (which was huge on countless occasions), and most of all the pulse of 18-22 year olds, especially at Rutgers. Unfortunately, many who run a social media account for any business or department, think it is as easy as “set it, push it, and forget it.” However, it takes creative thought, copywriting skills, design, time, and the instinct that it will resonate with your audience.
With little training, Brittany understood all of this from the beginning. When we launched TweetDeck (a free social media listening tool for Twitter) in the Fall of 2012, we encountered hundreds of conversations happening about Recreation/Rutgers and a lot of times not about us. Brittany was able to find the best way to @ reply or jump into conversation every single time that would build our audience’s relationship with @RUrec even closer.
Brittany’s next skill set is that she had the natural personality to get in front of our camera, host our Knightly Knowledge YouTube series, and connect with our audience via video. Finally, Brittany has the ability to step away from the cameras and apps, and connect with people. The first day of training, she hit it off with our Director and made an impression that our Director will never forget.
May 2013 was another bittersweet moment where some of our best digital team members graduated: Dylan McLendon, Emilie Buckley, Patty Rivas and unfortunately, Brittany Katz. Just like any senior, the first 3-4 months of post-graduate life was tough. Her future was just starting though. She had interviews from NYC to DC with large corporations to start-ups and agencies. She rolled with the punches and made it work, until November 2013 when she was hired as a Community Manager for Vayner Media. Needless to say, as much as I missed her on our team, I was ecstatic for her.
Since Brittany started at Vayner, within seven months she has already begun to carve out her niche. She started CM’ing (community management) for a well-known snack company. A few months later was asked to add another on another brand’s account to her responsibilities. It’s safe to say that Brittany’s amazing work-ethic, personality, expertise, and skills she learned from working with our department is paying off.
What They Taught Me:
Ultimately, what Brittany (and other students on my team) have taught me is that you can trust 18-22 year olds with your organization's social media strategy. Now that doesn’t mean I gave the “keys” to our social media accounts to Brittany on day 1. However, with the right training, expectations, and proper feedback, she grew the popularity of our accounts more than anyone. In turn, she helped our department break through the noise at a large institution.
Unfortunately, too many of my colleagues in this field (and even other business owners in other industries), are scared at just the thought of a college student, let alone an entry-level employee running their social media. What everyone needs to realize, this generation are the ones immersed in these platforms, pop culture, and staying connected. My advice, especially if you are targeting 18-30 year olds, is to hire and train (the right way) a Gen Y like Brittany.
How They Inspired Me:
If I wasn’t as passionate about helping young adults avoid employment unhappiness, I would be doing what Britney is doing in a heartbeat. Among many other ways, this is the biggest way Brittany inspires me - to see her doing something that she loves and is great at.
When you hit your stride in your job where things start to click, like it did for me in 2012, you need to figure out the reasons why you’re thriving. Once you do that, repeat it as much as the situation allows. Next, tailor a similar thriving environment for those around you (i.e. employees, students, colleagues). Clearly, all of our students do not take jobs in students affairs, recreation, or social media upon graduation, but I have customized environments for them to succeed, grow, and thrive that will get them closer to discovering their niche.