Learn From A Fortune 500 Social Media Superstar

In my former life I was a broadcast journalist. (I wore makeup. Suits and ties. Stood outside in snowstorms. Pointed at burning buildings. Interviewed murderers. You know. The usual.) My very first job outside of college took me to a small TV station in wild and wonderful West Virginia. The news director there, the station’s fearless leader, was Christy Kirk. She hired me and was my boss for the two years I spent there. In a mostly cutthroat, superficial, and not so particularly nice business, she was a rare find. Kind, understanding, supportive — an incredible leader. I was lucky to encounter her very early in my journey through TV news.

Here we are, many moons ago, on my last day at the station:

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I’d go on to spend a total of six years in the business before deciding to put down the microphone and join the crazy world of social media. Marketing and public relations is a natural path for most TV newsers  who eventually figure out they want a slice of normalcy. (If you call lunch breaks, holidays off, time with family, and general happiness, “normal.”)

In a weird twist of fate, Christy eventually left the TV news business and wound up in social media marketing too! We’ve stayed in touch over the years and it’s great to have her as mentor once again. This time in a completely different business than before.

3190_101948905766_2134183_nChristy is currently putting her experience in journalism and social media to good use as the Director of Social Strategy and Training for Weaving Influence. There, she assists best-selling leadership authors in building larger audiences and connecting with current readers through targeted social media marketing, public relations and traditional marketing.

Previously, she managed social strategy and engagement for Fortune 500 companies such as Procter & Gamble and Carlson-Rezidor. Her work for Pampers and Luvs Diapers has been singled out for recognition by AdAge Magazine and the Social Television Awards.

Over the course of her television career, she worked as a reporter, anchor, executive producer and news director. She launched the news product at WVNS Television and drove the station to become the fastest-growing CBS affiliate in the nation in 2004, within its first six months.

Christy was kind enough to answer some questions for this blog post. I have learned so much from her — I hope now, you can too!

In your current job, you work directly with authors and help them with social media needs. How have you been able to best engage with readers and the literary community via social?

I think strong content is always the way to connect with an audience. It might sound a little trite but content is king. If you aren’t sharing content that matters to your audience, you won’t keep them. Writers on social media are really no different than any brand—they are all trying to create an engaged and committed group around their work. That’s done by sharing strong content with real value and by doing this day in and day out. A committed audience isn’t built overnight. It really does take dedication. In addition to sharing great content, it’s important to lift others up and share their great content, too, and to respond and interact with your followers. I like to say social is not a megaphone, it’s a conversation, which means there is give and take.

How do you choose which social media platforms to invest the most time in? What’s your advice for libraries who may be short on staff and time when it comes to social media marketing?

I think there is an instinct to be all things to all people and show up everywhere. There are social media strategists who make that suggestion, too. I think it’s more important to show up well. I advise carefully choosing which platforms will work for your brand, and yes, a library is a brand with a distinct brand voice. I would say for most libraries a strong presence on Facebook, Goodreads and Instagram would be a great start. I do think Snapchat is the platform to engage young readers and nurture them to become library patrons and champions.

I know you enjoy reading, and my guess is you probably have a library card! What would you like to see out of your library on social media? 

I cannot remember a time when I did not have a library card. I am a proud patron of the Durham County Library system in North Carolina. I even voted at my local library! I think there are probably a few categories of content libraries can explore with huge success. Some of my favorites are book reviews and recommendations. I’m thinking of a great photo with maybe 5 new books that have just been put on the shelves, or a regular feature sharing titles that the library staff is reading. Inspiring quotes are a big performer on social media and who better to share the wise words of writers than the library? Highlighting upcoming events and sharing photos are great ways to showcase the community service aspect of most libraries. I love clever tie-ins with some of those goofy “holidays” like Pi Day. I could easily see content showcasing pie-baking titles and math titles and getting readers to share their favorite types of “pi.” Contests can also be a great reward to your social followers. How about the chance to win VIP, early access to the library’s used book sale? I would so want to win that and it really costs the library nothing.

As you know, social media is constantly changing. I’ve posted on this blog before about the importance of continuing education. Where do you turn to stay up-to-date on all things social media? 

Social media moves so quickly it often feels like you are standing on quicksand. Social Media Examiner is my top social media blog. I also really enjoy their podcast. Buffer, which is an amazing social media scheduling tool, also puts out a top notch blog.

Being successful at social media marketing is about more than just a big follower count. But I know lots of people still spend so much time worrying about how many followers they have. What’s your advice for increasing audience count in a meaningful and organic way?

I rarely judge success by fan numbers. I worked briefly with a very large brand that had more than one-million followers on Facebook, but their fans were not engaged and the audience sentiment was very negative. That huge fan number looked great in reports but initiatives failed because the audience was not engaged. So, it’s important to grow your audience with intention and connection and that goes back to creating content that is meaningful to your audience. Your audience, through their social actions, will let you know what they want. If you provide strong content, your fans will share it, and new people will connect with you. It’s also important to use hashtags (on the platforms that use them) and tag others to widen your reach and increase the potential audience for your content. Also, don’t rule out ads. Boosting a high performing post can bring new fans for an investment, in some cases, as low as $25.

What emerging trends in social media are you most excited about? How do you plan to implement them for your clients? 

I am excited about live video on Facebook and Periscope. I think live video has so much possibility and I’m really encouraging experimentation with my clients. If they have a speaking engagement, why not stream it on Facebook or Periscope live? I love the idea of live Q&A sessions with our writers. There are learning and tutorial opportunities. For a library, I’m envisioning a book craft series. I remember making hideaway boxes out of an old book with my son when he was little. (He still has one!) What a fun way to reach parents and kids. Snapchat isn’t necessarily a new trend but I love the idea of creating geo-filters. I think a filter is a fun and easy way to create excitement around your local library and give kids an incentive to show up.

What do you think most people are doing WRONG on social media? 

I think the biggest mistake is when brands (including libraries) are not on social or they post infrequently. Social media is how we communicate now. If you aren’t participating on at least one platform, you aren’t in the conversation. I don’t know many brands who can afford to be outside popular culture. But, just having an account isn’t enough either.  It’s important to show up regularly with strong content. It’s also important to respond to your fans on social. Nothing frustrates me more than reaching out to a brand and getting zero response. Even if it’s just a simple “like,” fans want to know you read their comment. Everyone needs some acknowledgment. Your fans are your own focus group and think tank combined. Reach out to them, listen to them and run with their ideas and suggestions.

How can libraries prove to their stakeholders that social media matters? How do you show a “Return On Investment” for your clients?

ROI is the bain of my existence! There is no straight line I can draw that shows this great post on Facebook brought this many patrons into my library or other business. However, to be relevant in our current culture, a brand has to have an active social presence. Television viewership is dropping, cable and newspaper subscriptions are evaporating. The source of national conversation is on social platforms.  If a business doesn’t show up there, it doesn’t exist. Current clients may maintain loyalty, but it’s your competitor who is on social, who will win the hearts and minds of new customers. Look in any public business segment—the top brand is almost always the one with the top social presence, too. They go hand-in-hand. Success today requires social, even if we don’t have reliable tools to measure the dollar-for-dollar impact.

What’s your best piece of advice for fellow social media marketers? 

Schedule time daily to interact on social. Use a scheduling tool (I recommend Buffer) to make your life easier. Respond and engage with your fans. Most importantly, experiment.  Test different types of content, different times to post, different platforms. Let your creativity loose. Social thrives on envelope-pushing, so push away!

Let’s end with a pep talk. Tell us why you love social media marketing and why we should too.

I come from television news which is a fast-paced, energetic world and I love social media because it’s also fast-paced, but I think more creative, plus the hours are much better! I truly love the connection, freedom and sense of experimentation social media provides. It’s always changing, so we get to change, too, and I find that exciting. I can’t wait to see where social will take us next. I think if you look at social as a place to really unleash your creativity, it quickly becomes your favorite part of work. I’m eager to see the creative content your followers come up with!

Connect with Christy on LinkedIn.

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Learn more about the author.

Opinions are my own. This post does not necessarily reflect the views of my past or present employers.


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