Finding My Niche in Social Media Marketing

September is here and this officially ends the last “first week” of my academic career. The past four years at John Cabot University have shaped me into the person I very proudly am today. I write this as I begin the first stage of my post-college job search, and I am lucky enough to know exactly what it is that I want to do once I graduate.

Over the past three and a half years I have worked as a student assistant in the University’s Enrollment Marketing office. During that time my role has varied quite a bit. I was the first student assistant for this newly created (and long overdue) office, so the Marketing Coordinator and I were basically making it up as we went along. It started out similarly to how an internship is portrayed in the movies, working at a company you know you could excel in yet starting from the bottom doing any and every menial task imaginable. My job began as primarily writing blogs, creating presentations for our admissions counselors on the road, and doing online presence audits, in addition to the more unskilled tasks as note-taking, coffee runs and email forwarding. I got very good at writing quickly, coming up with ideas on the spot and researching efficiently. I also became extremely familiar with the official voice of the University. Our voice was an academic one—”academic excellence” to be precise. It highlighted our unique position as an American university overseas with a fairly large and diverse population of students from all over the world. What was missing from this voice, however, was the quirkiness that I had come to love about JCU. After a while we felt the need to make a change to this voice, making it one that would more authentically attract potential students, giving them a true idea of what life at JCU was like. Just as many other universities, we were a little slow to jump on the social media bandwagon, and it took some serious pushing along with constant reassurance and evidence until the Enrollment Marketing Coordinator officially became the Social Media Coordinator as well.

From there, she and I took on the enormous task of molding our sporadic and completely uncoordinated social media presence into a coherent and effective official social media
voice. I became responsible for overseeing the social media channels of student clubs and orgScreen Shot 2016-09-04 at 5.40.04 PManizations, as well as the official JCU Instagram account. I began to truly love working because I was constantly learning more about social media networks, trends and marketing strategies while at the same time getting the actual hands-on experience of creating and executing these strategies.

snapcodeOnce we had cleaned up our social media presence and had a good hold on managing the various accounts, I suggested that JCU should have an official Snapchat account. Personally, I loved the platform and I thought it would be a fun way to create a more engaged community on campus as we had been gaining traction on getting students to use our hashtags and interact with us online. It also seemed like the perfect network for JCU as many of our students come from different countries and may not get the chance to visit the university while applying. I know I would have loved to have seen an authentic, immediate view of life on campus when I applied!

Snapchat is one of the most unique social media platforms out there. While many businesses and universities have started to grasp its potential, there are still very few “best practices” or “how-to’s” out there for reference when you’re just beginning. Nonetheless we were excited about its potential, and with an idea of what we wanted to achieve and what potential students would want to see, we launched our official Snapchat account in September 2015. My role had now become Content Creator/Manager of both Instagram and Snapchat.

Under my management in the past year, our Instagram following and engagement doubled, and our Snapchat became one of the University’s most strategically important platforms to reach and engage our continuously evolving millennial audience. I have taken charge of daily content creation, coordinated Snapchat takeovers, and worked with the growing social media team on targeted Instagram ads.

Love-Hearts-Eyes-Emoji-PNG-180x180I have found my niche in social media marketing, ultimately drawn in by the creative and dynamic environment. To many of us digital natives, social media seems like a no-brainer since we are constantly connected and sharing every day. Being responsible for the official accounts and also now trying to pass on the torch to my replacements once I graduate has shown me that it really isn’t simple, that so much goes into each caption and each photo and not just anyone can do it. I’ve also learned that social never sleeps. This challenged me personally to become more adaptable and flexible, which—as difficult as it may be to some—is essential. The possibilities of specific targeting for ads fascinates and horrifies me, and my communications background gives me some self-doubt in this job selection. As an avid photographer and prosumer I am eager to be creating content in today’s increasingly visual culture. I have seen firsthand at my current job how hard it can be for some companies to keep up with the constantly changing trends, and although I don’t know if this will ever be resolved, I am more than happy to be the one pushing for change and innovation.

I take extremely good care of the social media accounts I manage, constantly searching for new ideas that would improve our engagement. John Cabot University is not a Big Ten school with an entire team of social media experts and content creators, but this shows what dedication and patience can achieve. An online presence isn’t enough in today’s digital world, where users expect to engage with their favorite brands. Companies must invest in keeping up with emerging digital trends to best reach their target demographics while continuously judging which platforms best fit their specific needs. I feel strongly that companies need someone who is truly invested in their brand to create and continue to develop their personalized voice to reach their goals. I am always interested in challenging new opportunities, and I look forward to getting the chance to get to know a new brand and help craft a social media strategy that will lead to meaningful interactions with its audience.