A great social media strategy can transform a business, but it doesn’t just happen on its own. Barnes & Noble College’s Social Media Specialist Sandra Webb explains how a focused social media program can make all the difference, why local posts produce the most engagement, what’s different about Gen Z and how she learned to cook — on social media.
Most companies have some sort of social media presence — it’s essential to doing business today — but what you do for Barnes & Noble College is quite unique. Unlike most companies that have one company Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account, you manage those corporate accounts as well as nearly 500 additional accounts for each of the campus bookstores the company operates? How do you manage it all?
Organization is key. I approach the accounts from two angles. The company Facebook account is more general while our bookstore Facebook pages are very local. It really varies by store – and that requires keeping a very organized calendar and giving the bookstore managers what they need to succeed, like helpful suggestions for what to post, but using their own school’s vernacular. The level of social media expertise can really vary for each store manager, so it is my job to support them at all levels.
How important are social contests and promotions for connecting with your audience? What types of social promotions do students seem to be the most excited about?
Contests and promotions are very important – and a great way to gain new followers. But it’s not solely about acquisition, it’s also important to engage with your current followers to build a loyal following that keeps coming back. That requires staying active on your pages with interesting, relevant information and contests. But it’s not always about the chance to win a prize. We’ve found that some of the most active and engaging posts we’ve published have been centered on charitable promotions – like breast cancer awareness.
To stay current, which sites, publications, blogs, etc., do you visit to keep up on the latest social media trends?
I subscribe to a few newsletters and scan Reddit and BuzzFeed for the latest information on social media. I also stay active on the platforms themselves and scroll through their trending sections to see what people are talking about.
How important are metrics to social media and how do you use data to measure learnings and outcomes?
It’s very, very important. Metrics are the easiest way to see what’s working and what’s not. It’s not enough to look at what gets a lot of hits. It’s critical to know your reach, engagement and click-through rates. Looking at all the data is what will give you the complete story for what is really resonating with your followers. Local posts are our most popular. We can use language that is used on campus, which makes it more authentic and relevant to our students, so they’ll engage more. We also use the information we gather from metrics to make adjustments and changes to our future posts.
You also manage a student blog called The College Juice. Tell us a little about that and how is the blog different than your other social media outlets?
The College Juice is near and dear to my heart. It’s the first project that I worked on when I first started at Barnes & Noble College. Its main purpose is to guide students before, during and after college. It allows us to connect in a really fun and meaningful way with college students at a national level. The blog offers helpful tips for how to acclimate to college life, studying tips, DIY and preparing for a career post graduation. We’ve also hosted a lot of great interviews with successful people in a variety of fields such as comedienne Mindy Kaling, Marvel Comic’s Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso and talk-show host Dr. Travis Stork.
The current crop of college students is known as Millennials, but soon, they will be replaced by Generation Z (those born after 1995). How different are these two demographics and how will you adjust the way you communicate with the latest generation about to enter college?
Gen Zs are truly the first digital natives. They’ve never known life without technology. Our research shows that this generation is all about individuality and uniqueness, so I have to keep in mind how we can individualize our content. They’re very focused on their futures, so it will be interesting to see what will change.
Because your job requires you to be online for the better part of your day, how active are you on social media in your personal life?
I’m definitely active – just to keep up with everything – but I use it in a different way. It’s more personal and private. It’s not about gaining followers.
Favorite social media platform?
Pinterest, for sourcing ideas. I actually learned how to cook on Pinterest! It can be addicting. I also like Instagram because there is less noise. It’s fun to share photos without all the clutter.
What do you think will be the next big thing in social media?
Instagram has staying power because it’s visual. That will continue to trend.
Most valuable thing you’ve learned at Barnes & Noble College?
Collaboration. We have a very collaborative work environment where we work together to get the best ideas, create projects and work through to completion. Our recent refresh of The College Juice was a perfect example of that.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Traveling and seeing new places – and staying home with my cat, Butters. For a career, I’d do something with writing. Maybe I’d be a travel blogger.