I Have To Do What Now? My Experience Managing Social Media for a Start-up

Last May, I started an internship doing marketing for a small ed-tech start-up that sold online SAT/ACT prep. I started off as just contributing to the social media accounts, then after a while was given full control, then I even got an intern to do the stuff I didn’t want to do. When I first started, my official title was Community Manager, and to be honest I wasn’t even sure what that meant. My experience with social media back then was limited – the majority of my accounts were all private. And now here I was, helping to run the social media accounts of an actual company. Scary.

This Feels Wrong

My first task was to start reaching out to teens via Twitter to spread the word about our product. That was scary. I had to look through the Tweets where people used #SAT or #ACT, and actually try to talk to these people. These high schoolers. Yes, I felt very weird doing it. Most of them were just complaining about how awful their classroom prep was. So I tweeted something along the lines of, “Hey, check out our online adaptive prep platform! It sucks less than your classroom prep!” And, as you might expect, nobody responded. Would you?

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Okay, so that wasn’t working. What else?

Schools.

Schools are trying to be all hip and modern, so many school guidance offices have their own Twitter accounts. They send out registration deadlines, retweets from the College Board, and just general advice. Jackpot. I started tweeting at the guidance departments with links to some of our free resources. And some of them actually retweeted! Lesson learned here: consider your audience. The only time teens will be caught tweeting about the SAT or ACT is if they’re complaining about it. They’re probably not going to be sharing “5 Ways to Improve Your Critical Reading Score”. Guidance counselors, though? Much more likely to do it.

The Singular They

Facebook was another area where I got to play around. In addition to replying to visitor messages and comments on posts, I also got to write up a lot of the posts to our followers. Most of the posts were re-posts of our blog posts and other articles, but sometimes I also posted articles from other sources, SAT/ACT registration deadlines, and fun graphics involving our mascot.

I learned quite a lot about people in general through managing the Facebook page. First of all, people love pointing out other peoples’ mistakes. Make a small typo on some copy (such as a misplaced apostrophe), and they will jump on you. We often used they/their with singular nouns because it would seem clunky to use he or she/his or her.

“Is your teen struggling with his or her test prep? Sign him or her up for this program to improve his or her scores!” just doesn’t roll off the tongue.

Well, people love pointing out other people’s grammatical mistakes. We’d gotten so many comments and messages pointing out how the grammar was wrong and how it was hurting our reputation. At one point, someone on our team messaged back an Oxford Dictionary post about how the singular they is now considered grammatically acceptable. But of course there’s also the argument that since we were an educational company, we should be very careful about wording. No matter your thoughts on whether or not the singular they is correct or not, the lesson here was that people do actually pay close attention to your copy, and any little mistakes could cost you a customer. Double-check everything.

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Something else I found interesting from Facebook was which links got the most clicks. Sometimes you think a post is going to do terrific, and you end up getting maybe 10 clicks on it. Other times, you don’t expect to get much and you end up getting thousands of clicks. I’ve noticed a few general patterns (that don’t always end up being true. People are fickle after all). Lists work great (5 things I learned! 7 ways to do this!). Personal stories do well too, but only if you can scare people a little with it. For example, “My SAT/ACT Prep Journey and What I Learned” did not do well, while “3 Things I Wish I Had Done Differently” did do well. While I bet having a number in the title did help, I think the second one did better because it’s more cautionary – it makes people go, “Oh dang! I gotta avoid those mistakes!” Because, and this may sound a bit harsh, they care more about themselves than they care about you.

How Pinterest-Ing

Yes, I’m talking about Pinterest again. I apologize if you read my last blog post about Pinterest AND listened to my presentation about it in class. I’ll keep this part short. I basically set up the Pinterest account for the company and ran it up until I left the company last month. At first I just took random college & test prep related pins from the web (Thanks BuzzFeed for the 20 SAT Vocabulary Words You Learned from Disney Songs post). After I started to make infographics, though, the interactions started rising.

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I had created a College Application Timeline for Seniors infographic to post on our blog, and thought I might as well post it on Pinterest as well. It has since gotten over 10,000 likes and repins. I’m not just pointing that out to brag (well, maybe a little), but we’ve also gotten about 30-50 clicks per day on the Infographic, which lead to our website. I spent about 2-3 hours on the Infographic, and now a year later, with zero additional effort from me, it’s getting us free traffic to the website. Lesson here: people love infographics, and posting on Pinterest is a low-effort, hands-off way to get consistent website traffic.

I have now hit 1,000 words so I should really stop writing. In short, being able to manage social media accounts taught me a lot about how people respond to marketing efforts. And I need to stop referencing Pinterest.

9 comments

  1. francoismba · ·

    Great tips on how to manage social media accounts. I’m not surprised that high school students weren’t interested in tweeting and promoting study materials. Although they may not have been the best audience, I wonder if they read the lists and personal stories posted on Facebook. Also, it’s interesting to hear that people were so critical of your grammar considering the majority of people aren’t exactly professional when posting on social media. People tend to be more casual and use slang and abbreviations.

  2. Nice post! Its a pretty common experience that many social media interns get put in charge of social media without really adequate training. Sounds like you were able to make the best of it, though!

  3. I really enjoyed this post… It was interesting to hear what someone actually does in a social media related job. As someone going through the job process, it is hard to tell the details of a job simply through the job description- however, your post gave a brief insight into the challenges faced working in social media. While Facebook and other social media sites often feel informal- your blog proves otherwise… you have to constantly triple check your work to ensure perfection…after all it is the internet and people have the ability to access work… a bit scary!

  4. alinacasari · ·

    People really do love infographics though! Congrats on all of your repins! It’s cool to see what you learned from your experience. I wouldn’t have expected lists or what not to do lists to perform better, but it does make sense. A lof of online users want someone to tell them exactly what/what not to do and those meet that expectation.

    It’s interesting to consider how limited your experience was, but how quickly you were able to turn the accounts around and reach different audiences. I think there are a lot of challenges to using social media effectively that aren’t super obvious sometimes. Great blog post!!

  5. First of all, love your infographic! I’m not surprised it was so popular. Secondly, I like how you emphasized the importance of grammar and correct spelling. This is crucial across all job fields and professional communications. One of my major pet peeves is when I review an applicant’s resume and they claim to have “great attention to detail,” but include many misspelled words and grammatical errors! This is one surefire way to not be taken seriously in a professional setting, especially as a new employee. Hopefully Testive emphasizes this as well in their test prep!

  6. magicjohnshin1 · ·

    Awesome post! I loved reading about your experience so thank you for sharing! That’s such a unique experience that you had having to reach out to all of these people targeting certain qualities like the SAT. It’s so true that people are grammar nazis online. The differences between they’re, their, there are everywhere and people are so harsh. I don’t really understand the need for that. I look forward to reading more from you, cheers!

  7. The grammar scrutiny is very interesting in this case because your product offers grammar test-prep. It seems like a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Nice article, I’ll be taking some tips from this for the accounts that I run!

  8. Interesting post. Having worked for a small company in the past I can 100% relate to wearing many hats and taking on whatever needs to get done.

    It can be challenging being the voice of a company and being expected to respond to customers over all of these platforms. Most don’t realize how much interaction happens in the social world and that this is really the frontline for customer service.

  9. emilypetroni14 · ·

    This is awesome! Great tips that I will consider in my social media strategy. Interesting that people are more likely to click on the cautionary tales than the lessons learned one. True about the numbers too, ive always noticed certain womens magazines always have a big number on the cover (25 fall outfits, 7 ways you can lose weight), etc. Thanks for this post, it was nice to read some real world experiences.

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