Q&A with Morgan Siem, social media strategist

by andybechtel

Morgan Siem is the social media strategist at Media Two, an interactive advertising agency that specializes in the strategic planning, buying and design of digital media. Siem is a 2009 graduate of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill. In this interview, conducted by e-mail, Siem talks about her job and how newspapers could better use social media.

Q. Describe your job. What do you do on a typical day?

A. As the social media strategist at Media Two, I have a role that’s being redefined every day by a rapidly evolving industry. I work with clients (businesses and organizations) to help them effectively use social media tools.

Depending on the client, this could range anywhere from monitoring the online conversation about their brand, to providing customer service through Twitter, demonstrating thought leadership through a blog, generating buzz through contests, building a community through Facebook and so much more.

I do my best to stay on top of industry trends so that I know the latest (and greatest) goings on with Facebook, Twitter, Google, location-based apps, mobile devices, blogging tools, etc. I use that knowledge to brainstorm new ways for my clients to engage their audience members online.

Q. You were a student in the news-editorial sequence at UNC-Chapel Hill. How has that news background affected your work for a firm that focuses on advertising and marketing?

A. My news-ed background from UNC-Chapel Hill has helped me tremendously in my work at Media Two.

First and foremost, social media is about interactions and relationships, and without the ability to communicate properly, it can be very difficult to gain the trust and respect that many brands seek when interacting with their customers online. Just because many social media interactions sound casual does not mean that they can be unprofessional or grammatically incorrect.

Furthermore, the news-ed track taught me to be concise. This has helped me with Twitter (which only allows you 140 characters to get to your point) and with blogging (which tends to have a readership with a short attention span).

Beyond social media, I have used my news-ed background to edit all of the material we produce at Media Two, from the copy for a new-business pitch to the copy for a website redesign. It’s even come in handy for writing ad copy for banner ads.

Q. You recently blogged about corporate identity versus personal identity on Twitter. How do you think that applies to newspapers?

A. The question of corporate identity versus personal identity extends beyond Twitter and relates directly to the newspaper industry.

Each reporter and editor brings a personal identity to the newspaper. The newspaper can decide to either embrace those personal identities, thus taking advantage of their followings, or regulate the online personal identities of reporters in an attempt to control and protect the brand.

You can tell I’m biased, but that’s because, according to my understanding, many readers follow a given paper because they feel an affinity for a specific reporter and/or columnist. Why not promote the personal brands of willing reporters and reap the benefits?

Q. A lot of students would like to have a job like yours. What advice do you have for someone seeking an internship or job in social media?

A. If you want a job in social media, then walk the walk. It’s the kind of thing that you can do on your own, whether you have a job or not, so you’d better be able to show that you live and breathe (and love) social media before applying for a full-time position doing it.

If you have an internship, take initiative. Don’t wait for someone to assign a project to you. Rather, initiate a project of your own and show your boss why and how it’s building the brand, generating revenue, etc. Be a self-starter.

If you don’t have a job or internship yet, get in front of the people with whom you’d like to work. Attend networking events. Attend meetups and tweetups. Shake hands, make eye contact and follow up with people.

With so many social media avenues to choose from, there is no excuse for letting an in-person connection end there. Ask questions! You’re not expected to know how to run the business, but you should demonstrate your interest to learn.

Finally, fine-tune your personal brand online. Use Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and a blog (just examples) to define your personal brand. What does your online presence say about you to a potential employer?

Use some channels to highlight your accomplishments and show thought leadership while building relationships. As for other channels (ahem, Facebook), think PRIVACY, privacy, privacy. There are some things that are not everyone’s business, so don’t let them be.

UPDATE: In February 2012, Siem moved to publishing company Lulu, where is social media manager.

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