"Everything we post has so much thought behind it, and it is never put up on a whim. There is a lot of strategy, planning, and production behind what we put out, and our followers have certain expectations that we work to meet."
Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and what do you do?
I live in Manhattan with my husband, and I work for the digital and social media team at GAP Inc. I am also a part-time graduate student at New York University, working towards my master's degree in Publishing: Digital and Print Media.
How would you describe your job?
The digital and social media team is a subset of the integrative marketing department. Our team is distinct from retail and in-store marketing, although we collaborate and meet with other marketing teams throughout the workday.
The job itself has been transitioning since I started, but as a digital and social media coordinator, I spend time writing copy for various media platforms including, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I also write content for our style blog. GAP partners with influencers across the country, and these individuals style our clothing. Through this partnership we are able to write a narrative on our style blog to encourage people to relate to the brand and style GAP clothing in their own world.
Within the company, the digital and social media team tries to work as closely with GAP.com, which has an entire division located in San Francisco, so that we can parallel what people see on the website and e-mails with what is being posted on social media. Since this is happening in different locations, we try to communicate clearly with one another so that we don’t confuse followers or readers at any point. We work closely with our marketing team that focuses on in-store displays and promotions. For instance, if there is an important sale or promotion, we need to be able to highlight that on Facebook or Twitter at the right time. We also work closely with the merchants for GAP who help us understand about flow - when products will be hitting stores, when they will be on the website, and when they will be marked down, so that we are always putting out content that reflects what is most important to the brand and business. Those are the teams we work most closely within the company, and there is a lot of thought and preparation behind each post.
What does your typical day look like?
I work between 24-27 hours, or 3 days, a week. I ride the train into work and get into the office around 10:00 am, which is nice because my commute is about an hour long. I start my day by going through emails. This is especially important since I am not there every day, and I need to make sure that I don’t get lost in the details.
I write and source different content from various influencers with whom we partner, so I spend a lot of time writing copy and publishing daily to our style blog. I also spend time producing assets, photographs and images, that appear on social media. My day is usually filled with team meetings to discuss different strategies as well as meetings with agencies to discuss the status of different projects and timelines. We are able to outsource some aspects of the work so that we can put more focus on the strategy and visual direction. It is always a mishmash of different tasks, and because the position has changed so much since I started, it will be interesting to see where it goes over the next few months.
Some days I go straight from work and then attend class from 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm. When I am not working during the week, I am reading, writing papers, and working on projects for my master's program. The courses don’t require exams, but instead are more project-based, which I prefer. Our program is very applicable to the outside world and I have a great balance being a part-time student in that I don’t have to fill my entire weekend with school work.
Tell us more about the social media platforms that you are plugged into?
We put a lot of our resources behind Instagram, as well as Facebook, for our own content and for paid promotional posts. We also utilize Twitter and Pinterest. We don’t want to get behind, but at the same time, we want to be very thoughtful when we enter into a new space (new social media platform). Our blog is also a publishing platform for our brand, and the goal is to reach an audience that loves our brand so much that they will then make a purchase. The content on our blog can be trickled into other social media platforms.
How much planning goes into a social media post?
There is a lot of communication that goes on before anything is ever posted. We plan our content at least a week prior, but preferably a month in advance. We prepare across every platform with the image and copy. It goes through multiple levels of approval and sometimes up to our Chief Marketing Officer. Several people approve it ahead of time so that there is no question as to what will show up on Facebook for GAP that day.
It is a well known company and brand. There can be a lot of pressure when posting because there are certainly a lot of eyeballs on the content that we produce. We have to determine what is news worthy at times and what we should respond to because there is a fine line. At the end of the day it is a business and if we, for instance, put out information about a product that is no longer available, then it was a waste.
How did you decide to transition from non profit work to the industry you are in now?
It was a difficult decision to make, and it was definitely a process. I had been working in nonprofit development and communications for 4 years, and I realized that I didn’t really love the nonprofit work anymore. There were, however, some aspects that I did like, such as marketing and publishing the materials to raise awareness or to reach potential donors. I loved the communications aspect, so I thought about how I could harness that in a more corporate setting.
When my husband was finishing business school, we knew that we would be moving to New York City. It was an opportunity to focus on my career goals, and I started thinking about what would be next for me. I had studied political science and global studies at UNC Chapel Hill. I loved my major, and I learned so much about communicating in general, however, it was not a very technical degree and didn't include vocational-type training. I did not have an academic foundation in publishing and marketing, and I knew I needed that. It was something that I wanted to do, but it was hard because I wasn’t even sure whether I wanted either of us to be back in school.
I was looking at programs at New York University and then read over the curriculum for the publishing program. I could not get it out of my mind, and I thought the program was really centered around what I loved about my previous jobs.
What was the decision process like to go to graduate school?
I had time between undergraduate and graduate school and that helped me pinpoint what I really wanted to do. If I had gone to graduate school right after college, I probably would have gone for something entirely different, and I don’t think I would be as happy. So I am really glad that I took some time to work and figure out what I really liked and didn't like about my job.
The publishing program is very applicable to the industry, and I was lured by the fact that a lot of professors work in the industry during the day and teach classes at night. It seemed like the best for me in order to get plugged into the industry in New York. The fact that I could work while I was in school was a huge game changer for me as far as my degree. At first, I thought that it would take forever to finish if my classes were only at night. Initially, it was a negative, but the more I thought about it, I realized that it would work really well. I didn’t want to be gone every night of the week, so that I could still see my husband and have a healthy life balance. I could still have an income; I could have more balance between work and school; and I could have more experience in the industry instead of waiting until I graduated to start working.
When we first moved back to New York City, I was looking for a job that would compliment my studies and I wasn’t sure what the balance was going to look like between work and school. This opportunity at the GAP Inc. headquarters came up, and it is the perfect situation to be in. Working towards this degree feels more like professional development instead of full time school. I have been very happy with this transition. I really enjoy the professors, the classes, and my classmates. Although I was initially nervous about the commitment, I now know we made the right decision.
What aspect of your job is your favorite and which is the most challenging about your job?
Another thing that prompted the transition into a different industry was that I wanted a more creative job. I used to crave creativity outside of work, which I filled through home projects, blogging, or crafting. This is fulfilled in my job now, and it is a new and really fun experience to have. To be able to decide on a visual and written direction for our media is really fun.
Something that is really challenging is that the media landscape is constantly changing. It can be fun for sure, but it is also challenging to determine which platforms to plug into and which ones to avoid. The forecast for various social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. are unpredictable, and it is a challenge. These spaces are very important to companies for marketing. Things are constantly evolving and we cannot say "no" right away to a new social development. We have to consider what might be best in the future and decide whether to get involved rather than dismissing it immediately.
What is the biggest misconception people have about what you do?
I think there may be misconceptions about what social media professionals do because the general public uses social media as well. While anyone who has the app or program can use it for anything ordinary, it is our marketing tool. Everything we post has so much thought behind it, and it is never put up on a whim. There is a lot of strategy, planning, and production behind what we put out, and our followers have certain expectations that we work to meet.
What would you tell someone who wanted to pursue your career?
I distinctly remember in my 7th grade social science class, our teacher told us that many of the jobs that we would eventually have when we grew up, didn’t even exist yet. I thought that was so baffling. I could not wrap my head around it, and at that time I thought, "Of course I know what I will be doing - I will be a teacher!" All of these years later, she was so right and many jobs exist now that didn’t when I was in 7th grade! The world is constantly changing.
I would advise anyone who is pursuing a job in digital and social media to have an understanding of the space and to keep up with the platform. Whether it is playing around with new apps and thinking about how they can be leveraged or keeping up with the news concerning those platforms, it is important that you are up to speed with the latest out there.
For graduate school, I spent a lot of time just thinking about it. I prepared in thinking why or why not this was the best decision. I researched programs well and found out details. For instance, in my program, my professors work in the space during the day which is a huge benefit. You wouldn’t know things like that if you don't research the program and really look into it. The whole application is really straight forward, but research is very beneficial, because it is a huge time and financial commitment.
What are your long term goals with your career?
I would love to keep growing in this industry. Ideally, I would love to transition to a more formal media company in the future. I would love to try out working at a digital media company that is more focused on the content that they own. I think it is really exciting here in New York City. The school is wonderful because of all the professors that work in the industry, and the industry here in NYC is excellent for media and publishing. It is exciting to be here and know there are a lot of opportunities right here. We are so happy here, and it has been a great experience professionally and personally. It certainly feels like home now.