The Woman Behind the Tweets: Talking Shop with Fast Company's Sheena Medina
Sheena Medina is the Community Manager for Fast Company, arguably the world’s most innovative business magazine. In Fast Co. circles, she’s talked about as a rising social media star, which even I could realize when 14 drinks deep at Fast Co.’s SXSW party. I caught up with Sheena near Fast Co.’s stunning office at 7 World Trade to talk shop.
J: Talk about your successes with Fast Company.
S: When I took over, we had about 90,000 followers on Twitter. On Facebook, we had 12,000. Now on Twitter, we have a little over 300,000 followers and on Facebook we have over 30,000 fans. It’s kind of a big jump—a huge increase in a year’s time.
J: What do you attribute that success?
S: Even in a short period of time, Twitter as a platform has really taken off, you know that. A year ago we were sort of unsure, I think, about whether or not this platform would be one of the main ways that we communicate in business or socially.
J: What do you think makes a successful dialogue versus an unsuccessful dialogue? Is it just talking versus promoting the brand?
S: I think you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of listening. It’s very important to listen to what your readers are saying and to really try to get to the heart of whatever it is that they’re talking about—whether they have a beef, like a customer service issue or if they don’t agree with somebody. Don’t be too quick to be defensive because a lot of times if you just talk to people and really listen to what they’re saying to you, then you could easily turn them over and just be like, ‘Oh my God, thank you so much for listening to what I had to say.’
J: What role do you think “voice” plays in brand-consumer communication?
S: I feel like Fast Company has their own unique perspective on things so I try not to step outside of that. I try to continue the voice of the magazine and the content that we put online from our writers every day. It feels as if we’re kind of like one. But it doesn’t always work out that way.
So, for example, we had an intern writing our Tumblr blog for a while, and he did great. I loved the posts he was putting up, but some of the things that he would post were overtly left-wing, which I agreed with personally, but it wasn’t always appropriate for our brand or for our readers. It’s kind of a delicate balance.
J: How are you tapped into the editors, in terms of the voice that they want to get across? What’s that relationship like?
S: We’re very close actually. I report directly to our online executive director so basically I talk to the editors every day. We go into a chat room and other writers and editors are in there talking all day and they’re hashing out what stories they’re going to put up. I’m there and online and I can see how that process goes down so that, in turn, helps me when I go out and want to post something or say something about one of our articles, then I’ll know exactly what angle to take.
J: Is Fast Company anywhere in the social network besides Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr?
S: We’re recently getting into LinkedIn. So, we’re on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and we’re actually on LinkedIn now as a sub-link under our parent company, which owns Inc and Fast Company, but I’ve actually written a letter to LinkedIn requesting to be our own company. I’m trying to get us established on LinkedIn as our own company so all the people that work here can connect to us and we can reach that audience there. I think there’s a huge untapped audience.
J: What else is in store for Fast Company or what would you like to put in place, moving towards a strategy role?
S: There are a lot of little things I think we can do to our website. I don’t know if I can talk too much about what our future plans are because I do know there’s a long-term plan down the pipeline. But right now, I think there are just little aesthetic things we could change to help us become a more strategic player in this game of social media. For instance, we don’t have a share button on our home page.
Eventually it’s going to be too big for me to carry out all the things that need to happen. For example, on Facebook, I’d like to have more in-depth conversations about stories on that platform. I can do it a little bit and people start to pick it up. You ask an insightful question and you get people’s comments where they weigh in on what they think about the article. Eventually I want to carry that over to our website, so people can comment there and tell us what they think. And then I want that to carry over on Tumblr. So if we each had a hand in this conversation, sort of like a rotating shift of people at the company who stimulate these conversations, it would seem like we’re a bigger presence than we actually are.
J: Besides “likes” and “follows,” are there any other stats you keep in terms of measuring the success of your social media effort?
S: We’ve tried a lot of different things to test out a lot of different ways for our stories to spread. So far, we have a general strategy about how often we tweet and what times we tweet.
J: When is that?
S: During the weekdays, so Monday through Friday, it’s very specific. From 7am to 6pm, we tweet fairly often, usually every 30 minutes and we’ve been experimenting with doing every 20 minutes. The best times for us to share our information are weekday mornings. Weekday mornings are the best times for productivity articles, or business-y type pieces. And then in the afternoon around lunch time, we’re ready to get into funner, more relaxed topics with fun things like infographics and lighter fare.
J: If you had to give three quick pieces of advice to another community manager off the top of your head, what would they be?
S: I’d say the first one is to be a good listener; that’s the first thing. No matter what brand you’re working for.
The second thing I would say is to not get too stressed out about metrics. I feel like we’re in a space right now where people don’t really know how to measure their success other than traffic. Don’t let those be the sole guiding principles. Don’t focus your plan based off of what is only going to get you the most traffic or the most hits. Think about the audience, think about the platforms that you’re sharing these things on and try to just give. Try to do something that’s appropriate for your users and the spaces where you’re meeting them.
And I guess the third thing would be to have fun. If you think that you’re on Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare as a personal thing, it’s fun to do. When it turns into your job, it becomes this whole different thing sometimes. You just want to make sure that you’re still having fun and not letting the stresses or pressures weigh you down. All of a sudden you realize you’re on Facebook and Twitter and not having any fun. Why is that? It’s really important not to lose sight. It’s really just about having conversations and building relationships with the people that love the content.