In the series “Job Profiles”, we talk to various members of the InterNations team about their position and the work they do.
In this first installment, we’d like to introduce Erin, our social media manager, a US American expat from North Carolina.
Can you tell us more about your professional background and the career path that led you to join InterNations?
When I was in college, there was no such thing as a social media degree, nor did I have any idea that it was what I would end up doing for a living. After graduating in politics and communication, I started working in marketing and sales in the tech industry, for a very small cybersecurity company in Germany.
Since I was the only English native speaker on their team, I did most of their marketing and created the majority of their content. I spent about half my day at work managing their website and social media channels — that way, I learned that social media was the favorite part of my job and probably what I was best at.
I was able to parlay this professional experience into my current job at InterNations, and I’ve now been working here since November 2016.
Which tasks and responsibilities does your job involve? What is your typical working day like?
On a typical day at the office, I start by logging into our social media tool. There I can see all the different questions and comments that have been posted overnight. That could be anywhere from maybe 50 to 400 any given day — these days, it’s often closer to 400! My intern and I, we go through these comments, categorize them, assign some to our Support Team, and try to answer the rest. Sometimes, this just takes a couple of hours; sometimes, it will take half the day.
A lot of time is also spent scouring the web and searching for new content. We post a lot of our own content on our various social media channels. However, we want to share all kinds of information that people living abroad — or those who used to live abroad or are planning to live abroad — find useful or entertaining. If we have some specific content in mind, I’ll talk to someone from our Editorial Office Team about writing a brand-new article that we can post.
Oftentimes, there’s also a social media contest going on, especially for pictures posted on Instagram. Last but not least, I often work with Dennis, our videographer, on creating multimedia content for our YouTube channel, other social media pages, and our own website.
What do you like best about your job? What about working for InterNations in general?
I really like creating video content because you have to be very creative: Not only do we have to come up with a unique idea for each clip, but — as we are only a medium-sized company — we also have to work with or around certain constraints regarding our time and budget.
It’s not as if we are Airbnb or Coca-Cola, who can afford spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, on a single video! Ours tend to be just a little bit more low-budget. But of course, we don’t want our videos to look low-budget, and we still want to get some footage or input from different InterNations Communities around the world. This definitely takes some creative brainstorming and careful planning.
I also enjoy organizing events internally for the company. Perhaps I was an office manager in a past life, so I still love doing this! For example, we recently had our first Interns Appreciation Day to show the students working in the Content & Communications Department how awesome we think they are. Moreover, I helped to plan the brand workshop activities for our last two team trips. While this isn’t part of my job description, strictly speaking, I think it goes to show that at InterNations, if there’s something you are interested in, you can be hands on and get involved.
When it comes to working for InterNations in general, I like that it’s a casual work environment, but that casual certainly doesn’t mean unprofessional, lazy, or disrespectful. People are clearly motivated, but at the same time, the office is very low-key and informal. Nobody feels the need to wear a suit to work, and I’m glad that we’re not on a last-name basis, as is still the case in some German companies. If you called me Ms. McBrayer, I’d think you were talking about my mom!
Everyone very much treats their co-workers as friends, even if they don’t necessarily have the basis for friendship yet. But there’s always the chance that as you get to know your colleagues better, you might even become friends outside of work, too.
Is there anything you don’t like about your role? How do you deal with those aspects?
I get to approve this interview before it’s posted, right? — Jokes aside: The most frustrating part of my job is the repetitive nature of some tasks. As mentioned above, I need to review and reply to a lot of comments every day.
Tackling all those social media comments can be a little exhausting, especially if people ask some very basic things that could easily be answered, for example, by just clicking on our About page. Of course, they deserve an answer regardless, and I do my best to stay motivated by scheduling breaks with fun tasks. For instance, I’ll power through the next 50 comments and then I’ll get to read a great travel article, which may or may not turn out to be suitable for sharing on our social media channels.
What do you consider your greatest success at InterNations so far? And what are you looking forward to?
I’m particularly proud of the first two videos I’ve ever produced and which are also embedded in this blog post. They were part of our tenth anniversary campaign in 2017. Originally, an external PR agency was supposed to plan them for us, but unfortunately, their ideas didn’t pan out.
So, I had to sit down, think about what we wanted, and come up with a script on short notice. Between our videographer, our social media intern at the time, myself, and several awesome team members willing to star in our campaign, we managed to get it done — roughly on time and with basically no budget! Considering the circumstances, I think the videos turned out quite nicely.
In 2019, I’m looking forward to creating new videos for a campaign that’s all about the theme of expat experience and what you can experience with InterNations, for example, by attending our official events, joining one of our groups, and so on. That’ll be a lot of fun to film, and we hope to get various InterNations Communities involved, especially some that we haven’t had the chance to feature yet. It will be a great way to activate our members!
Did I already mention that I really love doing videos…?
Do you have any “brand heroes” in social media marketing?
I always like the stuff that Airbnb comes up with, especially their gorgeous pictures on Instagram. Personally, I also follow a lot of travel influencers on Instagram, but while I greatly enjoy this kind of content, it’s not necessarily a good example to follow in my own work. I think some influencers create rather unrealistic expectations for anyone who doesn’t regard traveling as a full-time job. It’s also not what we are aiming for as a company — we want to be less aspirational and more authentic.
And what’s the most important thing for any social media manager to know?
Generally speaking, the most important piece of advice for social media managers is to try and think of content that your customers might like without necessarily trying to sell them something. You don’t always need to promote or push your product; just embrace the lifestyle that it represents. Like living abroad, traveling, getting out there, exploring the world, and meeting interesting new people.
In our case, the Social Media Team’s main goal is to increase brand awareness and to provide useful content for our followers, even if they aren’t InterNations members (yet). Our channels are also a great way to generally engage with our community through contests and other interactive posts. While it’s nice if someone decides to join our community after seeing our posts, we aren’t aiming to sell InterNations; we are rather trying to offer content that anyone living abroad might find helpful, entertaining, or interesting.
This is quite different from what a performance marketing team would do on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. They focus on attracting new members and a clear return on investment. For our Social Media Team, it is, however, much harder to calculate the effect we have on our company’s bottom line. But I truly believe that, if we do our job well, we have a positive impact in the long run.
It’s a marathon though, not a sprint. We have to make a continual effort to provide the kind of information that our global audience enjoys reading, seeing, and interacting with. Nothing makes me happier at work than seeing users offer positive or constructive feedback on the content we post, whether it’s a simple emoji, tagging a friend, or telling us what we could improve!
What do you most enjoy about social media in your own time?
Actually, I try not to spend too much time on social media since I’m basically online all day. But I use it a lot to look for food recommendations when I’m traveling.
This would probably be the secret job of my dreams: I’d like to be sent around the world reviewing travel experiences, especially food. Not necessarily high-end restaurants, as I don’t have the most developed palate, or crazy stuff, since I literally don’t have the stomach for that. Just places where regular people can enjoy some tasty food. There’s nothing more wasteful than a horrible meal!
If I ever decide to quit my day job at InterNations, that’s what I would love to do: become the go-to person if your friend wants to know about a great place to eat in San Francisco, in Munich, or anywhere else around the world. Just ask Erin!
Photo credits: InterNations / private (Erin McBrayer) / Pexels