In the series “Job Profiles”, we talk to various members of the InterNations team about their position and the work that they do.
For this installment, we’ve interviewed Jelena, an expat from Montenegro and our resident online marketing expert.
When did you join InterNations as a Senior Online Marketing Manager? Can you briefly describe your responsibilities?
My start date was at the end of November 2019, and I was really glad to join the InterNations Team. What I do in online marketing is to advertise our services to potential new members. My main tasks include making use of the various digital channels for online marketing, managing the budget for our ads, and providing the best results in terms of ROI (return on investment). As an online marketing manager, I also want to make sure that we deliver what we promise — our ads should reflect the unique experience of being an InterNations member.
You just mentioned “various digital channels”. Which ones do you use for our online marketing outreach at InterNations?
The most common online marketing channels are Facebook and Google. Right now, Facebook is the one with the greatest potential because it unites a variety of marketing channels under one roof. Unlike Google, it unfortunately doesn’t offer any advertising options for its internal search, but it has more multimedia formats that we can use for our purposes. For example, while we mostly place static ads on Facebook — images and copy — we have also started to use videos for Facebook ads. In addition to those produced for previous brand campaigns, we’ve recently come up with new, animated ones. Videos obviously have the highest engagement on Facebook.
On top of multimedia ads, Facebook also offers at least 30 different types of advertising campaigns. For us, conversion-oriented campaigns are the most important, though. Our advertising goals are to convert as many people as possible into InterNations members and, of course, especially to reach potential premium members who are willing to upgrade to a paid Albatross Membership. Lastly, Instagram belongs to Facebook too; if we add placements on Instagram via Facebook ads, we may even be able to reach users who aren’t on Facebook.
For our Google Ads campaigns, we mainly use search ads and display advertising. Search ads are mostly text based. Everyone is probably familiar with this type of ad by now. If you type in certain keywords in the Google search field — let’s say, “expats in Munich” — you’ll often be shown a sponsored ad above the organic search results. Our display ads, on the other hand, are visual ones featuring static or animated banners on selected websites in the Google Display Network. We need to search for the sites most likely to be visited by expats in specific communities. For example, news websites are among the most promising for our target audience. Expats usually want to know what’s going on back home, and when they open a website to read the news, an InterNations ad will show up.
Since online marketing is the most dynamic part of the advertising industry, new channels keep emerging all the time. I think it’s time for us to give some a try and see how they perform. One thing is certain: In online marketing, you can always experiment, and you’ll never get bored!
So, which new channels are you planning to experiment with?
We’ll probably start advertising on YouTube. It’s obviously a video platform, but when it comes to the number of searches performed per month, it would actually be the second-largest search engine in the world, right after Google. Apart from offering a wide range of advertising options — video ads, text ads, banner ads — it’s also an extremely popular platform. Users spend a lot of time on You Tube, and hours upon hours of new video content are uploaded every day. That’s why I’m convinced we can reach new audiences there. For instance, some expats have their own YouTube channels, so why shouldn’t we try to reach out to their followers?
You joined InterNations less than a year ago. What was settling in at your new job like?
Talk about the calm before the storm! When I came here, the community was pretty much asleep during the holiday season. Most expats want to go home to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve with their family and closest friends. They don’t want to go to huge expat events or join a new online community. This was the complete opposite of my previous experience in online marketing: I used to work in e-commerce, and in retail, everyone goes crazy before the holidays!
Having this calm period was really helpful. It was a good opportunity to get to know my colleagues, learn more about the business in general, and get prepared for January. January is a very important month for online marketing at InterNations, due to lots of new members signing up — a bit like gym memberships, in a way. They have just made their new year’s resolutions: when they return to their expat life, they want to socialize more, practice their hobbies more often, or just meet new people. I was pretty excited to see how things would work out for us in January 2020, and fortunately, I had managed to catch up beforehand and was able to deliver good results.
Are there any other differences between online marketing at InterNations and your previous career in e-commerce?
Oh yes. When I was working for online retailers, I was selling products, while at InterNations I advertise a specific service. There’s quite a huge difference between selling products and selling services, for example, when it comes to measuring KPIs (key performance indicators) and evaluating the success of ad campaigns. I had to learn to be more patient because I was used to getting results very quickly. When you sell a product, such as a pair of shoes, you sell it immediately, and you’ll get the results of your campaign right away. You can easily measure relevant KPIs on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, etc.
At InterNations, we first have to find potential members, then get them to sign up, and then convince them of the benefits of an Albatross Membership. This won’t happen immediately. And then there’s the 30-day free trial for our premium membership, so we have to wait another month to see whether they actually upgrade. Getting exact numbers is a much slower process — that’s also why I love new customers who upgrade to a premium membership right away!
And what about the coronavirus crisis? Has it posed any particular challenges for online marketing?
Obviously, the COVID-19 crisis has had a major impact on online marketing as well. Meeting international people at in-person events is our key selling proposition for both potential and existing InterNations members — this is what attracts them most to our community. Sadly, we had to cancel all in-person events back in March, and since our usual marketing strategy is focused on them, we were unable to advertise at all for about two-and-a-half months. Of course, this was the right decision for health and safety reasons. We want to take care of our members, and we didn’t want them to take any unnecessary risks, not even in places that weren’t as affected back then.
But for me, it was pretty hard from an online marketing perspective. Luckily, we have now introduced online events that we can also advertise. I think they are a valuable addition to the benefits we offer to our members. And we have resumed our regular ads in some communities, where in-person events are possible again. We also pay attention to fresh and new visuals, for example, to promote face masks and physical distancing at events. At the moment, the Community Engagement Team has reopened less than half of our communities worldwide, but I can hope we can return to a new normal in the foreseeable future.
Can you share a little about your career before joining InterNations? How did you get into online marketing?
I have a background in software development; I studied information systems and technology, not marketing or business. But when I graduated, there weren’t many job opportunities for developers in Montenegro, my home country. And I didn’t want to be a consultant either. Since I consider myself to be a creative person, and persuasive too, I decided to get started in marketing instead.
In the beginning, I was responsible for a wide range of marketing channels, mostly offline, such as TV, radio, and out-of-home media — that’s outdoor advertising, for example, on billboards. After two or three years, I really wanted to specialize, though, and online marketing was becoming more and more important in Montenegro at this point. Thanks to my ability to pick up new things quickly, I managed to get into this emerging industry. In 2012, I started in online marketing at an agency and switched to e-commerce for retailers later on. At my previous employer, right before coming to InterNations, I was running my own department with four employees. Online marketing has now become my greatest passion, and I couldn’t see myself in any other field.
Were you already living in Munich when you landed your current job, or did you relocate here to work at InterNations?
I’d never even been to Munich on vacation before, and my new job was the main reason for coming to Germany. Since InterNations needed to hire an online marketing specialist on fairly short notice — and I was very interested in the position — this meant I only had a few weeks to apply for my visa, give notice, organize the handovers for several projects I was working on, pack my stuff, and move to Germany. This was a bit hectic: I didn’t have much time to think about whether I even liked Munich!
And do you like Munich? What’s the verdict?
It wasn’t love at first sight, but now I like it very much. When I moved here, it was dark, it was cold, it was winter, and I thought, “oh my god, what have I done?” But a little later, in January, my dog arrived — I own a Lagotto Romangnolo called Amos — and we started exploring my new neighborhood together. It’s a ten-minute walk from my place to the river, and there are several parks nearby, where you’ll meet a lot of other dog-owners. Munich is generally a very pet-friendly city, which I think is great! And, of course, the InterNations office is dog friendly too.
I didn’t know anyone in the entire city at first, but fortunately, the other team members are really nice and wanted to hang out. They invited me to after-work beers and pub quizzes, and I also attended some of our official events and activities, starting with the Newcomers’ Event in December. I joined the Munich Outdoor Explorers Group, too, but when the weather finally started getting nicer in spring, the COVID-19 crisis happened. Due to the lockdown, I did get to know all my neighbors, though. Most of them are Germans, and they’ve been very friendly, giving me some helpful advice. For example, they translated a couple of letters from various Behörden (government offices) that my German isn’t yet good enough to understand.
Last but not least: What do you like best about working at InterNations?
What I like best about my job is that I am living the story I am trying to promote and to sell. I can draw on my own experience as an expat to judge whether an ad might work, for example. Being an expat myself, I can relate to what we do at InterNations and what the company stands for. And I’d also like to mention how the company has reacted during the coronavirus crisis so far. I really appreciate that they have done their best to keep us well informed and encouraged us to keep up the team spirit.
Image credit: InterNations / iStockphoto / private (Jelena Musikic)