Social Influencer Series | Digital Engagement BU, Emily Truax
Of all the many things I love about my job @Sprinklr, engaging with super-smart and exuberant digital marketers is one of my favorites. The first time that I met Emily Truax, I had a smile from ear-to-ear listening to her talk about all things social. It was infectious - this passionate, inspired and very informed voice on just how powerful and important a tool social media is today for brands and organizations.
Emily handles digital engagement for Boston University - her Alma Mater, which as a BC alum I won't hold against her. She is also a Sprinklr client who has used our platform to redefine how Boston University is able to leverage social media and social data to inform her entire organization.
After our very first meeting, I knew that I had to feature her as a Social Influencer - for her enthusiasm and her "ground-level" experience at just how important social is today.
Here is what Emily had to say:
You are so passionate about your approach to social media - when you think of Boston University OR any brand or organization today, how important is the role of social media?
Social media provides one of the only opportunities for brands to communicate instantaneously with a huge amount of our constituents. Simultaneously, it’s a powerful, and often untapped, source of information about consumer preferences and brand opinions. When done well, it creates an intimate connection with users that can’t be matched by traditional advertising. Perhaps nowhere is this more important than at the mecca of social media usage: a college campus. At Boston University, we know that our students, prospective students, alumni, neighbors in the community and the media are talking about us on social. By joining the conversation, we can therefore influence it to align with our institutional goals. You’d be surprised at the enthusiastic responses we get from simply responding to a student’s tweet or liking a prospective student’s Instagram post. Ultimately, I think the biggest role for social at a school like BU is making what is undoubtedly a large and intimidating place – of over 32,000 students on two campuses – seem like a genuine community. This use case isn’t unique to higher ed, by any means. Brands too, should be looking to rally their supporters and build a community online to advocate on their behalf.
You have been outspoken about the importance of social listening. What should an organization or brand be listening for?
Nearly all of the data that brands need in order to understand who their customers are; what their connection is to the product/service; their use cases; and areas of untapped potential - is available if organizations simply take the time to listen. More often than not, these conversations are happening in public forums and brands who are only watching for direct mentions on social are missing opportunities to engage customers – and more importantly potential customers – in real-time and in meaningful ways. Doing so allows organizations to “surprise and delight” and reinforce key messaging around their value proposition organically - an almost unmatched opportunity. Aside from keywords and hashtags central to your brand, organizations with a physical presence should definitely be listening within a geographic range to their location. In addition, listening for keywords and hashtags of your competitors allows brands to identify opportunities to gain market share and provides vital information on your own points of differentiation in the marketplace as well as a benchmarking standard. I tend to think a neat use case for listening is identifying the topics that most often come up surrounding your brand and attempting to mirror that ratio in your outbound content strategy – that way, we’re really providing the types of information people are hungry for.
What do you see are the biggest trends in 2017 and beyond in the world of social media?
We’re seeing a rapid shift in social of users navigating away from open platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and gravitating towards private, peer-to-peer and group messaging services like Slack, WhatsApp, GroupMe, and even Facebook Messenger. Much of the reason for this shift, sadly, is the desire to escape branded content. However, it’s undeniable that social media serves as a primary source for news and current events for many, so they’re still coming to our channels for that content, but the engagement we’re seeing there is declining. Perhaps most importantly, and alluded to before, is tapping into the under-harnessed potential of social advocates. We know that recommendations from peers constitute the highest conversion rates online yet many brands aren’t fully utilizing those influencers who are easily identifiable given current technologies and leveraging them on behalf of their bottom line. In terms of very immediate trends,, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention live video, whose trajectory I think we’ll continue to see skyrocket as marketers find ways to produce better quality videos in real-time. Underlying this trend is a push for authenticity – something we’ve been seeing on social for a while and a big reason why Snapchat continues to draw users in.
What do you see as the most important social channel?
I’m sure if you asked our undergraduates they’d disagree, but in my opinion, Facebook remains the undisputed king of the social media sphere. The ability for content to amplify in this space and reach its maximum potential audience is astounding. However, as the network evolves, they’re certainly making it more difficult to do so, at least organically. Very gradually, Facebook has made its preference for pages who pay abundantly clear and are leading the way in social networks moving toward a more sustainable revenue source, which is bad news for nonprofit marketers (like universities). Still, the depth of reporting available via Facebook far exceeds that we’re able to gather from social networks and has been monumental in setting – and re-setting – our content creation and distribution strategies.
I have to ask...as a happy Sprinklr customer, what are you able to do with our platform that you couldn't do before?
From an institutional perspective, Sprinklr enables me to keep track of vast amounts of data coming out of hundreds of affiliated University accounts. In times of crisis on campus, I’m able to halt all scheduled posts and ensure that all of these accounts are conveying accurate, up-to-the-minute crisis messaging. One of the use cases we’re most excited about (and need just a few more years to execute) is tracking our entire student’s journey via profile tags. We’re often able to denote on their social profiles once they’ve come on a tour, submitted their application, been accepted, chosen BU and follow their student journey. Our Dining office can denote in their profile if the student has an allergy or dietary restriction, we can make note of their major and when they ultimately don their cap and gown, we’ll have an entire view of their time at the University based solely on information they’ve provided via their social posts. Imagine the niche targeting opportunities in the future! That capability alone is impressive, but my ultimate favorite part of Sprinklr is reporting, especially the automation. Reporting on commencement efforts, weekly top content and spikes in inbound complaints, for example, is such a breeze and it’s introduced me to metrics I never knew existed that have become a vital part of our strategy.
What advice would you give to an organization about the importance of investing in the right tools for leveraging social media effectively? What are the must-haves?
I think my answer above shows how passionate I am about the power of social media to connect organizations with their constituents, and clearly, having the right tools to do so is the initial first step. For any customer-service oriented business, listening is a must and any department who is held accountable to report on the return of their own efforts needs to be utilizing reporting. Tags – which were a tool I had never used until becoming a Sprinklr customer – and using them on a profile level is vital to identifying advocates and detractors, the two ends of the net promoter spectrum. At the very least, I’d plead with those wary to invest in social to use an editorial calendar to help think strategically about when, where, and to whom certain types of content will best resonate.
Emily is a proud alum who began working at her alma mater upon graduation. She is currently working on her MBA at BU's Questrom School of Business. Her go to social channel is Snapchat. She is a wine enthusiast, but when she is celebrating a Beanpot victory (not this year) her go to celebratory cocktail is a good margarita. She is most proud of her role as Godmother to Grace who just turned six. Her favorite BU fan moment came from this student post about the great work they are doing with social with the help of Sprinklr (shameless plug):
An inspirational #hashtag she'd like to share with her higher-ed folks - #HESM!
Emily Truax is currently working on her MBA at Boston University's Questrom School of Business. She has worked at the university since graduating BU undergrad and manages digital engagement - handling all of the university's social media. In addition, Emily is a thought leader in the higher education communications space. She speaks annually at the AMA’s Higher Ed Symposium and has launched a blog community at Boston University to share best practices with other departmental communicators.
Mark Keaney is a Regional Sales Manager for @Sprinklr - the world's most complete social media management platform for the enterprise. Sprinklr helps the world's largest brands do marketing, advertising, customer care, sales, research and commerce on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and twenty-one other social channels globally, all on one integrated platform.
e: email@example.com or m: (617) 513-2668 or t: @markkeaney2pt0