by Jenna Finer

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Founded in 2002, Apple Box Studios is a Pittsburgh-based advertising agency and graphic design firm that targets B2B, B2C and B2E. The company’s eight primary client services are tackled using creativity, flexibility, objectivity, affordability and accountability. None of this would be possible to promote without social media campaigns, which is where college senior Molly Fallone comes in.

Molly is the social media manager for Apple Box Studios, a part of the nine-person team that works there. While wearing a few different hats during her time in the office, she is responsible for managing all social media accounts, web reporting, Google Adwords campaigns and SEO initiatives for Apple Box Studios and select clients.

As a Pittsburgh native, I love learning about local startups and supporting new business. Talking to Molly about her role at Apple Box Studios was a great opportunity to hear her insight on where social media is headed in the future, and how to prepare for it.

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JF: What type of consumer research do you conduct before planning a social media campaign?

Molly Fallone: If it’s for a client, we have found the most value in integrated marketing approaches, which would mean having an integrated campaign across social media channels, (digital/signage) ad opportunities and utilizing landing pages and SEO. However, all of Apple Box engagements begin with front-end discovery, market research and strategic analysis. This involves examining the target audience. Finding out who we are trying to reach and where’s the best place to reach them, which could include only specific social media channels or social media channels plus digital ad spaces like Pandora advertising and website call outs with a landing page. In my role, I put time aside for the “discovery” part of our process. I believe it’s necessary to analyze not only your competitors, but other leaders in the industry — across the globe. This also involves understanding all of your advertising and social media options and staying current on trends and tools for the best places and ways to reach your consumers. After we gather this specific market insight and have an up-to-date knowledge on all of our options, we go into strategic analysis phase for building out the campaign.

JF: What do you think will be the biggest social media trend for businesses in 2015?​

MF: Video and content marketing.

JF: What is the most exciting part about promoting a business through social media?

MF: I think it’s exciting because of how raw and the moment it can be or it can be thought out and show off your brand’s capabilities while delivering value. There are so many tools today for easy, custom visual creation and different channels for publishing unique content and connecting with other brands and consumers. The future of mobile video and content marketing excites me and my job is rewarding in that I get to be thrown right in there and watch it all transform each second — although you can too. I think everyone and each team member in a company should be utilizing it and acting through the brand they represent — although, not everyone sees it that way yet.

JF: What people/organizations do you follow to stay up-to-date on social media trends and why?

MF: My mornings each day start with my go to content curator — Feedly. It’s a great tool for following and skimming all of the latest articles and blogs. You can search for categories or specific blog names and add them to your feed and it will immediately curate any new content that is published online from that blogger or category. It’s a great way to stay up to speed on trends, news, tips and tools. Besides feedly, I try to subscribe to a few different podcasts – one of my favorites is “This old Marketing Podcast” with Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi. Whenever I can, I keep our Twitter account up on my computer incase any new notifications pop up or if someone posts anything interesting. My favorite people on Twitter right now are Brian Franzo, Kim Garst and Jason Falls. Organization wise – Social Media Examiner is my savior. R/GA is favorite brand on social – they have one of the best teams I’ve seen so far. Marketo is another one doing big stuff with social. I love how consistent and recognizable all of their stuff is. You can always tell it’s Marketo and that’s important.

JF: What is one piece of advice you would give to a budding social media specialist?

MF: Social media isn’t a 9 to 5 job. It’s a full time job that requires you to always be monitoring online, social activity. Adding a signature at the end is also a way to make the consumer feel like they are truly speaking to an empathetic person not a robot or someone in India. I’ve also noticed that no matter what you sell or what your company is about, it’s about finding creative ways to deliver relevant and unique content.

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Molly offered some great tips about how to successfully use social media professionally and personally. As a journalism student currently learning about social media, I find the information invaluable; seeing social media techniques and strategies implemented to real-life businesses is really exciting. Molly helped me understand that social media is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for brands. She acknowledged that in the digital age customer engagement means offering a constant dialogue and building good relationships.

After our talk I no longer view social media as a marketing tool, but as a foundation for the rest of the work to make  brand successful. Thanks for the input, Molly!