By Erica Stonehill

Elaine Carey is a recent Ohio University grad, currently working as the Guest Relations Assistant at Eat’n Park Hospitality Group, located in Pittsburgh, PA. Before landing her position with the Hospitality Group, Laine interned with WYEP 91.3FM in Pittsburgh throughout the summer of 2013, and was the Team Smiley Brand Marketing Intern for Eat’n Park for a little over two years.

0406077While Laine and I were involved in the Scripps Chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and ImPRessions at the same time for the first two years of my college career and the last two of hers, our paths had really never crossed until this past weekend. I attended the Pittsburgh networking trip with Scripps PRSSA and had the pleasure of meeting and speaking more closely with Laine during our visit to the Eat’n Park Hospitality Group. Our similar career goals and paths throughout college had me convinced that I needed to hear more about her time in the social media industry and what she has learned so far.

Erica Stonehill: Were you always interested in social media as a profession?

Elaine Carey: I always knew I loved to write, so I started with the intention of doing something with journalism. Through classes over the course of college, I decided I wanted to do something more marketing/PR related which led me straight to social media.

Stonehill: In what ways does your job vary from what you expected as an undergrad?

EC: My current job as Guest Relations Assistant for Eat’n Park is very…reactive. I respond to negative Facebook reviews and posts in general, negative tweets, and negative Yelp/Trip Advisor/etc. reviews. While negative posts are the only aspect of social I’m directly responsible for, my position is considered part of our Interactive Marketing Team, so I do get to help strategize, put together content calendars for all of our brands, and get creative to some extent! I hope to move more in that direction.

Stonehill: What are some of the major challenges you face within your position, and how do you go about solving them?

EC: I guess a big challenge of my position is how much time I’m able to commit to social media. Since my job in general is so much, (Sole point of contact for guests – phone and online – for 73 restaurants) I wish I was able to give more time to it. Some days I only have 3 things that require a response, some days I have 20. We use NewBrand/Sprinklr and Hootsuite so that makes it easier to spot what’s important and needs a response quickly, but I still wish I could put more time into monitoring. Also, the negativity isn’t that fun!

Stonehill: What are some of your favorite parts of your job, and why?

EC: I love the collaboration I have with everyone I work with. I also love how accommodating the company is to allowing people to test the waters – I write the monthly newsletter for the email club of one of our brands, Six Penn Kitchen, because I asked to. I also love seeing interesting/crazy things on social media – if a post contains swearing, or even the Twitter/Facebook page contains overly questionable content, we won’t respond. While I’m not thrilled to see anything negative about the company, one less thing to respond to! I’ve had so many “Who in their right mind would post that?!” moments.

Stonehill: Many brands are criticized for using the same generic response when addressing customer complaints. How do you work to stray away from cookie-cutter responses and really personalizing the conversation?

EC: The struggle is real. I think this can be applied differently to a lot of different jobs in the social media world, but for me, it’s basically finding different ways of saying “Hi ______, thanks for your feedback, please fill out our comment form so we can follow up with you directly and address your concerns to the fullest extent: (link)” so that I don’t sound like a robot. It’s tough sometimes on Twitter to sound personal and keep it short! Also, I respond on a separate Twitter account solely for responding to negativity – @EatNParkCares. Check it out if you’d like, and excuse that one time I started tweets with “Oh no!” 2 times in a row…It’s tough! Also, when I respond to reviews on Yelp, it has my name and picture with the response. So, “Laine C. from Eat’n Park responded: ________”. I think that helps personalize it a lot.

Stonehill: How do you handle the 24/7 aspect of social media? How do you find the balance between personal life and work life?

EC: Honestly, my position might be a bit different than most, but if I’m not at work, I’m not checking our pages very often. Like I said, I don’t do much monitoring – I usually respond en masse for about an hour once a day using our NewBrand reports that are sent to my email, as well as tweets that Amy flags on Hootsuite (Amy is the one who’d be more likely to be attached to her phone and computer – she is Interactive Marketing Assistant and is responsible for all things social media.) I will certainly respond and make sure the problem gets solved, but it just does not need to be absolutely immediate.

Stonehill: How has using social media professionally changed how you use it personally?

EC: I look at everything through a more critical lens – the hows and whys. I make sure that anything I post makes me feel like I am contributing unique, legitimate, actual content to the universe, and not mindless stuff.

Stonehill: Do you use it less? More?

EC: I think I’ve just used it less throughout and after college. I only really post to Instagram and Snapchat. I check Facebook and Twitter, but I’m not very active. Instagram is definitely my fav.

Stonehill: Do you post different content than you used to?

EC: I was always a pretty careful poster. I think I still post the same things – my dog, my friends, etc.

Stonehill: What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring social media professional?

EC: Always have somewhat of a plan, but don’t be afraid to deviate from it. Also, take the steering wheel. Speak up with ideas and have goals for what direction YOU would like to see the brand going on social. Back everything up with research and strategy! Aspire to have the same sort of free reign, and the same amount of fun, that the Denny’s social media person has. #someday

I’ve come to find that insights and advice from recent grads tend to resonate more with those of us who are still working toward a degree. It seems more authentic coming from someone who was in this same place just 10 short months ago. Social media is an ever-changing industry and it can be difficult to seem genuine in a world of 140 characters or less when speaking with an upset customer. But Laine seems to have not only found her footing in that world, but the professional world as well, which gives hope to the other aspiring young pros out there.