More than hanging out on Twitter all day

by Emily Kelleher

May 10, 2018

Rochelle Bilow, a former staff writer and social media manager at Bon Appétit and social media director at Cooking Light, spoke to students at the Newhouse School

Rochelle Bilow speaking at Newhouse
Rochelle Bilow speaking at Newhouse Photo by Qian Zhu

During her time managing social media at Cooking Light and Bon Appétit, Rochelle Bilow has done everything from responding to Facebook comments to monitoring analytics to writing copy and creating and finding shareable content. While managing social media for a living might sound trivial to some, it’s a role that’s crucial for the success of any publication with an online presence.

“What matters most to people in corporate positions is how much traffic is coming to the website,” Bilow said. Most publications make the majority of their money from advertising, she explained, so getting views from social media and search engines is vital because it means eyeballs on advertisements.

“There’s a lot of responsibility that weighs on a social media manager, and the challenging part is that, as we all know, those Facebook algorithms are pretty volatile,” Bilow said. 

For example, Cooking Light’s Facebook page has over six million followers, but during Bilow’s time there, she estimates that even the posts with the most engagement got maybe 6,000 views. Since most people don’t actively search for the pages they follow, it’s up to Facebook’s algorithms to determine whether the content shows up in people’s feeds.

Working with those algorithms to maximize exposure is part of the job. Bilow remembered when Facebook had first added the reaction buttons, allowing users not only to like a photo, but also to react to it with emoticons representing love, sadness, anger, humor or surprise. Bilow found out that posts with more reactions would be prioritized on people’s feeds and started prompting readers to “react” to posts. Within a few weeks they caught on and people from Facebook told her to stop.

“It’s definitely something that requires staying on your toes,” Bilow said, adding that you can get information about trends in algorithms by following social media blogs.

One trend Bilow noticed is that audiences are less and less willing to leave social media platforms to read articles elsewhere.

“The challenge that digital publishing media teams have now is finding ways to provide a cohesive, engaging, full experience on the platform,” Bilow said, adding that more and more content is being created exclusively for social media platforms, resulting in new positions like Snapchat editor.

Bilow said that to get a job in social media, applicants should demonstrate an understanding of the business.

“I don’t want to say they’re a dime a dozen, but a lot of people can write a fun caption,” Bilow said. “It’s really having that special something that makes you valuable as an employee, and not just a content creator.” She suggested having creative solutions for things like monetizing posts or navigating tricky algorithms, and becoming familiar with third party platforms used to manage and schedule posts, like Curelate and Naytev.

Bilow also recommended developing an eye for detail, something she had to learn the hard way. After landing an informational interview with an editor at Food & Wine, Bilow brought along her résumé, which included an objective that read: “to be an editor at Food and Wine.” When the interview was over, the editor pointed out that Food & Wine uses an ampersand, not an “and.”

She didn’t get the job.

“We’re all trying to do the jobs of seven people, and no one has time to pay attention to detail. So seeing someone who really, truly does, and who puts the effort into doing things right, makes all the difference in the world,” Bilow said.

Emily Kelleher is a sophomore magazine and political science major at the Newhouse School and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs