Welcome to another episode of HERstory, our weekly series at marketHER where we dive into the exciting world of marketing through the lenses of remarkable women. This week, we have the privilege of introducing Danielle Stapleton, an accomplished social media strategist.
From making her mark in educational sector social media strategy at Southwestern University, to the dynamic environment of the Texas Lottery Commission, and her current position at the helm of Corporate Social Media at Expedia Group, Danielle’s story is one filled with creativity, innovation, and success.
Her journey offers insights into the power of truly understanding your audience, crafting effective strategies for engagement, and using the wealth of data available to fuel growth. Danielle also opens up about the critical role of employee advocacy programs in amplifying a company’s message, as well as her ability to adapt her strategies to different industries and environments.
This week, you’ll get a glimpse into the world of a marketer who has continuously strived to push boundaries and reimagine how social media can be used to engage, inspire, and connect. Whether you’re just starting your career in marketing or looking for fresh inspiration, Danielle’s story is sure to help you in your career.
Let’s dive in!
Welcome, Danielle! Your journey through the realm of social media strategy and community management is truly inspiring, with experience spanning the educational sector at Southwestern University, to the excitement of the Texas Lottery Commission, and now as the Senior Manager of Corporate Social Media at Expedia Group.
You have consistently shown your ability to grow followers and engagement across various industries. What’s your approach to achieving such substantial growth, and how does it vary across different companies or industries?
It really boils down to one thing: know your audience. Having worked in so many different types of organizations/industries, I’ve learned that the one thing that should always serve as a north star is who you’re talking to, and you who want to start a new conversation with. As social marketers we have a wealth of data in our hands – use it to get to know your followers and community!
Now, the type of content you do that with varies a lot based on the brand and company objectives, but at the end of the day, social media is people talking to people. And if you keep that at the heart of your work, growth and engagement for your channels come naturally.
Your dedication to advocating through social media is evident from your time at National Instruments, where you launched the social media advocacy program. Could you explain how you utilized this strategy to tell customer and community stories? How did it enhance your overall social media approach?
Building NI’s social media employee advocacy program is one of my career highlights so far, and served as a big learning opportunity. We launched the program as part of the company’s first rebrand, aligning with our awareness strategies and activating the employee base to spread the word around the globe. From there, it became a place teams shared product updates, company news, and employee activities, and others started to amplify.
Going forward, every time we ran a big marketing campaign, our employee advocates were part of the plan. If you can enable your employees to amplify your company wins and milestones, your job only gets easier. I like to think about it as a chorus of voices that can power your brand’s reputation.
As the Head of Social Media at National Instruments, you oversaw global social media programs, involving content creation and community management. How have these responsibilities shaped your current role at Expedia Group, and what strategies have you transferred over?
My time at NI gave me such a well-rounded experience. I worked in almost every element of social media – organic content development, paid social campaigns, employee advocacy, and all the ways that those intersect. I had the privilege of working with PR, demand generation, and internal comms teams, identifying how the company’s social channels could strategically support various business initiatives.
My role sat in different areas of marketing throughout my 6 years there and while that required a lot of pivots at the time, I look back and am grateful for those challenges – it all helped me understand how it’s connected and it taught me a wide range of approaches to apply in the future.
Through that well-rounded experience, I’ve been able to join a new team at a new (much larger) company and quickly understand all the dynamics at play. It allows me to take a more holistic approach to my work and be aware of how my role/team can influence various initiatives.
Your time at the Texas Lottery Commission marked several innovative moves, including leading the organization to become the first state lottery to use Facebook Live. Can you share some insights about this initiative and how it contributed to increasing the visibility of the Texas Lottery on social media?
I was there during a Powerball frenzy and Facebook had just released a new live streaming feature for business pages. Given the attention we had already gained via Twitter, I saw it as a chance to drive the same growth on another channel. We used the opportunity to put the Executive Director at the time in front of the press and the public to talk about the historic moment. Publicizing the activity across channels helped us grow Facebook followers and increase engagement.
During your time at Southwestern University, you expanded the university’s social media presence from one platform to seven. Could you walk us through the strategic planning behind this expansion and how it effectively tripled engagement with the university?
To be completely honest, it was a combination of “right time, right place” and experimentation.
While working at Southwestern, Facebook University Pages were gaining traction and I identified the opportunity to build our alumni community on a platform that was rapidly being adopted by adults. Being an alumnus myself, I strategically worked my network to run a grass-roots follower campaign, ran an awareness campaign alongside Homecoming, and worked with groups across campus to start collecting content we could use to build out the editorial plans.
From there, we used Facebook learnings to start launching other channels – Twitter was not too far behind. I owe some of our Twitter success and growth to the University President at the time – he had a bit of academic celebrity status and we hosted a live Twitter AMA to help introduce him to alumni and the broader community.
When Instagram popped up, it was clear to me we had an opportunity with student-led content creation. (I was also a team of one and couldn’t figure out how else to keep the channel active.) I collaborated with student leaders to set up what we would call an influencer program today and had students apply to take over the account to showcase what life was like on campus. I still see this approach taken by whoever is running the university account today – Instagram story takeovers have a special place in my heart.
Your roles have required a blend of creativity and analytics. How do you navigate this balance and what advice would you give to women aspiring to excel in both areas within the social media realm?
Admittedly, I’m still learning to balance it. But I’ve learned along the way that it’s about leaning into each one at the right moment and finding how they complement each other. For example, when looking at quarterly reports, analytics come first – of course, you have to measure KPIs and leadership expects those. That data doesn’t have to be done there; it can also tell you a lot about how your content is performing. And that insight is what you walk into your next brainstorming meeting with. Being able to tell a creative team that you have numbers to show why something worked is powerful; so is being able to showcase a beautifully created post right next to the impressions and engagement rate.
Another piece of advice I’d share for someone managing a team: lean on their strengths. If you’re more creative-minded, make sure you have a strong analytics-minded person on the team to help strike a balance. It also helps to have another person to bounce ideas off of if you’re hitting a creative block.
Lastly, as someone who’s crafted successful social media strategies across various sectors and industries, what foundational advice would you give to individuals just starting their careers in social media management? Are there any particular skills or mindsets they should focus on developing?
Stakeholder management is critical to roles in social (and marketing in general). Learning to manage leadership and communicate well with cross-functional teams makes a difference. Social media is something everyone wants to be a part of, but not everyone understands. Being able to pitch an idea while simultaneously educating is a superpower I see a lot of social media professionals.
Take time to get to know the other parts of your organization and collaborate with them. I said this earlier, but social can intersect almost every element of a business; understanding how other teams operate makes you a good partner and helps you identify opportunities others may not see.
Don’t be afraid to try something new or make a case for something different. You may not always get approval or the idea may be a bust, but you’ll regret not trying.
Keep a running list of your accomplishments. Social moves fast and when it comes time to ask for a raise or go for the next job, you’ll appreciate having some of those handy and save yourself a lot of time combing through emails.