Meet Lauren Freund, social media manager at everyone’s favorite design platform, Canva. She has a wealth of experience and has done everything from climbing the ranks from coordinator to strategist to boosting Taco Bell’s Insta followers in a big way.
In this chat, Lauren dishes the dirt on how she made it happen, how she works with influencers to keep things real, and her tips and tricks for getting a brand to stand out, no matter what industry you’re in.
But it’s not all about the brands. If you’re looking to make your mark in social media, Lauren has some solid advice on how to get your foot in the door and make a real impact. And, just because we all love a good sneak peek, she’s even sharing the must-have tools that keep her on top of her game (and we’re not just talking about Canva).
So, pull up a chair and get comfy as we dive headfirst into the world of social media with Lauren!
You’ve had the opportunity to work for really large companies in varying social media roles. Transitioning from a Social & Digital Experience Coordinator to a Social Media Strategist, how did your roles evolve and what key learnings did you take from each transition?
My roles evolved in many different ways depending on the position and the company, but generally through my role transitions I got to take on more responsibility, both creatively and strategically. It’s a natural progression that happens after really learning the brand, experimenting with content, and having a passion for innovating. A few key learnings I took from each transition:
- Always be the idea-person: You don’t need every idea that you have to be a winner, but when you consistently bring ideas that are backed by research, creativity, and knowledge of your brand and the social landscape, you are going to be one of the most valuable people in the room—or at least be regularly invited into the room. People will know they can count on you to be constantly and strategically thinking about new opportunities to further your social channels and brand.
- Why share, why care: One of the most important learnings I took from the transition of coordinator to strategist was really thinking about why we’re sharing content from a brand perspective (how is this feeding into brand values? How is it contributing to our company goals?) and why our target audience is going to care, like, send, or engage with the content (why is it relevant to them? Why would they want to be seeing/reading/watching this)?
- Track your progress: In order to transition from one role to the next, whether you’re trying to get promoted or pivot to a new role, you need to be tracking the projects you’re taking on, tracking how you’re improving against constructive criticism, and tracking your key contributions. This will allow leaders to see you as an emerging leader who is always growing. It also allows you to track your strengths, workload, and accomplishments if you want to pivot to another role because you can look back on your experience and better understand what would be the best next career step for you.
Keeping a strategic mindset that’s simultaneously backed with research is such a game changer. It shows your ability to be innovative while still meeting the company’s objectives. Along those lines, you’ve previously mentioned a significant growth in Taco Bell’s Instagram audience under your watch. Can you share a little about the strategies you used to drive this growth? Any challenges you faced in the process?
I was able to implement the first ever organic social media analytics process! Prior to that, there wasn’t a strategy for measuring organic social media content. After setting benchmarks and understanding what type of content was doing well on different platforms, it allowed us to better understand what our audiences liked to interact with. That led to some pivots away from certain content, focusing more on others, and experimenting with new content!
Measuring and analyzing the performance on our posts was definitely a big strategy in driving this growth, along with focusing on user generated content (UGC). We found our fans were already creating amazing Taco Bell content, so why not engage with it beyond comments and put it on our feed?
There will always be challenges when it comes to growth, but what’s important to focus on is learning from the obstacles or from the ‘flop’ experiments. Losses are often as valuable (if not more!) than your wins.
Speaking of UGC, you’ve been heavily involved in influencer relations for campaigns. What are some key considerations when working with influencers, and how do you approach finding the right influencers for a campaign?
A key consideration when working with influencers for campaigns is to focus on the influencers who are genuine fans prior to the campaign. A big reason to use influencers is because they have built such strong relationships with their followers that they have a very valuable and trusted community. The fans know an influencer inside and out, so when you work with a creator who has never mentioned your brand or industry before, it comes across as disingenuous. No one wants to interact with an #obviouslysponsored post, nor buy from a company that isn’t interacting with creators who genuinely love the brand and is instead just reaching out to the biggest influencer they can buy. The best influencer partnerships are the ones that make sense and seem effortless.
Authenticity is so key and you’re so right that people see right through it. Whether it’s an influencer or a creator, if it’s not authentic it falls completely flat. So, you’ve clearly demonstrated a knack for growing and engaging audiences on social media platforms. What would you say are your key principles or strategies for building a strong social media presence, regardless of the brand or industry?
I’d say the key principles for building a strong social media presence, regardless of the brand or industry are:
- Why Share, Why Care: Mentioned this earlier, but it is so important to combine what the brand wants to accomplish with what your audience wants to see. Regardless of your brand or industry, your company has its goals, and your audience has their interests, and you need to bridge that gap in order to have an effective social media presence.
- Develop an engagement strategy: Social media is a 2-way street–that’s what makes it so unique to other marketing mediums, and this should be taken full advantage of. Build out an engagement strategy that outlines how you connect with your audience, fans, and followers. Make sure the strategy includes cadence, tone of voice, and elevating UGC or fan ideas.
- Constantly analyze, report, and test: You need to be tracking the performance of your social content across all platforms that you post on. You need to outline clear benchmark numbers. What’s a ‘normal’ post look like for you? Not bad, but nothing groundbreaking. You should know these metrics like the back of your hand, and create ‘goal numbers’ from these benchmarks, so you have something you’re working towards.
Considering your wide range of experiences, what advice would you give to someone aiming to build a career in social media?
The social media space inherently changes so much, so the biggest piece of advice I have for someone wanting to build a career in social media is to really know the platforms. In the beginning of my career, I thought I ‘knew’ the platforms because I had accounts and spent one too many hours on them every day. But what I mean when I say to know the platforms is to…
- Create content on the platform: Don’t be a passive scroller. Experiment! Learn the content creation process on each platform. You don’t have to become an influencer, but at least create a ‘burner account’ and test out creating videos, editing posts, or experimenting with different features and capabilities. This will ensure you’re up to date on new rollouts, can create content if you ever need to in your role, or be able to effectively communicate to content creators or creatives if other people are creating content you need to sign off on. Understanding just how long it takes to make a ‘simple’ TikTok video will allow you to better communicate with cross-functional teams about production needs and deadlines.
- Get the certifications: Facebook Business Manager, Twitter Ads Manager, Pinterest Ads—the list goes on. Learn the paid side of social media if you’re not familiar with it already. Set aside $10 to play around with creating your own Instagram ads just to understand how it works.
- Give yourself perspective: You’re just one person. Don’t get discouraged if you haven’t seen a certain trend or need a social media detox. Not only is there endless content out there, but the algorithms are getting so good that it’s getting harder and harder to spot every trend. Build a community (or join one) that allows you to have a perspective on the social media landscape and hear about different sides of the internet.
- Make connections: Reach out to people you admire in the space–that could be someone who works at your dream company, someone who pivoted to social media from a completely different industry, or someone who built their own company/works for themselves! I also recommend reaching out to social media managers who run successful channels in the not-so-glamorous companies/industries. It’s one thing to do social media for a brand like Nike (endless budget, extensive famous athlete access, beloved brand), but another thing to do social media for a historically ‘boring’ company or organization (hello New Jersey Transportation Department!) or a small company that has built a killer social strategy and community, regardless of their industry.
I love the idea of carving out time and a small budget to learn how all aspects of social work. It really does make a world of difference to understand every part of your field. With that, aside from Canva, what are some of your must-have tools for your day-to-day work?
Aside from Canva (which I literally do all of my work and creation on), Slack is my #1 form of communication and Monday.com keeps all my projects and campaigns organized!