Interview with BlueGlass Social Media Strategist, “Gina from Brazil” 

Whenever I come across a digital agency’s website, the first section I look for is their blog. I expect to find good content there, as it should be the place where the professionals will show off their knowledge and passion for what they do. Most digital agencies’ blogs are mediocre to say the least, but when I find a good one I subscribe to it.

The best agency blog I know is the BlueGlass one. I have been reading their posts since February, when they were still 10e20. Apart from the high quality content, there are other touches there that I find admirable. To begin with, every time someone joins the company, Chris Winfield, an agency partner, personally writes a post introducing and welcoming their new employee. He also comments on pretty much every post on their blog. While some companies feel resentful when an employee leaves the company, BlueGlass lets them write a post about their future projects, like this one, by Rebecca Kelley.

After following their blog for a while, I started having my favourite writers. One of them is Gina Gotthilf, BlueGlass’s Social Media Strategist, whose articles I find fascinating. She is a Brazilian like me and our first contact happened via Twitter, when she found out I was blogging about a BlueGlass event.

Regina Gotthilf, aka “ginafrombrazil”, is 24 years old. Born in Brazil, she has lived in New York for one year now and intends to stay. “It feels more like home than anywhere else I’ve lived, including Portland (OR), Boston (MA) and São Paulo, my hometown”. Gina – she always drops the “Re” in her name – went to Reed College and transferred to Brandeis University, where she studied neuroscience and philosophy, her official major. I could continue introducing Gina, but Chris Winfield does it brilliantly on this post.

So let’s get started with the interview.

How did you end up working at BlueGlass?

I started working for 10e20 from abroad (one of the 4 original companies that merged to form BlueGlass) when one of their employees, who had worked with me before, called me in Brazil to invite me for an interview. At the time I was really unhappy as a social media strategist at Morpheus Media, where they’d promoted the HR guy to Director of Social Media. After a brief conversation with Chris Winfield (on Skype), I knew 10e20 would be a great fit. As usual, he hinted that something great was about to happen… but wouldn’t tell me what.  A few months later, 10e20 became BlueGlass.

How did you develop an interest in social media?

I’m interested in most anything social – specifically in the way different social groups interact and differ. As such, I spent a year working at a neuroscience laboratory upon graduation, studying the neural correlations of social interactions across cultures. At the same time, like most in our industry, I’ve always been passionate about new technologies and developments online. I was severely addicted to ICQ at a very young age, the first of my friends in Brazil to join Facebook, I took an “e-commerce in Second Life” course when that was just beginning, had one of the first fotologs (to share my experience in the U.S. with my friends and family at home), studied the anthropology of digital communities in college, etc.

Social media feels like a perfect conjunction of those interests – it compels me to study behavior online and leverage social interaction for business, all the while staying on the cusp of new platforms and technologies.

How do you address clients’ concerns that people will use social media channels to complain about their products and services?

Social media isn’t a complaint vehicle, it’s a communication vehicle. If your clients and fans have complaints, you’re best off listening to them in order to understand your market and improve your business. Complaints exist whether you have a social media presence or not – closing your eyes and pretending they don’t exist is the worst possible approach.

Is social media marketing suitable for every company? Is there any case that you think it wouldn’t work? For example, would you recommend social media for a b to b company?

Yes absolutely. The only variable is strategy, but the benefits of social media presence are a constant across businesses. I have actually implemented strategy for B2B clients in the past – most everyone is online, including managers, directors, etc. Essentially, marketing to a business entails marketing to the people behind that business – and they’re more than likely on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Even when considering less present demographics, social media can be relevant due to word of mouth – which lives beyond its digital inception.

Even though I am on Facebook every day I have never clicked on an ad. Do you think Facebook ads are a good idea to the companies involved?

Absolutely – you and I work in this industry, thus we’re conditioned to be hypersensitive with regards to banner ads and therefore less likely to click.  Facebook ads are wonderful because they can be managed internally, may be highly targeted and are also socially persuasive in that they may feature friends who are already fans of the advertised page. Naturally, the success rate will vary based on the nature of the product and how well those ads are managed.

What are the best company Facebook pages in your opinion? How do you evaluate the quality of a Facebook page?

It depends on what goals or metrics you’re looking at. Most people pay attention to the size of the community, first and foremost. The obvious answers here would then be Victoria’s Secret, Starbucks and Coca-Cola, who have a huge number of fans both on and offline. But what matters most is what the page admins do with that community – size means influence, but engagement is an equally important metric. In other words, a brand page that gets its Fans talking amongst themselves about products, sharing branded content with others or inviting friends to the community is most successful in my eyes. Consequentially, another metric I view as more important than size is growth rate.

A few of my personal favourites: Louis Vuitton, Red Bull, Coca-Cola, 1-800-flowers, Oreo

How do you measure the success on a Twitter campaign?

It depends on the campaign. Most campaigns aim at spreading awareness, so that can be measured by assessing the number of interactions with the brand over a period of time (@replies and ReTweets).  The more buzz, the more “success.” But that doesn’t stop there – bloggers will sometimes pick up on Twitter activity and expand on a topic, or users may take the conversation elsewhere such as Facebook.

Other campaigns aim at referrals and click-throughs – that can be tracked with different analytics tools or even via URL shortener statistics, such as from bit.ly or ow.ly.

Do you use any tools to check how far a retweet has gone?

We are currently developing our own internal tool at BlueGlass to track some of these metrics, but at the moment I do this manually or with the help of Trackur.

Have you ever had to manage a social media crisis for your clients, like something similar to Brixx Pizza’s case? What would you do if you were running it?

I have helped clients navigate through a few crises and actually wrote an article detailing best practices very recently on the BlueGlass blog. If I had been in charge of the Nestle page earlier this year, I would have responded much more quickly and developed a tab for fans to opine on ways to help the environment. Ideally, I’d use the opportunity to make real life changes… but in reality this is difficult, and so is organizing a huge team to take immediate action.

How do you see social media evolving in the next years?

I’d say that location-based and social shopping technologies will be adopted by a much larger segment of the population. In particular, I think (and hope!) that mobile access to data will become the norm across social-economic segments – and thus “real-time” won’t be a term used exclusively by geeks. Mobile is changing everything, from the way we communicate to our essential necessities. I’d also wishfully predict that brick-and-mortar stores will integrate social media to a much larger extent as social shopping gains recognition.

Simultaneously, I see niche communities developing at a quicker rate. Right now everyone is adopting new ways of interacting and sharing via large channels (like Facebook, Orkut, etc.). But as we advance along the learning curve, the average user will gain a better understanding of what they want or need from these communities, and will thus prefer environments tailored to their own tastes.

In Brazil, the majority of people use Orkut. What do you think will be the future of this platform? If you were working for a Brazilian client, would you recommend them to be on Orkut, Facebook or both?

Though I’m generally a big supporter of most anything that’s associated with Google, Orkut has no chance against Facebook… It’s constantly following in its footsteps in terms of features and its interface is just depressing. As of late, I’ve noticed a sizeable shift here in Brazil – many who were at first reluctant have created Facebook profiles over the last year (2010). Most are using both simultaneously, but I know that once everyone’s friends can be found on Facebook, Orkut use will quickly dissipate.

If I were working with Brazilian clients right now, however, I would certainly recommend that they use both. The brand needs to speak to consumers where they are most comfortable, and currently that may still be Orkut for most here.

What are the most remarkable social media campaigns this year?

Off the top of my head: Old Spice Guy, Bing’s FarmVille integration, Tippex on YouTube, Levi’s Facebook Connect integration, Pepsi Refresh.

You wrote a great article about the Old Spice Guy campaign. Would it be possible for another company to follow their example now or would it be a bad idea as it may be seen as replication?

Nobody has really made an impact by copying a brilliant idea – one of the most important elements of the Old Spice campaign was innovation. However, as Lavoisier stated, nothing is created – matter merely rearranges itself. I believe it is similar with ideas and we can all gain from understanding the principles behind the campaign and recycling that kind of approach to marketing.

You write a lot of posts on the BlueGlass blog and I try to read all of them. How do you get so much inspiration? And how do you find the time to write them?

Developing strategies for clients across a very wide scope of industries and working with very bright and talented digital media strategists at BlueGlass gives me tons of inspiration.

And in order to stay ahead of industry trends and maintain a broad perspective on what others are doing, I too obsessively read industry blogs (with the help of the lovely Google Reader) and follow others who are in the same boat on Twitter. It’s impossible not to have a constant influx of inspiration for new blog posts.

How many people work with you at BlueGlass, and how are the departments divided? Also, are Facebook ads managed by the Social Media or Paid search departments?

We’re growing quickly so it’s hard to keep track from Brazil, but I believe we’re at 32 right now including partners. Our departments: Social Media Marketing (focused on social media platforms), Content Development, Viral Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Blogger Outreach, App Development, Online Reputation Management, and Design. Generally, I walk my clients through Facebook ads best practices and offer regular consultation (from the social media side) but the ultimate goal is to teach their internal team to run Facebook ads so they can stand on their own – whenever they choose to.

Do you have any plans to move back to Brazil?

Not really. In terms of my career, social media here invariably follows in the footsteps of what happens in the U.S., UK or China. On a personal level, I’m not a huge fan of São Paulo and was almost kidnapped a few months ago – an experience which depleted any desire I had of moving back permanently. I do miss the people and the amazing food vary often though, and of course, my family, friends, and awesome dog Julie! If I ever do come back, it will be for my retirement in Bahia.

Follow Gina Gotthilf on Twitter

Check Gina’s Website

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