5 Questions on Social Media Management for Caleb Garling (formerly of WIRED)

The tech journalist and startup founder talks trends in social branding.

caleb garlingFor today’s “5 Questions,” we spoke to Caleb Garling, a freelance journalist who has both covered the tech/startup world for WIRED and The San Francisco Chronicle and played a role within it.

While he’s a veteran of several startups, Post.As is the first one he founded himself — and today we spoke to him about trends in social media management for brands that led him to launch it.

(Garling is an experienced social media manager himself; he previously ran the official WIRED account, which now has 4.24 million followers.)

1. What’s the biggest current challenge for digital/social media brand teams?

It’s fresh content. Media companies have the luxury of articles to keep their Facebook/Twitter feeds active, but since brands are about very specific products, marketers are tasked with coming up with new and interesting ways to keep people engaged.

But you can’t share the same link or make the same joke over and over, or people will tune you out. So much of social is predicated on being “fresh.”

A news outlet has to think of new stories and fresh perspectives; only so many people can report on the NYT and Facebook working together.

Brands, on the other hand, want to toe a line of staying relevant in the conversation while keeping the respectful distance that a for-profit company needs to take.

(Here’s an example of a tweet powered by Post.As)

2. What led you to launch Post.As?

The real impetus was being bored with tweets and status updates.

Here’s a concrete example: I’m in a band, and we wanted fresh stuff to share with people other than “Hey come to our show!” We thought the ability to share a collage of pics or a YouTube video with a fun essay — mixing and mashing content — would be more engaging than saying “here’s another YouTube link.”

I also regularly visited the food trucks in San Francisco and thought, “These giuys are event-driven too, and they need to stay in people’s minds.” So what if there’s a richer way to do that than with a simple tweet?

3. Can you think of examples of brands that do social media management right?

Southwest Airlines runs a Meerkat channel from its baggage claim. Not the most glamorous thing, but it’s like “this is an inside look at how we do what we do.”

Charmin also does a good job by acknowledging what they are — that sort of honesty resonates with people, and they inject a flare of personality into all of it.

If you’re a brand that can prove you’re human, that sticks in people’s minds much more than the robots.

4. What’s the most important skill for social media managers?

To me, its just “be real.”

There’s a very innate ability in every human to sniff out things that are fake, and if you’re not real you become someone screaming “advertising!”

That may drive a certain amount of sales, but you never gain a holistic foothold in terms of being something people identify with. At the end of the day, brands have people behind them.

5. What shape will digital/social media take in the future? Is the website a thing of the past? Is it even useful to speculate?!

Everyone has their own speculation.

The web is still so young that the idea that Facebook will gobble up media may be true for a short time, but people will find a way to get their material out.

We want Post.As to be a platform that gets content out there elsewhere, because the Web in general is not a useful tool if you can’t access it outside your walled garden. In terms of homepages and even Facebook pages, I don’t think they’re different from a brick and mortar store: you’re asking people to go out of their way to shop.

If you can be there in the flow of what people do naturally on the web, you will be able to better engage them and have success than if you’re a blinking light in the corner saying “Hey, come over here!”

People confuse driving traffic with driving sales. But if you see the entire Web as your homepage, you will drive more sales.

Here are examples of Post.As used to promote a blog post, a concert, and a film screening.