Interview with Zach Church
February 6, 2015
As associate director of news, Zach Church manages news and content for the MIT Sloan School of Management. He also oversees social media management and strategy, so I asked him about his experiences with social media, how he reports on analytics, and how he has changed the way he manages content.
What is your favorite social network and why?
At work, Twitter. We’re a knowledge business and Twitter remains the best place to exchange information and ideas. You can potentially share with or learn from most of the people in the world who have access to the Internet. Any institution with an educational mission has to be excited about that.
At home, Instagram. I like that Instagram asks people to share a true moment from their lives. I like that I get to see what my friends see in real time. And the tenor of discourse there leans positive. As a social media manager, it’s tough because it requires a lot more work to take and upload good shots. For MIT Sloan—and we use it sporadically—I’d like to find a way to crowdsource it. You’re going to need more than one person and a phone to really tell an organization’s story in pictures, as the U.S. Department of the Interior has shown. I’m interested in Snapchat for the same reasons.
How do you report on your analytics? What kinds of metrics do you include in your reports?
Impressions. How many people are we reaching, and can we find a way to reach more? I also track impressions per post and engagement rate, both of which help me determine if people are gaining something from what we’re sharing and if I’m balancing my focus between networks properly. You don’t need to dive too deep to see what topics, content types, and voices people are responding to. The bosses get a quarterly spreadsheet with these basic stats by network. I set myself some modest goals, too. Everything is done from downloadable reports from the networks or by hand (LinkedIn), and put in a Google Docs spreadsheet. I have a quarterly sheet for each network that details analytics for individual posts, an overview for each network, and an overview for all networks together.
When you meet with your team about the quarterly report, what do you discuss?
What we’re trying to figure out right now is how we should be using—and if we should be using—each social network. We’re looking at how many people engage with us, when they do it, how they do it, and how we can best use our resources. You could spend all day working with all the new social networks, but some are going to help you meet your goals better than others.
Have you changed the way you do things? Why did you make the change, and what benefit did you see?
I can’t believe there was ever a time I didn’t schedule posts. Twitter, especially, is like this yawning mouth that just keeps opening and opening and is never going to close. It demands content and it’s impossible to keep up in real time. Scheduling is also a good opportunity to double-check your links, mentions, and spelling. I use a Hootsuite Pro account to schedule, but there are a few other options out there, like Sprout Social, and sometimes the social networks themselves. Now I can concentrate and plan better, which means MIT Sloan’s social activity is better thought-out and the 70 percent of my job that isn’t social media is a lot easier to focus on.