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Social Media Rock Stars: Collegis Education’s Kendall Bird

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Higher education advocate. Social media and communications professional. Self-proclaimed data geek. And movie buff. Just a few of the terms I’d use to describe this month’s Social Media Rock Star: Kendall Bird. I got to know Kendall a bit during her time at the Mall of America earlier in her career. Since then, I’ve worked a bit with her on the MIMA Programming Committee, but by and large, have really just been an observer of her career so far. Let’s hear from Kendall about life in her current role at Collegis Education, how she keeps up with all the changes in social media each week, and what trends she sees emerging in the months ahead.

First, can you tell us a bit more about your current role at Collegis Education?

I am the social media manager at Collegis Education, and report through the Public Relations/Communications department of the company. We collaborate on the majority of work for the company including partner work (for higher education institutions), corporate and internal communications. As Collegis is a newer company to the space, we are very entrepreneurial-minded and work quickly. In my role, I have worked on several strategic social media plans for our partners and manage over 40 social media accounts in addition to managing team members.

You’ve worked in higher education your entire career (so far)–what is it about higher ed that keeps you around and interested after almost six years?

I knew from an early age that I wanted a career that impacted people in a big way – meaning, I didn’t want to be marketing a commercial product (that may just collect dust) to the masses – I wanted to market something that was beneficial to people. Higher education is a service that positively impacts people and I know at the end of the day, I can say that I helped someone to positively change their life. Working in social media for higher education, I see it all. From the moment a prospective student requests initial information about the college, to answering the questions they have about their student experience in the online classroom, to interviewing them at their graduation – it’s all part of the student lifecycle and meeting the student where they are at, so they can have the best experience possible.

Since social ROI is a topic on everyone’s minds, how do you think about ROI at Collegis? What social metrics do you track on a monthly basis and which ones do you really keep a close eye on and why?

Funny you should ask this as I was just the featured presenter for the weekly #SEMrushchat on this topic! Social metrics are evolving rapidly beyond just likes, comments, shares and followers. Ultimately, the goals your organization has is what determines the metrics you should be tracking. A few of my favorites (yes, I am a data geek) include post volume, engagement rate – the measure of likes, comments and shares divided into total posts – and video minutes viewed (we produce a lot of video content at Collegis). 

You’re also an award-winning social media practitioner! What work are you most proud of so far in your career, and why?

There are many points in my career that I am proud of including smaller campaigns like the Instagram giveaway we produced for a partner last summer that resulted in giving away $10 gas gift cards to users who engaged with our partners post(s), to big event/social media planning with Mall of America early on in my career for the Black Friday Snap + Win giveaway, to out-of-the-blue success with a viral video of a nursing graduate at her pinning ceremony that was picked up by the Today Show and Buzzfeed. I’d also add that I am proud of conquering my public speaking fear during my first presentation at PubCon Las Vegas in 2014 (since then I have spoken at several conferences – which, admittedly, I still get nervous for, but am so happy that I go for it!) Life is about experiences and taking chances. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. 

Leading a team at Collegis also probably means you’re viewed as one of the de facto experts in social media within the organization. What do you do to stay up-to-speed with all that’s happening in social media marketing on a weekly basis? So much changes so fast, what tips and tricks do you have to share with folks to help THEM keep up?

Great question! Social media is something I have always had a natural interest in along with human interaction. I am a lover of conversation and listening – I’ll share a quick memory from my childhood that attributes to this and get back to your question. I grew up an only child, and remember my parents (the entertainers they are!) having dinner parties on a regular basis. These dinner parties would be with a few other adult friends of theirs, and over wine and great food, they would discuss their lives and different topics of interest. I was the kid who would beg to stay at the dinner table with them because I loved hearing how they talked to each other, who would speak up, who would make someone laugh, who would bring up a difficult topic and how at the end of the party they had wonderful conversations with those that they invited into their home. Similarly, I still love to be part of these conversations, am an active listener and contributor to conversation and love entertaining others in my home. In regards to your question, I love listening to industry-based podcasts including the Social Pros, Social Media Marketing Talk Show and Do You Follow. I also am an active social media user personally, so I am constantly reading content on both Twitter and LinkedIn for new insight and tips + tricks to the trade. Anything I find of value, I will typically share with my personal networks and also with my team. 

You’re also certified in Google Analytics–do you think that’s a worthwhile endeavor for most folks working in digital marketing? Why or why not?

I am! As I said earlier, I am a data-geek, and Google Analytics is something I, as well as, the broader Collegis team uses on a daily basis. Getting GA certified isn’t a requirement, but it is definitely something worth considering as it helps you to understand the platform (if you haven’t been certified, you will definitely want to study up for this test beforehand) and builds up your resume with a great industry-based credential. Data and analytics are a very important piece of the social media day-to-day and for building strong strategies supported by numbers. 

What do you see as the number-one challenge facing most companies today when it comes to social media marketing?

Interesting question! I’d say time and network management. There are so many social media networks and with each network comes the question from your organization, why aren’t we on X? No matter how hard you work on social media, there are always new products and new tactics to execute on within each social platform, and new platforms demanding your time and attention. 

I see you recently devoted a weekend to watching all the Oscar contenders. OK, let’s have it–which was your favorite and why?

Get Out. It was full of mystery and suspense, and kept me engaged the entire movie. I was so happy to hear when it was nominated this year and loved that Jordan Peele, who was known more so for comedy, was behind it. If you haven’t seen this movie yet – I highly recommend it! 

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Social Media Rock Stars: Collegis Education’s Kendall Bird

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