So What Do You Do Exactly? Social Strategy Edition

Welcome back to my jobs series, So What Do You Do Exactly?  Today’s guest, Ambika, is social strategist at the big NYC advertising agency BBH. She works on megabrands (rhymes with “schmoogle”), up-and-coming products, and non-profits to help them design and execute a 21st century strategy for connecting with their consumers.

What’s your actual job title? Social Media Strategist.

What would your job title be if it actually described what you do? Brand planner, helping brands find their most articulate, clever, effective digital and social selves.

What does a sample day look like? Since my job is to be well versed on all things social, I spend my mornings perusing Facebook and Twitter. I follow a ton of great digital guru sites (Mashable, PSFK, TechCrunch, Gawker, College Humor, BuzzFeed) that keep me in the know. I spend a good amount of time reading.

I am the only specialized social media strategist at my agency, so I get pulled into a lot of different projects. At the moment I’m working on two alcohol brands, a big non-profit, a personal care brand, a new business pitch for an e-commerce company, and some general thinking on how to make our agency more digital/social. Phew – I guess I never usually list it all out! I love that I’m empowered to think strategically and creatively and that my opinion is as valued as anyone else’s (despite my young age!).

In terms of actual work, I spend a lot of time prepping ideas for creative development, learning about target markets and their digital/social behaviors, adding texture to creative ideas, and mulling over word choice. Geek attack!

Do you think data drives the world forward these days? Totally. I’m a data girl by nature and planning puffery kills me. BBH is a traditional, creative ad shop, which means in the past, beautiful, qualitative insights have been tantamount (versus starting a process using data points). Think back for a second – did Don Draper or Peggy Olsen ever use syndicated survey data? Nottt really. But as the advertising industry shifts from serving solely a creative function to more of a consultative function, being able to validate initiatives and efforts is becoming increasingly important.

I always use qualitative research–consumer truths, behaviors, trends–at the beginning of my projects.  But on the back end, especially with social initiatives, quantitative results are absolutely necessary. Social is so new as a creative avenue that sometimes people simply don’t understand the ROI [return on investment]. Data is crucial in showing them that social is big.

You’re uber creative/artistic, how do you find the creative space in the work that you do? I am so lucky that my role at BBH is wonderfully creative. I’m always being challenged to come up with new ideas. People are evolving rapidly and changing everyday (especially on social!), and there are so many amazing ways that a brand can talk to them.

Strategists are often known for their way with words. And as a writer, this is totally up my alley. I find myself approaching client presentations in the same way I approach personal writing. I always aim to use beautiful, articulate, and succinct language. This, to me, is one of the truest exercises in creativity!

What does “brand management” mean? How does it apply to the average person? Do have a brand I need to manage? Absolutely. And interestingly enough, this is a very current, very emerging trend as of late.

To fill you in on a hilarious truth, I just finished writing a social media strategy for an individual. It was such an eye-opening exercise. I sat down and had him tell me his life story. What he loved, what his childhood was like, who his parents were, how he ended up where he was. It was totally and utterly fascinating (he’s a seriously interesting man in the process of launching a new brand – pretty badass). My job from there was to figure out how to express all of his brilliance/eccentricities through social media. It was actually really fun.
There’s a really interesting division emerging between one’s offline and online identities. People are very vocal (and mocking) when they feel that your online self is super hyperbolized. To best manage your brand, think through who makes you you – what do you talk about after a few glasses of wine. What do you really love? What’s your true voice? And embrace it, girlfriend! [Ambika has written on this very subject at her blog.]
Is advertising just manipulation in pretty colors, or is it helping people find what they need? Or both? Advertising just has a bad rap, plain and simple. All of the advertising I’ve done in my life has been based on some human truth.
At my last job, as a Customer Intelligence gal, we used a lot of data. This made for a really unique offering, and gave us hard, fast numbers to support everything we put on the table. Although my role now is not rooted in data, we still use numbers/insights/trends to confirm what we’re thinking. Being smart about your advertising is table stakes these days. If you can’t show that it’ll work (and how you landed up where you did), no one’s going to buy it!
I have never sent something out the door before giving it a conscience check, and I take a lot of pride in that.
In this day and age we all share so much info, are we making it too easy to be tricked? Or are we making it easy for companies to find exactly the right products for us? We’re making it easier define ourselves, and helping the world serve us content that we’ll love. Social media has helped people discover different sides of themselves. It has helped us refund who we are, figure out what’s most important to us, and serve that version of ourselves up to the world. This is really powerful! This is how some of the smartest people in the world, who happen to be super introverted too, build their chops!
And when people are open about who they are and the things they love, the web makes it easier for them to find what they’re looking for. Take Google’s social search for instance – it can be a little scary to see articles/posts/content suggested by friends when you search in Google. How does Google know this is your friend? Why does it matter who your friends are? You just want a damn recipe! But, wouldn’t you rather use a recipe that’s been used and approved by someone you trust?
Privacy can be a scary issue, but being open on the web only makes your experience better. I may be a Google Chrome nerd, but the web really is what you make of it. 
To read more about Ambika and her social strategy brilliance, check out her blog Whole Creativity and follow her on Twitter/Instagram (@ambika_g). And, for those of you who want to really dig in, Ambika would love to hear from you, so shoot her a note at ambika dot gautam @
Related Post: So What Do You Do Exactly? Social Work Edition.
Related Post: So What Do You Do Exactly? Photography Edition.
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Filed under Advertising, Art, Guest Posts, Media

4 responses to “So What Do You Do Exactly? Social Strategy Edition

  1. AG

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    A quick look into the life of (me!) a Social Media Strategist.

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