Need for Feeds: Social media buff carving out digital career

Rommel Wood ’07 managed to graduate from high school without owning a mobile phone. She was one of the last of her friends to get one in college.

Rommel Wood '07 works in social media marketing.

Rommel Wood '07 works in social media marketing.

Today she’s on the cutting edge of technology in a field best described as social media marketing.

Wood spends a good portion of her work days logged on to Facebook and Twitter, but you can be sure she’s not tending a virtual farm or sounding off on the day’s “trending topics.”

Wood is a social media planner and what she does online — working with various companies on their digital image — is strictly business. Her employer, GyroHSR, is a primarily business-to-business marketing agency specializing in Web 2.0 strategies.

“I’m looking for something that is a predictor: ‘OK, I see a lot of people are updating from their phones, maybe I should get that app and see what it’s all about,’” explains Wood, who got her start as the social media eyes and ears of the Showtime cable network. “People are using this for a reason. How can I connect that app to a brand that is trying to get its message out in a unique way?”

Social media has changed the way people — lots of people — live, learn and work in a relatively small period of time, says Dr. Ulises Mejias, assistant professor of communication studies.

“Before, perhaps, it used to be thought of as the domain of young people,” he says. “It’s really become a much more general social phenomenon.”

“It’s a revolution that’s here to stay,” says Mejias, whose “Introduction to New Media” course debuted this semester.

Touting millions of users and making just as many headlines, Facebook and Twitter have emerged as the most visible social networking services. But, there are many others out there, says Wood.

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Essentially, they are all platforms that allow people to share cool stuff — either content or thoughts — with other people, like friends, family, fellow fans of said stuff and even professional peers. It’s also becoming a great marketing tool.

“Social media’s kind of a question mark right now and people are still skeptical,” Wood says. “I think it’s really important that brands start using this space with more purpose.

“Clients are curious and they want to know what best practices are,” she adds.

The Oswego communication studies major broke into the social media niche with Showtime, where she used blogs and other digital spaces to collect fan feedback about the premium cable channel’s shows. She also maintained more than a dozen Facebook pages and Twitter feeds for the network.

It sparked a personal obsession of sorts with being connected, she said. Today the girl who was a “late adopter” of mobile technology now monitors her iPhone constantly.

“It’s that weird kind of tribal need to know what’s going on,” Wood explains. “I think it’s become an occupational hazard.”

But maintaining her own online presence and embracing new technology has helped further her young career.

“It’s all about knowing how to use it,” says Wood. For example, she uses Twitter — a micro-blogging service that allows you to share links and thoughts in 140 characters or less — and sites like Tumblr — an emerging site that allows users to share various pages they find interesting with others — as listening tools.

“I’m passionate about a lot of things, this lets me [connect with them],” says Wood. “I love to absorb information, I love researching things and understanding why and how. I always have to know a little bit more.”

For consumers, that means staying closer to and knowing more about their favorite brands. With Facebook fan pages becoming a given in any marketing strategy, Wood finds ways to make the most effective use of them and the numerous other tools constantly coming on line.

“Mobile and iPad technology are huge points of interest for marketers right now,” says Wood. It’s the ubiquity of such technology that is blurring the line between digital and traditional marketing.

“I’m proud of my field,” she says. “I want to make a name for myself in this field. I want to be a pioneer.”

— Shane M. Liebler

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