Kristen Record Heptinstall (@kristenheptin) is Senior Producer for Social Media and Community at al.com, executive director of the Alabama Social Media Association (ALSOCME), and she blogs at southernwebgirl.blogspot.com. So when it comes to social media, this girl knows her stuff. Lucky for us, she’ll be sharing her web wisdom with us on April 28 at See Jane Tweet. Read on to learn more about Heptinstall and the power of social media.
What you do as senior producer at AL.com?
What the editorial team does here at al.com is different on a day-to-day basis. Our main job is keeping the website running smoothly. But here over the past few years, a few new things have popped up for us: search engine optimization, community engagement, and social media among those. I head up our community engagement and social media efforts. Community engagement is more of an internal thing — we want to keep conversation going on al.com, have our journalists engage in the comments, and make it a place to be. Social media is more of an external thing, in which we engage with users and share content outside of al.com .We have several accounts on Facebook and Twitter that we’re always looking to improve and optimize based on changes to the social networks. We also work to place content on social bookmarking sites, and we’re always looking at new ways of sharing our content socially.
How do social media tools help you perform your job more effectively and efficiently?
I adore Twitter. I love knowing what stories folks are sharing in the Twitterverse, and oftentimes we’re tipped off to a breaking news event via Twitter. As long as you know how to use the right social media management tool, I think you can make social media work for you, and not against you.
Why do you think so many media outlets have, in the past, been resistant to using tools like Twitter?
I’ve dealt with this in two ways. Sometimes, upper management decides that it would be cool for everyone to participate, then you have to get buy-in at the lower levels, with all sorts of variation in skill levels, and mixed results. Other times– and this situation is more common — those at the lower level are enthusiastic and more than willing to participate in social media for their media outlet, but upper management doesn’t see it as a useful way to spend working time. At this point, if your media outlet isn’t actively taking part in social media — to say you’re missing out is an understatement. And when I say actively, I mean participating and engaging — not just setting up a feed of your content and walking away.
Tell us more about your role as executive director of ALSOCME.
As executive director, I see myself as closely tied to our events. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes with our five board members and their committees in reaching out to other organizations, managing our finances, procuring speakers and venues, planning for our annual conference, and managing our social media and technology needs. I work with everyone, but my main objective is that our events run smoothly and the board and our attendees are happy.
How did you get involved with this group?
I was approached by who would become future board members back in January of this year, and once I agreed to get involved, they appointed me their executive director — much to my surprise! Once our board was set, we worked very hard to get our organization launched and our first events lined up and ready to go. I’m not usually one for the limelight, but I’ve realized that I do have time and talent to give. I’ve volunteered in other capacities — for example, I’ve been a volunteer for my sorority for several years — but this is the first organization here in Birmingham that has called upon me to give my time, and I couldn’t be happier to serve. I consider all of our board members to be friends and mentors to me.
How did you get interested in social media?
It’s kind of embarrassing, but I suppose it all started when I was a teenager. I built websites on Geocities. In college, while studying journalism, I had a Livejournal (just like Mark Zuckerberg!) and posted on greekchat.com, for sorority and fraternity members. It was through my Greekchat friends that I found out about Facebook, and signed up to be on the waiting list during my senior year of college. I ended up being the 4th person to sign up on Facebook at the University of Alabama, and I haven’t looked back since. I joined Twitter in 2008, and started training journalists how to use it in 2009. It’s been quite a ride.