(Isaac Katz, a Rowan University graduate and Social Marketing Specialist at a Fortune 500 food company/Permission for use granted by Isaac Katz)
Name: Isaac Katz, aka the “Social Strategist Ninja”
Hometown: Cherry Hill, N.J.
College attended: Rowan University
Major studied: Public relations (PR)
Current industry: Consumer packaged goods (CPG) foods
Current place of employment: A Fortune 500 food company
Current job title and department: Social Marketing Specialist, Digital Marketing
Favorite quote: “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein
Fun fact: I’m South Korean and speak Spanish conversationally. I have a very multi-cultural background.
With social media occupations on the rise, many students want to position themselves as an expert in this area to potential employers. But how? With the combination of hard work, dedication, some luck, and a never-give-up attitude all the pieces should fall into place.
Isaac Katz, a social marketing specialist at a Fortune 500 food company and a past member of AJF-PRSSA, graduated from Rowan University in 2012. Although he didn’t always know exactly what he wanted to do, he worked hard and created opportunities for himself. Now, he has one of the coolest and fastest-growing jobs under the marketing communication umbrella.
Katz knows what skills you need to know, how hard you have to work and network, and what it takes to succeed and become the social media marketing ninja (or expert) an employer wants to hire.
Katz generously took time out of his busy schedule to share his view of social strategy and some helpful tips for success.
Q: Could share one of your biggest successes or learning experiences?
A: Realizing that I’m in an on-going process of learning the right questions to ask to better understand the situation at hand. By doing this, it allows me to easily pick apart pieces, put them in place to form a viable solution to a problem. Also, I always try to surround myself with people much smarter than me. The values and the learning experiences I gain through good career mentors definitely fuel my career and successes.
Q: How did you get to where you are now in your career?
A: Experience and networking. I believe we make our own luck, and I believe luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. I made my own opportunities through a lot of heavy networking — by seeking out people who were smarter, better, and more experienced than me and leveraging those contacts. So doing the footwork, gaining as much experience in different industries, and learning as much as possible and about as many different technologies helped me prepare. Then, when an opportunity came my way, I was ready for it.
Q: What is social strategy and do you consider it a niche component of strategic communication or PR?
A: I don’t think it’s a niche component of strategic communication or public relations. I view it as a lens that you can look at things through. Social strategy, to me, is a social science because you have to understand how people work. You need to understand the psychology behind human emotion and behavior, which will help you identify what you need to say to get the reaction you want from people. Social strategy is not about just sheer numbers, dollar signs or being able to tie it back to return on investment (ROI) all the time. Primarily, social strategy is about understanding the human element. If you understand how people work, you can use that understanding to help meet business needs.
Q: Why do you think social strategy (social marketing) is on the rise and in high demand right now?
A: Ever since the late 90s or so, the Internet created a vehicle for communication that enabled people to share knowledge and experiences quicker. Social networks provide people with the ability to span cultural, geographical and language barriers. Today, with social media marketing, we can reach people and convey messages more intimately and effectively than ever before. So, to communicate effectively, you have to go where people are consuming media. And being able to master social media and drive this vehicle is crucial in any marketing, advertising or PR company’s plan.
Q: What does your job involve?
A: My job involves everything from building social strategy to execution of that strategy. I put a lot of my technical skills to use — everything from photography, to graphic design, to writing, and to copywriting and to relationship management. You have to have a working understanding of a lot of elements to understand social and how to positively impact an organization. I can’t be afraid to get my hands dirty, to execute and to be able to see the big picture.
Q: What are your job responsibilities?
A: My number one responsibly is to make sure I’m producing content that is relatable and engaging to our audiences and that the content performs well in terms of the metrics we’re tracking and measuring. I have to crank out content that matches what we’re trying to track — whether that includes getting Facebook shares, “likes” or getting more people to see our content —to ensure we produce the behavior we want from people in order to reach the business need and strategy. My second purpose is to help push cultural change within our organization. In this role, I help education cross-functional team members on the value of social and why we should use it to help the company.
Q: How can students position themselves to get into this type of role before or after graduation?
A: There are a lot of grassroots opportunities in social and digital. You can do consulting work or free internships. My advice would be to go out (even by searching Craigslist), get a job in social, and build your portfolio by starting small and leaving room for experimentation. Additionally, students should stay informed and updated with current trends within the industry. Subscribe to social media publications — such as Adweek, Digiday, SmartBrief — to gain industry insight so you can position yourself as an expert early on in your career.
Q: If students snag a career that involves social, how can they become the Isaac Katz ninja of social strategy or a rock star in this position?
A: I would say you should always have an appetite to learn more. One thing I love about this profession is that it’s always evolving, which keeps me on my toes and pushes me to learn new skills and about new platforms. And people change, too. For instance: what trends our audiences dig changes monthly, daily, and sometimes even hourly. So, we have know the people we’re trying to reach to better understand them. The one thing that I see a lot of college students not doing is getting enough experience. To land any dream job — social or not — you have to put in the footwork during your college and internship experiences, which will ensure you’re ready post graduation.
Q: Would you like to add anything else?
A: Social strategy means understanding the impact of the content you produce and its impact on the rest of the business. For example: how is this Facebook post going to help me achieve this business objective? This is the biggest question marketers will ask you and the biggest one you must know how to answer.
Some people hold misconceptions about Social Media Departments. One misperceptions is that social marketing jobs have a bunch of fresh-out-of-college students toying around on Facebook all day. But, no, there’s a reason and meaning behind what we do.
Overall, while you’re in college, take advantage of your public relations capstones (senior courses) because they taught and ingrained in me the logistics of truly strategic communication. So learn it, know it, be it.