Things Just Got Social: Q&A with Melanie Cohn

Social takes on a whole new meaning in the form of Melanie Cohn, a Digital Media Supervisor at GY&K Antler Agency in Boston, MA. mel cohn

Not only does Melanie work for some cool clients like Wagamama, Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce, Moxie soda and Boston Harbor Cruises, but she also has a pretty impressive side job. She’s the founder of Young Women in Digital (YWD), a networking organization that connects female professionals who are interested in social media and online marketing.

A graduate of  University of Colorado at Boulder, Melanie worked as Marketing Manager of Online Social Media at SmartClick AdWorks, a marketing agency in Salt Lake City, and as a Project Manager at Mom Central Consulting, a firm which connects “Mommy Bloggers” and other socially influential mothers with products, before making the long journey to Boston in 2012. These two jobs have given Melanie insight into the different facets of digital marketing.

Now, at Antler, Melanie manages the online communities for her clients, creates strong blogger relationships and focuses on digital strategy.

Let’s check out what Melanie has to say about her work:

L: When did you first become interested in digital marketing and social media?

M: It all started when I was in college and I interned at Filtrbox, a company now owned by Jive Software. Filtrbox was ahead of the game at the time (2010), and was one of the first social media monitoring platforms to listen to conversations across social media, blogs and news sites. Their biggest competitor was Radian 6. I was living in Boulder, CO where the start-up tech scene was beginning to boom, and this was my first taste of the industry. I interned amongst tech-savvy entrepreneurs and really started to see that brands were making engaging online conversations with their customers a true priority. From there, I got my first job at an online marketing company where I was immediately responsible for the social media channels for large national brands, including Fresh Product Clothing, a 50 million dollar woman’s clothing brand.

L: That sounds amazing! So, how does Young Women in Digital fit into the picture?  Where did you find the inspiration to start this organization? 

M: I was involved in a young professionals group in Denver, CO before I moved to Boston. This group really opened my eyes to all the great networking opportunities and learning you can get by meeting other likeminded people at fun, fresh events. When I arrived in Boston, I didn’t know very many people in the industry, and wasn’t meeting people at events that I kept in touch with, or felt a true connection with. That’s when I knew I had to stop complaining about it and take it into my own hands. I asked two girls I knew if they wanted to start YWD with me, and they loved the idea! I seeded the idea to other young women I met and always had great feedback, so I took the leap. For me, it was a group that I could shape to have all the attributes I felt other groups were missing, and that young professionals wanted. I was able to carve out a niche for other young women like me.

L: After you thought of the idea, how did you get Young Women in Digital off the ground? 

M: I teamed up with a few people to help me start the group and then I made sure to lay the brand groundwork before launching. I asked my friend who works in graphic design to come up with a logo for our group, and a general look & feel so that we had a real brand identity from the start. I named the group (which was hard to come up with!), created our social assets– a Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn group– and then launched an Eventbrite for the first event, that led people to all of those channels. With our personal channels, we put the word out, and people started buzzing about it. Within a few weeks, we had 30 sign ups for our first event!

L: How did you assemble the Young Women in Digital team, and what are you looking for in other women interested in being a part of this experience? 

M: I’ve assembled the group in a very organic way. YWDs that come to my events have introduced themselves to me and shown interest in helping, offering their services and skills typically over a cup of coffee! I love when people are really excited about the group and ask to meet with me to see how they can help. I’m looking for women that have new ideas, can help us develop the group further and grow our brand recognition so more YWDs in Boston know about us. Since it is a volunteer opportunity, people must be willing to dedicate time to this outside of work. We’re also looking for contributors to our blog as well, so women that are thought leaders and have a solid understanding of trends in marketing, are great assets to help us become an online and offline destination for marketers in Boston.

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L: What is the best way a woman can take advantage of all of Young Women in Digital’s networking opportunities?  Do you have any networking tips for aspiring digital marketers?

M: The best way is to sign up for our newsletter and becoming an official member! Our members get first access to all of our events, blog posts, jobs and more. You can also follow us on our FacebookTwitterand LinkedIn accounts to find out about the latest events! In terms of networking, I think follow-through is really important. If you take the time to go to an event, seek people out who you connect with and get their information. Then, ping them to grab coffee with you so you can learn more and begin a deeper relationship. I’ve learned so much about other women’s roles, skills I should be learning, and unique opportunities over a cup of coffee.

L: How do you balance a full-time job while still managing a networking organization like Young Women in Digital?

M: It’s definitely not easy! I typically dedicate Sunday’s to organizing YWD. I’ll promote our upcoming events, craft email newsletters, manage our blog editorial calendar and handle details of event planning. I also have weekly meetings with members of YWD to discuss anything and everything YWD! Being a morning person is one of my best assets, as I typically meet people at 8am before work and get a ton of things done. Wake up one hour early—it’s amazing what you can do with that time.

L: What’s the most rewarding part of working on Young Women in Digital?  What about GY&K Antler?

M: I love meeting other likeminded women and inspiring and empowering them to be the best they can be at their jobs. We’ve even landed a few people jobs directly from our events—which is so rewarding. It’s also rewarding to provide an outlet for YWDs to share and swap stories, and bounce creative ideas off each other to get a new perspective. When people tell me that they’ve learned a new skill, or made a new friend, or launched a unique campaign at work with more success because of one of our events, it makes it all worth it. The most rewarding aspect of GYKAntler is being able to push our client’s further on social media and spark interesting conversations through creative content, campaigns and strategy that elevate our clients to the next level. I love seeing a campaign through to execution, then measuring the tangible results, which makes it completely worth it.

L: What’s a typical day like working at Antler?  What clients do you work on?
M: The best thing about working at GYKAntler is that there is no typical day. Each day is different depending on the projects or campaigns we’re working on. One day I could be doing a report on our social media performance, while the next I could be launching an integrated campaign, and the next I may be at a client pitch meeting sharing our creative concept. I work on consumer brands such as wagamama, Boston Harbor Cruises, United Bank, Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce and Moxie Soda and make sure to engage and inspire our audience.

L: Why is it important for brands to embrace social media?

M: Social media is no longer a “new” medium, and every brand should have a strategic presence on the channels that make sense for them, based on their goals. Marketing has seen a huge shift from one way messaging, to a more consumer-centric approach, where brands need to be having meaningful dialogue with their advocates when and where their audience is ready—on their phones, on social media and on the favorite blogs. Brands have a great opportunity to organically integrate into these conversations and make themselves valuable to their customers and their unique needs.

L: Where do you see Young Women in Digital in 5 years?

M: I would love to expand YWD to other cities around the country, and eventually have other offshoots of our brand—such as young women in tech, young women in coding, etc.But that’s a far away dream! For now, I’d love to grow our Boston group and replicate this model in other cities to inspire young people across the country.

L: What advice do you have for young women aspiring to work in social media and digital marketing?

M: My advice would be to take advantage of all of the opportunities you have. If you have an internship, don’t simply go in each day and just do what’s asked of you. Go above and beyond, create projects for yourself, find holes in the company and offer ways to fix those, find a local start-up that you can make a big impact in and offer your services. Expand your skill sets so you can offer a company something other graduates may not have. There are great classes from General Assembly, Intelligent.ly and Skillshare for this. Be aggressive, and don’t be afraid to talk to people in the industry to get their advice—find a mentor and keep in touch with them!

Melanie has a really interesting story, and her insights were really smart and helpful!
To stay up-to-date with what she’s doing, follow her at @SocialMel!
Become a member of Young Women in Digital here!