At some point between Facebook winning Barack Obama the election and Twitter leading a revolution in Iran, corporations began to realize that there might be something for them in this whole social media thing. After first turning to their kids and interns for advice, executives began to look for a more structured and professional approach to developing a social media strategy. And Julia Roy and Undercurrent were there to serve them.
"Every company needs to be aware of the social space and the opportunities that exist there."
"Undercurrent is a digital think tank and advisor to global brands," the 26-year-old Roy tells Gelf. Its real function is professionalizing the social media experience, so that companies used to dealing with advertising agencies and management consultants, can begin to grasp what people are really saying about their brands and what it means to poke someone.
In the following interview, which was conducted via email and has been edited for clarity, Roy tells Gelf about what brands most often get wrong about social media, what it's like to work with big, slow companies, and her reaction to being named one of the 10 hottest girls on Twitter.
Gelf Magazine: How does one go about becoming a social strategist and digital influencer?
Julia Roy: Spending most of the day and night glued to the computer testing new apps, experiences, communities and trends; then sharing those experiences and insights with (at first) anyone who is willing to listen. It is like asking someone how they go about becoming a historian, teacher or mathematician. Just like anything else it takes hard work, determination and a lot of studying, practicing, asking questions and challenging the status quo. The only difference here is there is no established curriculum to guide you. The desire to become a social/digital thinker and influencer must come from a clear understanding of the digital landscape as it exists today and how you expect it to develop in the future.
Julia Roy: Most brands think it is simply another marketing tool. They think it is another place to feed their product and promotions. But it is so much more than that and they will only get so far treating social media outlets as an extension of their marketing/advertising efforts.
Gelf Magazine: How do you advise people in a field that changes literally every day?
Julia Roy: I suggest the best community and tools that will reach a brands desired goals and always keep brand teams up-to-date on the latest developments and insights that might be valuable to them. It is definitely a challenge, as brands are always hesitant to try something new that has not been tested or proved by another brand, but if the community and tool seems like a great opportunity for the brand, you can usually convince them to take a leap and be an innovator in the social space by trying new things that have yet to be explored by their competitors.
Gelf Magazine: What's an example of social media brand extension gone awry?
Julia Roy: Most recently I think about the AMP "Score" iPhone application which they ended up removing due to media and consumer backlash. It was an application that promised to help men "score" with two dozen stereotypes of women by giving users pickup lines and a scoreboard to keep track of their conquests. They meant for it to be tongue in cheek, but it was a huge disaster.
Gelf Magazine: What was your role in the beginnings of Undercurrent?
Julia Roy: I was their first hire and was responsible for activating social profiles and communities on behalf of the brand.
Gelf Magazine: Why did you move on?
Julia Roy: I believe social media activation should come from brands, not their agencies. Social media builds communities and the owners of those relationships should be the internal brand team at the companies.
Gelf Magazine: Does every company need to have a social media component? Aren't some things best kept away from Facebook?
Julia Roy: Every company needs to be aware of the social space and the opportunities that exist there. At the very least, every company should be listening by using monitoring tools like Radian 6 to keep up on what is being said and who their largest supporters and haters are.
Gelf Magazine: You've been named by the Huffington Post as one of the 10 hottest Twitterers. How do you feel about being labeled "Twitter hot?"
Julia Roy: It's fun. There are plenty of women on Twitter who have sexy or hot Twitter avatar pictures, but that list I think was more about calling out a select group of women who are making moves and capturing the attention of a large audience, who also happen to be attractive.