Friday, December 7, 2012

Blogging and More with Jill Hamilton from Macy's

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Jill Hamilton (GSAS '05) manages social media for Macy's and started the Macy's blog, MBlog. We had the chance to sit and chat with Jill about her experience in the journalism program, her job, and what it was like to manage social media during Hurricane Sandy. Jill also gives tips on starting your own company blog!

NYU Arts & Science Alumni Relations: Are there any specific lessons you learned at NYU that have really stuck with you throughout your career? Jill Hamilton:

I remember, we had an assignment—it’s actually a funny story. There was a bar on the NYU campus that was closing called “The Bottom Line.” It was a very, very famous bar where Bruce Springsteen and other famous people performed. The assignment was to go and interview people—owners, waitresses, anybody you could, to get information on why it was closing. It was one of our first assignments, and I was so shy. I was so nervous that I didn’t talk to anybody. I remember I took my boyfriend at the time and he was like, “you’re supposed to interview people, you’re supposed to interview people!” but I was just too shy. And I actually learned pretty quickly that I was too shy to be a journalist, and maybe that wasn’t the right thing for me. So it’s funny how it all worked out.  

Could you talk a little about what you do for Macy’s now?

I manage basically all of the editorial content, which is marketing and messaging, across all the digital channels. So that’s MBlog, which is my baby. Also Tumblr, Instagram, it’s a really busy time of year right now for Instagram and Tumblr, and those things really resonate with our target audience. And also Facebook and Twitter. It’s interesting because we’re always doing workshops and learning about what’s the most effective strategy and tone of voice and stuff like that.  

So did you start the MBlog? 

I did. I was brought on board to launch MBlog last October [2011], so it’s just over a year old, and it’s a lot of content. It’s interesting because I went to NYU for magazine journalism, but now everything is kind of all about blogging, blogging, blogging. And we have so many categories and writers to manage—it’s just such a huge amount of content, but it’s a lot of fun .  

That’s really cool. Could you talk about how you first got subscribers and how you got your content out when MBlog started—how was it promoted?

Well one of the biggest things was that we had a blogger in place already whose work was up on Macys.com, and it was very popular. She is very good at what she does, so she got brought into MBlog. And one of the great things we did was giveaways and discounts, since we’re retail. Contests and giveaways are always really effective tools for us to increase readership. And of course Facebook and Twitter.

How do you measure readers? Is it based on subscribers or comments or likes?

That’s a really good question. We have back-end analysis that comes to us every week. We’ll get a huge rundown on unique page views and sessions, how many people have viewed each blog or gone from one blog to another blog. Of course the landing page is always the most popular.  

Does Macy’s have a special social media strategy during the holidays?

Just to stay alive! It’s so much content, and going to work literally inside Macy’s during the holidays is pretty crazy, just to get into the office. I think the big challenge in terms of strategy during the holidays is getting all of the sale messaging across, but remaining true to what the company is about—which is, it sounds hokey, but it’s really about the spirit of Christmas and all the holidays. The people who run the company really care about the customers. It’s very homey and family-oriented.  

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Did you do anything special for Hurricane Sandy?

Yes, we teamed up with the American Red Cross to do a donation. It’s a really interesting question, because I think we were all expecting Sandy to come, but I don’t think we all thought, as a city, that it was going to make the impact that it did. We had to really quickly get messaging approved by our media relations team before we could put it up on Facebook, Twitter, the blog, and everywhere, and make sure that the copy was consistent across channels. We were very anxious to get the blog up, or the Tweet up as soon as possible, but you also have to work with everyone and be patient. Then you get your message out once it’s approved by everybody.  



What was the message? 

Just about giving donations to the Red Cross, mostly.  

Is it difficult to manage all of the different writers you have for MBlog?

 I don’t do it alone. I have some great help that I’m very thankful for. But I still do all of the outreach to our writers and I concept all of their assignments. Sometimes I’ll have to say, “oh, you’re a little late on turning in your piece.” But for the most part, they’re all great to work with. It’s definitely challenging, but it’s fun. Sometimes they pitch story ideas too, so we try to work that into our schedule. But other things are also done on a need basis. So if there is a particular line of pots and pans that we’re trying to sell, we’ll promote that. I try not to be too “direct-selly” though. I like to keep it editorial.

 Do you know how the blog has benefited Macy’s? Is it mostly PR or have you seen any increase in sales?

Yes, it has certainly helped sales. But I think the number one thing that it does for Macy’s is, it increases a sense of community. We really have a lot of people who follow the blog and come back every Wednesday, which is our "Home" day. If they’re foodies then they’ll come back every Wednesday because we post something about the home. Fashion on Mondays is definitely a very popular category too. And so it builds a sense of community. It goes back to what I was saying before about how it's a company that cares that there is a sense of family. It’s cute.  

What works best to engage your customers on social media, if that is one of your goals?

Yes, it’s definitely a big thing. We are always trying to facilitate interaction. Asking questions is big. We’ll put things on Instagram with our fashion buyers where we’ll have maybe two pairs of jeans for the winter, and we’ll ask our followers which one should our buyer order. And we’ll literally let the people on instagram decide. We’ll tally up the votes. And it’s cool because people feel like they’re involved, and they are to a pretty big extent. Any kind of contest also really, really promotes engagement.  

Pickles.pngDo you have a personal blog?

Lets see, I have a Tumblr blog for my puppy named Pickles. It’s basically just a lot of little pictures of Pickles. Personally, though, I do not blog.

Do you find it difficult to separate your personal social media from work?

Yes, that’s actually a really good question. I’ve spoken about this with other people in marketing at Macy’s. Sometimes you get so involved in a project you’re working on—for instance this Fall we have a Nicole Richie collection exclusively at Macy’s that we launched. We had some great videos on Youtube that were housed on MBlog, and I had been working so closely on these videos and on this project that when they came out, I was Tweeting them and putting them on Facebook, on my personal pages. At the end of the campaign I remember looking at my Facebook page and saying that it looks like a Macy’s ad. I had to remind myself to tone it down a bit. I know I’m excited about the messaging we have, but my friends from high school are not so excited about it.  

Do you have any pointers for other alumni who might be interested in starting a blog for their company or employer?

My first advice would be to do it. It’s definitely a great idea. A lot of blogs are skyrocketing right now, its sort of like the new model, at least in fashion they are. Some of them just have amazing followings. So if it’s something you’re really thinking about, I would say do it. I would say it’s also important to define your voice before you start blogging away. From blog number one to blog number five-hundred, that tone of voice has to be consistent, and you need to know what kind of messaging you’re trying to relay across the board. You don’t want to be a party girl one day and then be a serious executive the next. You need to have the same tone of voice consistently.  

Do you have anything else you’d like to ad about what you do for Macy’s or about your time at NYU?

I really loved NYU. One thing about NYU that I remember was, I was finishing my Master’s part-time while I was also a fashion editor, and I remember thinking, “oh I’ll never be able to finish this,” but the school was very accommodating to the fact that I had a full-time job. I wasn’t able to leave the office until six or seven, and then had to go make it to an evening class, and I just remember NYU being so wonderful about that. If anyone is interested in getting another degree at NYU while still working, I would definitely encourage it.

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