Q&A with Liz Woodward
May 2, 2014
Liz Woodward manages social media for MIT’s Office of the Arts, more fondly known as Arts at MIT. MIT is a very creative place, and Liz manages social media content that highlights the Institute's juxtaposition of science and art. I asked Liz a few questions about her job.
How long have you been managing your department’s social media? What’s one lesson you’ve learned in that time?
I’ve managed our accounts for just over a year. I learned very quickly that social media needs to be social. I want to create personal connections and engage with our followers. This means replying to every tweet/comment, asking lots of questions, and providing content that inspires discussion. Social media should be a conversation, not a one-sided speech.
What is your favorite social network, and why?
Instagram. I love that it allows you to show something, rather than say something. In an age where unsolicited opinions can be easily shared through Facebook and Twitter, it’s refreshing to see a social network built around sharing beautiful moments. Its creative environment is very inspiring.
What is the hardest part of managing social media for your department?
In social media there is constant room for improvement, no matter how great your current work is. There will always be another tweet I could have sent, another platform I could be using, or another story I could have shared. While this challenge is part of why I love my job, it can be easy to take on too much. I had to accept that I can't do everything, no matter how much I might want to. It's more important for us to have fewer well-maintained platforms than it is to have a smaller presence everywhere.
How do you allocate your time for social media?
I have around 15 hours a week solely devoted to social media. At an institution as innovative and creative as MIT, interesting content is not hard to find. I spend most of my time writing our updates. It can be challenging to write an engaging headline in 140 characters, but it’s just as important as the content. If an amazing article is framed poorly, it won’t be successful. I avoid using the phrase “Check out this ______” at all costs. It is my social media pet peeve. There are so many more interesting ways to grab the reader’s attention!
Interaction with our followers takes a lot of time too, but it's one of my favorite parts of the job. I use Tweetdeck to monitor keywords and reply whenever I see an opening. A simple “Thanks” or “Glad you enjoyed it” shows people that they’re valued.
What is a piece of content you published that you’re particularly proud of?
My favorite posts are always ones that highlight the creativity of MIT students. Last summer I developed a series with Anya Ventura called Studio/Lab. We documented the workspaces of students and faculty members who blurred the lines between art and science. The posts were immensely successful. Our followers loved getting a behind-the-scenes look at MIT, and we were able to repurpose the content on Facebook, Twitter, Blog, and Flickr.
Studio/Lab: Media Lab Fabrication Laboratory
Studio/Lab: Lifelong Kindergarten
What part of your job is the most fun?
I love being a window into the unique arts environment we have on campus. The general public tends to associate MIT with science and engineering, unaware that the arts are a huge part of our students’ experiences. The best part of my job is connecting people to our arts programs and getting them involved.