HUBgrown Q&A: Melanie Cohn, Dunkin’ Donuts

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Managing social media for a major consumer brand while running a popular networking group and teaching evening classes would make most go-getters to feel overwhelmed. But Newton, MA-native Melanie Cohn makes her demanding schedule look easy. We recently sat down with Melanie to discuss social media strategy, the Boston business community and her role at Dunkin’ Donuts.

HB Agency: What led you to your current role as Social Media Marketing Manager at Dunkin’ Donuts?

Melanie Cohn: I’ve always worked at an agency so there was a big part of me that was curious about the other side. When you’re on the agency side you can only know so much about a brand. From my experience I felt like I could never fully own a brand presence inside and out. I wanted to know what it was like to be ingrained in a brand and have a laser focus. I’ve had experience working with consumer brands so the combination of the two drew me to Dunkin’ Donuts.

HB: Can you tell me what it’s like running social media for the brand that “America runs on?”

MC: It’s incredibly fun and challenging, which is what makes it so interesting! Everyday there’s something new to experiment with. Whether it’s an alpha ad product for our donuts, a new video format to launch a new product with or a social listening tool that’s popped into the market, the landscape’s constantly changing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I thrive in a fast-paced atmosphere, and Dunkin’ moves quickly, which makes the job that much more exciting.

On the other hand, being such a beloved brand, there’s always eyes on every move we make in social. It’s really important to be diligent, strategic and thoughtful about what we put out on our channels and how we engage. Knowing conversation sparks around us quickly, we try to weigh every decision carefully while always keeping innovation and cultural relevance front and center.

At the end of the day though, the fun part always takes over – it is coffee and donuts – what’s not awesome about that?!

HB: So if I follow @DunkinDonuts, are all of those tweets coming from you? Melanie Cohn

MC: Sometimes! We also have a team of community managers who work in different marketing functions that take shifts monitoring and engaging. As for the posts themselves, most of those come directly from me as the publisher and scheduler. Nothing goes out on our social channels before I take a look at it, as it’s important to make sure everything’s in line with our strategy and brand standards.

HB: Do you see any similarities or differences between your previous job at an agency and your current role?

MC: There are a lot of similarities actually. At an agency you’re viewed as the main consultant—an expert in your discipline. When you’re in-house, it’s the same thing but your clients are the other business units. I advise and provide recommendations on social strategy as well as educate our teams on trends and updates in digital world.

The main difference being in-house is that you work much more cross-functionally. You get to collaborate with Legal, PR, Brand team, Loyalty team, IT, CSR and many more departments. At an agency, you’re handing everything off to the client and you don’t really see what happens behind the scenes after your recommendation is made.

HB: In addition to your role at Dunkin’ Donuts, you launched Young Women in Digital two years ago. Can you tell us more about the organization?

MC: Young Women in Digital (YWD) is a networking group for women working in digital marketing, social media, public relations and more. We host bi-monthly events that vary from classes to speakers to panelists and pitch sessions for entrepreneurs. Our main goal is to foster connections between young professionals.

I launched YWD  because at the time my former company asked me to attend networking events and I felt like I wasn’t meeting people who I could relate to. So I thought about how great it would be to go to an event with people similar to me: young women who are emerging in the digital world. I shared the idea with fellow young professionals and they agreed so I pulled together a team and we hosted our first event! About 40 people attended and it spiraled from there. I believe a smart creator or marketer finds a niche or a gap and fills it. That’s what happened here. There was a need, and YWD filled the void. Every event has been bigger than the last and awareness has grown simply through word of mouth and social media. We now have more than 1,000 members!

HB: Did you find that Boston was a good place to launch YWD?

MC: Absolutely. Boston’s full of like-minded marketers who are looking to grow in their careers. The circles are smaller than say, NYC, which fosters a close knit community. Also, the environment is extremely supportive, not competitive. There’s something about Boston—probably its size, the helpful culture and the go-getters here—that makes it a good place to start something once you’ve identified a gap because people are seeking these types of organizations out.

HB: What do you teach at General Assembly?

MC: Right now I teach Instagram for Business once every few months. It’s for mid to high-level professionals with intermediate to advanced skills on Instagram who are looking to take their strategy to the next level. In the fall I’m going to start teaching a monthly class about working with influencers. This is becoming a much larger part of marketing strategies across various industries so we’re right on the cusp of a growing trend.

HB: What recommendations would you give to startups looking to utilize social media in their overall business strategy?

MC: It really depends on the company and its target audience. For YWD, our audience is marketers, who are primarily on Twitter, so that’s our best channel. But if you’re starting a company that has to do with design or art, Instagram may be a great place to showcase your work and generate leads, for example.

I love how Curalate, a social vendor, explains social strategy. They talk about how there are channels that are aspirational or celebratory. Aspirational channels include Tumblr and Pinterest, where people go to share items or lifestyles they want, or wish they had. Instagram is focused more on celebration, and in-the-moment experiences. You need to look at where your company fits into these consumer behaviors, and which part of the customer journey (aspiration or celebration) you can really own. Dunkin’, for example, is a very celebratory brand. People share us in the moment, and post-purchase. We strive to encourage that behavior and excitement, because as we all know, word of mouth is the best form of marketing.

Follow Melanie at @SocialMel and keep an eye out for upcoming YWD events on Twitter at @YWDBoston.

 

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Boston's Mower office is a full-service technology marketing, PR and branding agency. Our B2B stories illustrate projects and campaigns in a variety of markets and media that range from local impact in Boston and New England to global proportions.

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