For Social Media Specialist Monica Smith, moving to North Carolina not only introduced her to a new state, but a whole new coast. She was born in El Salvador and moved to West Hills, California, right outside of Los Angeles when she was 9 years old.
Smith went to college not far from where she grew up, at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). There, she pursued a degree in marketing paired with a minor in business law and finance.
Her senior marketing project for the Wells Fargo Center for Small Business and Entrepreneurship sparked her love for the field and led to opportunities that paved the way for her career. Thanks to the project, she went on to work in Marketing and Communications for University Advancement at CSUN, and has since continued to market for higher education.
“I really fell in love with marketing, and I knew that was my calling,” says Smith. “My job at CSUN opened the doors for a job at Stanford University where I worked for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, promoting entrepreneurship education to Stanford students and inspiring entrepreneurs throughout the world.”
“I consider myself a T-shaped individual,” she adds. “The horizontal bar of the T symbolizes my general love of branding and marketing and my ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas, while the vertical stem of the T symbolizes my area of expertise –– social media.”
When her husband, Kevin, was relocated from Colorado to Fort Bragg in 2018, Smith had never been to North Carolina, but the perfect opportunity was waiting for her at DELTA.
How would you describe your position to someone unfamiliar with DELTA?
“My official title is Social Media Specialist. Although I work for DELTA, I manage the Online and Distance Education (ODE) social media accounts. As the social media specialist, I work closely with Kay Zimmerman and Katie Bean to promote our online and distance education programs.”
Since January, Smith’s been promoting some of the 95 ODE programs on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn through DELTA’s partnership with University Communications and Marketing (UComm). She spends the majority of her time working at their social media hub and loves that she gets to be a part of two communities on campus.
Smith also loves that social media is ever-changing. “Social media certainly keeps you on your toes. You can do a deep dive [into] analytics to help you figure out what are the ideal times to post, what days of the week, what type of content, optimal video length, and then that all changes within the next couple of weeks. I actually love having to keep up with the crazy algorithms. It’s never boring, it’s always new.”
Not only does social media supply consistent variety and fresh material, it allows Smith to showcase ODE’s organizational character. “It’s a new way of communicating with our audience. Social media allows us to show off our personality as an institution and communicate in a more personal manner.”
A critical part of her job is to choose what type of content is best and when to post it, whether it’s an inspirational story or amusing pictures of animals. These decisions shape the tone of her channels, and ultimately, ODE as a whole.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
“My day-to-day responsibilities vary. Some days, I am brainstorming GIF ideas to promote the Master of Geospatial Information Systems and Technology (MGIST) program, and other days I am interviewing Doctor of Design students to create a promotional video and social micro-content.”
Every day, Smith focuses on staying up-to-date with social trends and algorithms and using her creativity, which she describes as her favorite part of her job.
“Social media is a fast-moving and complex platform, but at the end of the day, we must remember that people crave to make a connection with others, whether that be other people or brands. My job is to build and deepen those one-on-one relationships through social media. Consumers with an emotional connection to a brand are more likely to remain loyal, so I’m trying to figure out how we can share that wonderful #Wolfpack pride with our online students.”
Smith wants people to know that she welcomes thoughts and suggestions about how to foster these connections. “If anyone has ideas they would like to share, I’m always happy to chat.”
In addition to promoting online education every day, Smith also takes part in it. She’s working online toward an MBA at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. Since starting as a traditional student, she describes the switch to online school as “a blessing in disguise.”
“I know first hand what it’s like to be an online student. We promote [ODE] as being a flexible option for working adults, and I can attest that having that flexibility is crucial for working professionals. I have a full day, yet I still have time to do school work.”
What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on with DELTA?
“My favorite project has been promoting the Doctor of Design program. The program launched fall of 2018, and it is offered mostly online, but students benefit from a one-week residency per semester. This ‘blended learning’ component makes it the only one of its kind.”
This project was Smith’s first client meeting when she started her position. It allowed her to address a niche market in ways that encouraged exploration and innovative thinking, unique to social media. In many ways, social media was the perfect way to advance the program.
“Social media has opened the doors to a new and, in my opinion, more fun way of marketing. As social targeting becomes more robust and powerful, it allows us to send our messages directly to design professionals with a master’s degree in a design-related field with at least 10 years of experience. No TV, radio, newspaper, email or magazine ad offers you the opportunity to target such a super-niche audience.”
To promote the program effectively, Smith collaborates with several other members at DELTA , organizing interviews, video shoots and photo shoots. She loves that promoting this program has introduced her to new people at NC State and gives her a strong understanding of the benefits of the program.
“This project has given me the opportunity to work with photographers, videographers, writers, instructional designers, project coordinators, the Distance Education program coordinators, program faculty and even the students. Hearing student testimonies of the problems they are tackling and how the program is helping them in their careers is truly rewarding.”
What makes your job special?
“I love that we get to be fun, and we get to talk to people in a way that others can’t.” Smith’s position lets her communicate directly with students, coordinators and faculty. Doing so gives her a greater understanding of not only the programs she works with, but the people she reaches and the larger NC State community.
She also speaks from DELTA’s uniquely versatile role. “DELTA is strategically positioned to serve individuals in every field and throughout the whole world. We are one of the few [units] that gets to talk to everyone. It’s fun that I get to learn about so many different programs and communicate with such a broad audience.”
What do you like to do in your spare time?
When she’s not at the park with her 2-and-a-half-year-old labrador-pitbull mix, Abby, Smith loves to hike with her husband, though they miss the mountains of Colorado that they’re used to.
She’s also familiar with a hike that’s quite famous. “I backpacked the Grand Canyon from rim to rim. It’s a 24-mile hike from the north rim to the south rim –- the funny thing is, that was my first backpacking trip.”
In Colorado, she enjoyed Crossfit. People may not know that she still incorporates elements of the regimen into her current workouts, along with olympic weight lifting. “If you run into me at Carmichael Gym, I’ll be doing some cleans and jerks, push presses or overhead squats.” For now, she’s still working to master handstands and kipping.