Meet #umbsocial speaker – Kate Hutchinson

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Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Probably the best way to describe myself is that I’m curious about everything. I have an undergraduate degree from Trinity College, Hartford in History, and while I was there, I also studied symbolic logic, environmental science, folklore, art history, and Ancient Greek. My first job out of college was at Suffolk University, in the Physics Department, and while I was there I earned a Master’s of Education. After embarking on a stint in fundraising, I wanted to learn more about financial management, so I got an MBA from Simmons College. Along the way, I learned a lot about communications and marketing, and it led me to my current role in Engagement Marketing in the Education Services division of Dell EMC.

When did you start to work in social media?

I like to think I was an early, early adopter. In middle school, I began playing on the DOS based BBS boards, which had early chat rooms and forums where you could talk to people who also had a modem and dialed in, most of them local to where I was. As the internet evolved, I kept trying new things, particularly social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter. When I was in business school in 2008, I helped other students to optimize their social profiles, and I eventually the Career Services office asked me to host some workshops on using social media for job searching. That led to my first job professionally working with social media, at a domain registrar, in 2010.

How does a typical work day of you look like?

My days vary a lot, because I work on a lot of different projects. But the first thing I do every morning is check my work email to make sure nothing is waiting for

Do you have a role model in social media. Someone who inspires you?

I’ve met a lot of people who do really amazing things with social media. In my own company, Greg McCarthy manages the social media campaigns around events, and he does an amazing job. He’s insightful, always learning, and always includes new people, no matter their skill level. I learn a lot from him. I also have to mention Jenny Newman, who is a great role model for reaching new audiences, and educating everyone on how to use it, from ordinary people to top-level executives. She is also relentlessly positive, something that social media could use more of. Plus, like me, she’s a big Wonder Woman fan.

What is the hardest thing about social media?

It’s always changing. Square avatars become round ones. Stars become hearts. Timelines shift from chronological order to algorithm based. Ads look like one thing and then another. This network is more popular than another. It’s hard to keep track of everything, and hard to figure out what new features are worth investing in and which ones aren’t. I spent several months at one point optimizing an e-commerce tab on a Facebook page, only to have the feature removed two months later.

What do you see as some up-and-coming trend in social media?

Not necessarily a trend, but I think a big shift is coming with the rise of AI and machine learning. Ten years ago or so, Google had an April Fool’s Day prank where they debuted a feature called Autopilot. The joke had an interesting punchline: “Two Gmail accounts can happily converse with each other for up to three messages each. Beyond that, our experiments have shown a significant decline in the quality ranking of Autopilot’s responses and further messages may commit you to dinner parties or baby namings in which you have no interest.” In 2009, this was a funny joke, since no one was really going to use auto-suggested chat messages, but today I use an iPhone that predicts the next word I’m going to use in a sentence while texting that’s eerily accurate. While AI exists and we’ve already seen them at work, particularly on Twitter, I think we’re going to get over the last of our apprehensions about “talking to a robot” and embrace the convenience that they offer. I’m thinking eventually I can tweet to Comcast that my internet is unacceptably slow again, and AI will let the account reply to mine and I’ll never have to call and wait on hold again.

Can you name us a brand or company that you admire for their great social media strategy/execution?

There are a lot of clever things I’ve seen on social, but I really love a company that has a sense of humor and is willing to roll with the punches. Wendy’s (the fast food chain) has a great presence on Twitter, and it’s funny and clever without being snarky or mean. I loved the “Talk Show” that Wendy’s hosted with the Little Debbie brand.

Did you make any social media mistakes in the past or is there anything you would avoid in future?

I’d say one mistake I’ve made is not joining networks because I wasn’t interested in them as early networks. I’ve missed out on my username on a few of them. I like being @kehutchinson everywhere, but on Instagram, I had to settle for @k.e.hutchinson, which is off brand. I try now, when I hear of a new network to get on, just to get my name, even if I won’t use it right away, just so no one takes it in case I want to use it in the future.

To be successful in social media, you need to ….?

Be a collaborator, and have an open mind. Social media is a lot more work than people realize: you have to plan, to write, to monitor, to report, and that’s just the beginning. Build a good solid team, and if you don’t have a team, build relationships with people who can help contribute to social. Having an open mind is important because social is unpredictable. Listen to lots of ideas, and try lots of new things. Not everything will succeed, and that’s okay. Just keep trying.

What is your favorite book and why?

The best book I’ve read in the past year is Felix Arabia, a chronicle of an 18thcentury Danish exploration of what today is modern Yemen. Six men including a linguist, a botanist, and a doctor, and the only one who survived was the surveyor and self-taught engineer, who didn’t learn to read until he was twenty years old. It’s an incredible story of adaptability and the willingness to learn.

My favorite book of all time is the Count of Monte Cristo. It’s a mystery, a vendetta, a love story, a philosophical pursuit of the meaning of life, and an adventure, all wrapped in one package.

What is your favorite quote?

“Impossible is a word only found in the dictionary of fools.”  –Napoleon Bonaparte

What is your favorite movie and why?

Now Voyager, with Bette Davis and Claude Raines. I love seeing Bette Davis transform from a nervous, mousy character to a confident woman who takes charge of her life.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

When I was six years old, I wanted to be an Egyptologist when I grew up, and it’s still a field I am fascinated by. My two favorite Egyptologists are Bob Brier (who actually replied to a paper letter I wrote him circa 2004) and Kara Cooney, with whom I’ve chatted on Twitter. I love that social media allows me to talk to archaeologists on demand, and I don’t have to wait for the mail to see if I got a reply.


Where can we find more about you and you work?

The best places to find me are on LinkedIn and Twitter. If you’d like to see some photos of my crochet projects, check Instagram.


Kate Hutchinson is Sr. Marketing Programs Manager at Dell EMC

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