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Patriots Pro Tackles Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media

NE’s Social Media Supervisor Shares Professional Communications Tips with Students

David Rattigan introduces Lauren Spencer to students Photo by Ed Brennen
Manning School of Business adjunct David Rattigan introduces Lauren Spencer, social media supervisor for the New England Patriots, to his Professional Communications class.

By Ed Brennen

As social media supervisor for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, Lauren Spencer’s posts are seen by 6.7 million people on Facebook, 4.4 million on Twitter and 3.7 million on Instagram.

“Social media is a good way for an organization to showcase its brand to their audience, whether that’s a fan base in sports or students at a university,” says Spencer, who was invited to campus recently by David Rattigan, an adjunct faculty member in the Manning School of Business, to speak to students in his Professional Communications class.

According to a recent study by LinkedIn, social media marketing skills are in high demand by employers. On the employment site, there are currently more than 70,000 full-time social media jobs posted nationwide, including more than 3,000 in Massachusetts.

“Students are social media natives,” Rattigan says, “so it’s a good career fit for people coming out of college who are interested in marketing.” 

With that in mind, Spencer told students how she landed a job with the Patriots in 2017, just two years after earning a degree in journalism from Suffolk University. The Tewksbury native, who worked as a media relations intern for the Boston Celtics while in college, got her start in the NFL as a seasonal media relations assistant with the Tennessee Titans.

With the Patriots, Spencer is part of a growing five-person social media team that works with a variety of departments (including public relations, community relations, marketing and video production) to produce content that aims to “engage, entertain and inform.”  

“Whether you’re studying marketing or communications, it’s important to consider where social and digital are heading, because that’s where the audience is heading,” says Spencer, who spent nearly two hours answering students’ questions at the Saab ETIC’s Perry Atrium. Here are some of the highlights:

Lauren Spencer talks with students about social media Photo by Ed Brennen
Lauren Spencer talks to students about the importance of showcasing your core values on social media.

Q: Which social media platforms do you like the best?

A. I like Twitter the most because you can use it for almost anything — entertainment, information, networking — and it’s less affected by algorithms; you’re seeing things in real time. But Instagram has been growing the most the past few years. They’ve taken over the stories concept from Snapchat, and that’s a really valuable platform. YouTube has also really been growing, and in the past year we’ve taken an initiative to grow our YouTube channel with more long-form, episodic content. But there could be a brand-new platform a year from now that we’ve never heard of that could be the next big thing.

Q: As an employee of the Patriots, how careful are you with your own personal branding?

A. That’s definitely important. I keep a pretty tight rein on my personal social media accounts, especially Twitter, which I use as a work tool, sharing posts I’m particularly proud of. I have private accounts on other platforms like Instagram and Facebook, but I’m certainly also very aware of what I’m sharing there. You have to remember that you’re working for a very public-facing organization, so you wouldn’t want to post anything that you wouldn’t want someone at work to see. I also don’t really post about anything political. That’s not something I want to get engaged with on social. For some people, though, that’s part of their personal brand. 

Q: What would you recommend to students as they build their social brand and prepare to begin their careers?  

A. Pinpointing exactly how you want to be seen is important. I try to build my brand around what I want to showcase, what I stand for and what reflects my core values. It’s also good to show personality – finding that balance with work and school things. How can you showcase yourself as a well-rounded person? If you know it’s going to be seen by an employer, or a potential employer, you never know what kind of an impression you’ll make on someone.

Q: Everyone wants their content to go viral and get lots of “likes.” How do you make sure the less exciting content gets seen, as well?  

A. There’s a balance between staying true to what your brand and message is and posting content that is going to do well. If I could post a picture of Tom Brady every day, it would get 100,000 “likes” on Instagram. But we’re not the Tom Brady team. We have other players on the roster we want to showcase, and we have community events that are important to share. So, yes, it’s great that we post stuff that does really well, and we won’t stop doing that. But staying true to the messaging you want to put out, your core brand and values, is important.  Even if you have less exciting content, you can always find ways to make it more interesting to your viewers.

Lauren Spencer talks about her Patriots social media role Photo by Ed Brennen
Lauren Spencer explains the various social media channels she helps manage for the Patriots, including her personal favorite: Twitter.

Q: How do you make that less exciting content more interesting?

A. Think about what you personally find interesting when you see a brand’s social content. I find those “Tasty” videos interesting, for example. Instead of a boring article about a sandwich, show how you made it. On Twitter, actually post a picture instead of sharing a link. People are scrolling quickly, and they might see five or six tweets at one time on their phone’s screen. We call them “thumb-stoppers.” How do you get someone to stop and read your content? If it’s a video, make sure the action starts right away; people aren’t going to sit there for 15 seconds and wait for someone to start talking. Get right into the point. It’s sad that our attention span is so short these days, but a six-second video does a lot better than a minute-long video, even if the minute-long video has more content. And don’t just throw in hashtags for the fun of it; use them if they’re already trending or created on a platform so you can group your posts with others.

Q: What’s the role of social media when the organization is dealing with a scandal? 

A. We work closely with our public relations team in those situations. They advise how we should handle the messaging. Social is a tool that public relations uses to communicate directly with the fans. With any crisis that comes about, I think the way to handle it from a social perspective is to take a step back and evaluate. What do people want to hear from us right now, and what don’t people want to hear from us right now? If you’re posting something, does it look like you’re being ignorant or ignoring what’s going on? But you still have a job to do. You still have games happening and community events happening, so to an extent you have to keep posting. But maybe you frame your copy differently. Maybe it’s not as fun and joking, but a little more straightforward.

Q: The comment sections on social media can be pretty rough. How do you factor in what people comment when evaluating a post?

A. That’s definitely something we look at. We have a full-time intern in our department and one of her main duties is to monitor comments. The negative comments are going to come, which is unfortunate, but you try to take them with a grain of salt. But a great benefit of social is the fact that we can communicate one-on-one with our fans. We’re not going around to every seat in the stadium on a game day and having a conversation with our fans, but any day of the week we can talk to them via social, so it’s definitely important if they have a concern.

Following the Q&A, several students said they were inspired to see someone so close to their age land in such a prominent role. 

“We’re right on the crest of the social media wave,” said Peter Petropoulos, a junior business administration major from Hopkinton with a concentration in marketing. “As someone who doesn’t totally know what they’re going to do after college, it was inspiring to see someone who took a leap and found success.”

Added Narie Seng, a junior business administration from Lowell with a concentration in marketing: “If social media is what I take on down the line in my career, thinking back to this presentation could definitely help me in big ways.”