Branding // Content marketing // Public Relations // Social Media
May 18, 2017

How HCS Manages their Social Media Program for Multiple Brands–Part One

“Making Social Media About Social Change”

As part of our reporting on the recent Social Media Marketing World Conference in San Diego, we’ve been interviewing fellow attendees to discuss their social media programs and learn from each other. We spoke with Heritage Christian Services’ Marketta Bakke, associate director of communications and syndicated columnist, and Samantha DeMart, manager of communications and advancement, about their social media work in part one of this interview.


QUESTION:  What brands are you responsible for and what social media platforms do you use?

Samantha:  We have multiple brands and they each have multiple channels: Heritage Christian Services is the parent organization, and we have Pieters Family Life Center, Springdale Farm (which is the robotic milking facility), and Expressive Beginnings Child Care. Each of those brands has multiple social media channels. They all use Facebook and Instagram, and some of the brands use Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, Pinterest, as well as blogging.

Marketta:  We try to tailor the content to the individual platform. For example, Samantha mentioned Springdale Farm. We’re having a sheep shearing festival there. On Facebook we might share a picture here or there but on Instagram, we’re going to really share a lot more pictures and do more short videos.

QUESTION: How do you plan and manage the social media for the multiple brands?

Samantha:  Marketta and I are part of a five-person marketing and communications team. One of the things that we do internally is meet for an hour every week with our team. It’s an editorial meeting where we talk about what the stories for the week are, the scheduled activities and the things that we need to talk about. Then, we discuss how we are going to slot everything into the schedule.

We try to really serve as a resource for the people in the company who are managing those specific accounts. We try to empower people to create their own content. For example, at The Pieters Life Family Center, a health and wellness facility, we had a woman from their program sit in at the start of our team’s meeting a couple of days ago. She was asking, “Can you give me some tips for Facebook and Instagram?”  We try to empower those employees because, as you can imagine, social media isn’t the only thing that our team is responsible for. It’s this fine line for us, trying to empower them and getting them to cultivate internal skills, and helping them to learn, but still serving as resources for them, and producing content for them to use.

For example, Marketta worked very hard at the beginning of the year for the Life Center, and pulled together a bunch of stuff that we had already written, blog posts, etc. She had one of our designers create some jpegs and put it all together in a file and sent it over to Life Center and said, “Here you go. This will give you a few months’ worth of social media content in the can that you can pull from.” She made it easier for them.

QUESTION:  How are you marrying your normal news cycle of announcements with all those social media activities?

Marketta:  We are moving toward a newspaper schedule since that’s my background. News happens and you react to it, but you also have to plan ahead. We know what’s happening overall with the agency, and we know what big announcements are coming down the road. It’s just working with the puzzle every day to put all the pieces in the right place. We never create something that we’re just going to use once. We try to create content that we can use three or four different ways.

“We never create something that we’re just going to use once. We try to create content that we can use three or four different ways,” said Marketta Bakke.

If I’m going to ask somebody to create content, I need to know that I’m going to use it three or four different ways. For example, I help create the newsletter that goes out every month to our board of directors. If I write something for that, maybe it’s something as simple as an award winner, I know that I’m going to use it there, but I’m also going to use it in our Spirit newsletter and I’m going to use it on a slow news day on Facebook or on Instagram, because I’m already going to have that written and I’m already going to have a photo. That’s the only way I think that we can operate.

QUESTION: How are you tracking your social media assets and managing your calendar?

Marketta:  For a long time people saw social media as a cute little extra promotion that we did, and now they’re starting to see that this is a legitimate tool and that it’s an essential tool.

The attention that it’s getting throughout our agency is increasing, and the requests that we’re getting to do more with social media are increasing, and we’re putting more resources into it. In the past, I’ve managed a lot of this with my pretty little paper calendar and my own little system of shorthand.

I put a checkmark if I’m using it on Facebook and a little x through that if I’m using it on Twitter and a little star for Instagram which has worked well for me, but we are moving to an online calendar where we can keep track of those things and store things.

Samantha:  I sit on the board of directors for a group called the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Greater Buffalo, and I’m part of the marketing communications team there. We came up with a calendar that’s an Excel document and we have the months on there, and then we have things color coded as to what we’re going to use them for. We keep a separate repository of things so that we can pull them. Things that might be evergreen for when we’re in a little bit of a slow time. Then we plot them all on the calendar and we color code them. That way, we can see “this is for Instagram, this is for Facebook, this is for Twitter.” As much as we can, we schedule them.

Right now, we do a lot of scheduling through Facebook, but we tend to throw our Twitter stuff and our Instagram stuff up in real-time.

The calendar has worked really well, and we’ve talked about transitioning towards that, especially because we work out of multiple offices. I work in our Buffalo office and the rest of our team works in Rochester so I can’t walk over and stick my head into Marketta’s office and see what she has written down. This way we keep it all centrally located on our server and we can see what’s in there.

QUESTION: How do you focus on your mission of supporting people in your storytelling?

Marketta: We’re a business, but we’re a business that has a mission. Our mission is about supporting people. We started by helping people who have developmental disabilities. Sometimes we’re speaking directly to that person and sometimes we’re speaking directly to families.

Samantha:  Something that’s always been really important to us is making sure that we put people first in everything that we do. That’s our language. That’s our photography. That’s just our general philosophy of operating. We’re always very, very thoughtful.

Marketta has brought us a long way in helping us figure out how we tell our stories and how we get our messages across. That’s the other complicating factor, too. It is our goal to always be respectful and honoring of people and their choices while still sharing information that sometimes is about them and not to them so that becomes difficult.

Marketta: To me it’s about building bridges. If I can tell a story, I can help you see how you are similar to someone who chooses our services and I can help you say, “Oh, you know, well, having a meaningful career is important to me to. Of course, I want a say in where I live and who I live with.” If I can get you to see yourself in that story, then I can really start to move the needle as far as advocacy and as far as making a bigger difference.

“If I can get you to see yourself in that story, then I can really start to move the needle as far as advocacy and as far as making a bigger difference.” said Marketta Bakke.

We talk a lot about all the services that we offer and all of that. That’s wonderful and that’s certainly a piece of it, but our goal is really to make sure that people are valued and that they’re treated with dignity and respect.

I see that as the ultimate goal for our social media. The phrase I use is that I really like to “make social media about social change.” I feel like that’s the goal.

Samantha DeMart, manager of communications and advancement

Marketta Bakke, associate director of communications and syndicated columnist