We had the chance to sit down with our Vice President of Strategy, Stephanie Polinski. Finding a half-hour with Stephanie was no easy feat—being the Vice President of Strategy of a social media services provider keeps her schedule full with presentations, monthly audits, speaking engagements, and more. But after just twenty-five minutes of chatting about her background, social strategy, and ideas for BCV’s future, we could see why she’s so busy; everyone she talks to walk away with more insight not only about their role at BCV, but also about social media in general.
Charlotte Williams: How long have you been at BCV?
Stephanie Polinski: I’ve been at BCV close to four years. I came on as Director of Strategy and have transitioned to overseeing media and analytics, ownership relationships and social media thought leadership for teams. And now I’m focused on ownership and management of our products.
CW: Vice President of Strategy encompasses a lot of things—what does your everyday schedule look like? I know you have a pretty hectic schedule!
SP: One of the big things I’m responsible for is presenting to our stakeholders on the success of our clients, the stakeholders being brands or ownership groups. We work with a lot of ownership groups to make sure that we’re continuing to sell our success because ultimately they’re deciding whether or not to stay with an agency to do social. We want to just make sure that everyone that touches our hotel is aware of our success.
So my day can be traveling to present, putting strategy decks together, or meeting with account teams. Every month I’ll meet with teams to go over their accounts’ performances; we’ll see what’s up, what’s down, and then we’ll work together to try and improve their performance.
Another aspect of my job is that I meet with our Facebook rep every week to go through issues, hear what’s new and exciting, and talk to general concept.
Finally, as part of the leadership group, I’m always trying to work on projects for BCV, so that’s another thing that takes up a lot of my time, meeting to discuss long-term projects and trying to move things forward.
CW: What platform do you think has made the biggest impact in social media marketing?
SP: Absolutely Instagram Stories, because it’s been the fastest growing product to date with Facebook. Users are spending 25 more minutes every day on Instagram because of Stories, and one of every three stories viewed is a business. So we’ve been using these stats as backup to show our clients why we need Instagram Stories as part of their strategy.
Originally we were held to posting in one format: you had the picture, you had the caption. Then carousel came out and we could swipe through more posts. Now with Stories it’s completely changed the game. So leveraging both, without overwhelming our communities and still feeling organic, is the goal. We don’t want to come off as an ad or a marketing message, we want to be ingrained in their everyday engagement.
CW: And especially with Highlights, too. It doesn’t stay for 24 hours, it stays for longer.
SP: Exactly. And we’ve used Highlights to our advantage: coming up with cool icons, using them to share new restaurant menus, or using them as place to talk about local things to do—nightlife, dining, spas, etc. It’s a fun way for you to be an extension of a website. And especially for the brands like Virgin, you can play with the font and use gifs and things that you would never use with some of the typical luxury brands.
CW: What is one thing that has surprised you about social media?
SP: When Instagram ads first came out, I didn’t think it would be successful. Instagram was the product that was supposed to be just your friends. And it had such a blowback from the public because everyone was already used to ads on Facebook. They already dealt with it, they were actually already clicking through and buying, why did we need to have it on Instagram?
But actually within one quarter we saw significant revenue coming through from Instagram. So even a product like travel, which isn’t necessarily a click-to-buy product, seeing the impact you can make in the awareness and consideration stage is huge. We’re able to make that impression maybe before they’re even planning a trip. It’s all about hitting them at that moment in Instagram. We’re using it as a TV placement or as a radio placement or as an out-of-home billboard. It’s the same model, it’s just in a different space.
CW: And I remember something from one of my advertising classes in college, where you have to see the same ad four or five times for it to actually register.
SP: That’s exactly it and that’s what we try and tell our clients when we have very low ad spend. If you have a very low ad spend, you will maybe reach your audience once, and that’s not usually enough to make an impression. You need to hit them 4 four to five times, and what’s best about the way Facebook sets up their ads is because you can run a placement on Facebook, you can run it on Instagram, you can run it on Facebook Messenger, you can hit them those multiple times in different places, which also helps because it’s not the same place they saw it last time.
CW: What is a common misconception about social media marketing?
SP: That social media marketing is always real-time. That in order to be successful you need to be there, in the moment, posting live, capturing an event, when really the most successful social media account is planned far in advance. It’s all about planning.
Being able to plan ahead with strategy, with creativity, and then with ad spend, that’s the way to go on social. And a lot of times that’s where we take over for a hotel. It’s because they have someone on property who’s just like “oh shoot, I have to post on social” and just randomly finds something to post, because it’s one of the 50 things they have to do.
CW: You’ve starred on the BCV insta a few times for social media marketing events. Why are these events important to speak at, and what do you hope to participate in, for both yourself and for BCV, in the future?
SP: I think they’re really important for BCV because I don’t think we’re well known in the Chicago market at all. Using these events is a great way to not only help us get new business but also just to get people to know who we are. It also helps with our internal growth: getting people to come in, finding really great talent at all levels.
For my side, it helps me grow in my own presentation skills. I’ve had to present a lot at BCV, and every time it gets easier, and every time you’re more confident and every time you’re like “I got this, it’s no big deal.” Whereas back at RPM, if I had one in-person client meeting I wouldn’t sleep the night before. But now, ten years later, it’s like every day.
My favorite ones are the panels, because then you hear from other people in the industry and how they’re doing everything. Especially when they’re not focused on hospitality, because then you can really draw inspiration from other industries who are doing something totally different. I was on a really fun one with someone from iHeartMedia, and it was interesting to think about how they leverage influencers, because they just work with artists with millions and millions of followers.
CW: What has been your favorite thing about seeing the company grow?
SP: I think social media is such a fun space to be in because people do it in their everyday lives so they’re very excited about it. So when new things come down the pipeline, we are so excited to try and experiment with them.
Especially as younger people come, you’d think I just feel really old but I don’t! I feel like I’m learning a lot from them because they grew up with social much more than I did. I adapted later. Even with the interns, we can gain insight on things like “are you still using Snapchat, do you not use it anymore?” We’re getting a sense of where the landscape is going just by seeing what the interns are doing. Also, as we grow and we have more people come, I learn from every person who comes here—to me that’s so fun.
Please Note: responses have been edited for clarity.