FIRST FRIDAYS – JACOB SHWIRTZ
Q+A with WeWork’s Global Head of Social Media Strategy
For this edition of First Fridays, we connected with WeWork’s Jacob Shwirtz, a digital strategy pioneer who has spent more than a decade helping major companies and artists navigate the evolving media landscape. Read on for his take on WeWork’s rapid rise, his thoughts on forging a custom career path, and his surprising advice to brands for how to excel on social media.
Please tell us about your role at WeWork and what inspired you to join the company.
As the head of our social media efforts, I oversee a growing team devoted to celebrating and amplifying the world of WeWork. We are the frontlines of real-time brand storytelling with current and prospective members, as well as the broad public.
WeWork is a mission-driven company, removing barriers between people and their dreams. It is an honor to help bring that vision to life as the social media extension of the brand.
You’ve been a thought leader on digital strategy for more than a decade. What shifts have surprised you, and what are your predictions for the future?
I always believed in the human side of the Internet Revolution, the power of all these tools and technologies to connect people and passions. That’s why I naturally veered in the direction of social media as a career before the terminology even existed.
It is amazing to see the continuing evolution of how the Internet has real impact on people’s lives, with social media as a key player in that. Companies like Uber and Airbnb wouldn’t exist without this human touch and we’ll see more and more companies straddling the lines of technology, social media and offline connection.
That’s also why I’m so excited to be at WeWork, a company devoted to humanizing by bringing together people, technology and spaces (our we.co site recently went live to begin to describe these concepts).
What big picture advice would you offer to brands about building a better social media presence?
Forget about the latest buzzword, technology, platform or viral sensation. Instead, focus on the basics. Be human. Respond to people in a respectful way and with efficient timing. Tell your story in the most authentic way possible. Let people rally behind your brand because they believe in your values and mission.
Along those lines, don’t stress about how to “connect” your brand to whatever happens to be trending today or whatever special “day” it is on the calendar… 99% of the time that comes across as super cheesy and doesn’t achieve the goal you had in mind (most people aren’t as funny as they think).
Beyond those foundational thoughts on executing a social media strategy, the more important point is to hire well and treat your social media team properly.
There’s a vast difference between personal and professional social media. It’s great to have personal experience with social media, but professional management of accounts is an entirely different story. Hire people who know what they’re doing. They will know the tools to use, case studies and best practices to learn from, legalities to stay on top of, analytics to analyze and other factors outside your expertise. Social media is a profession and a career path, not something to be done part of the time by a publicist, intern, general marketing exec or photographer.
And when you hire the right people, have realistic expectations. Social media is a 24/7 black hole that can suck up as much time as you have, and professionals have to fight hard for proper work-life balance. It doesn’t mean 9-6 work. Instead, we tend to work in spurts around the clock, doing a bunch of work when we wake up, before going to sleep and other times in the day (as well as weekends). To stay balanced, we may come in late, leave early, take long lunches, extended weekends…whatever we need to not let work and the never-ending demands of social media overwhelm.
I encourage my team to pursue hobbies outside of social media and take advantage of all vacation days.
In our Self Made report, we explore how young generations are customizing their careers instead of following a clear-cut corporate path—something that describes your own experience. What have you learned from it?
I’ve been lucky! I came of age personally and professionally just as social media became more and more of a “thing.” I was able to capitalize on this timing and remain on the leading edge of social media, helping company after company explore and discover the true impact social media offers if properly executed. This career path now makes me one of the more senior social media professionals around but that wouldn’t be the case if not for a series of forward-thinking bosses who gave me that mandate and trust.
So what have I learned? Know yourself, be confident and don’t compromise! The job titles we have today weren’t even a dream 20 years ago, and this rate of change is only accelerating. That’s the definition of non-traditional career paths. Don’t sweat those well-worn paths.
The global and always-on nature of social media helps us tell the WeWork story in powerful ways across all lines of business, initiatives and partnerships. Our goal is for the social media operation of the company to be yet another value for members. We provide tangible impact on company goals by nurturing our high-quality and highly engaged social presence, benefiting our global membership and amazing partners.
Social media is obviously great for sharing big news and announcements, but our real focus is on the long-term, connecting with members and consistently delivering value, which also includes responding to and engaging with those who reach out over social media for myriad reasons.
What are your go-to sources for staying informed and inspired?
These days I’m inspired by the innocence of my two baby boys and imagining what future they’ll have. When I have time for indulging, Twitter remains my go-to source for news. Otherwise, I’m focused on hiring the best people possible and am consistently inspired by their passion and insights.
What haven’t we asked you that you’d like to share?