How One VP of Social Media Rose to the Top (and How You Can Do the Same)

Competition for the coveted title of VP of Social Media is fierce. With fewer than 1,000 job postings across the US, reaching this vice president status seems just as likely as connecting with one.

Courtney Fischbach is VP of Social Media in a highly regulated industry at one of the top investment firms in the world, Legg Mason. Knowing that this opportunity doesn’t come around often, we connected with her to learn more about how she found such success in the social space.

courtney-fischbach-headshot.jpgThis is the story of how Courtney used her self-taught skills and knowledge in the early days of social media to get to the top, and how you can get there too.

Today, Courtney leads and executes effective social strategies across every major social platform. Using Hootsuite Enterprise, she also creates content and advertising, analyzes competition and campaigns, builds targeted relationships, drives engagement and traffic, and listens and engages on social. Today, social media helps her business secure million-dollar deals through real-time marketing campaigns.

The early days of social media

But 15 years ago, when she was fresh out of Santa Clara University with a BA in English, email was a new disruptor and social media wasn’t even an idea yet. Following the hot new email trend, Courtney jumped from Marketing Coordinator for events promotions, to Email Marketing Coordinator, and eventually Senior Marketing Manager.

She joined Legg Mason in 2012. As the “new girl,” one of her first projects was to find the value in Twitter and figure out how to use it. She started out sharing four Tweets a week, some even product-focused, exactly 140 characters long, with no links or images, and an inconsistent. Everything she learned, she learned by Googling it.

Social data before analytics were reliable

And then Courtney’s manager wanted to see results through social data. With no budget for analytics, she pulled free online reports that, despite their suspicious credibility, were the only insight she had. When the executives wanted more than just engagement numbers, she had to manually pull profile information from each follower in order to deduce some kind of detailed (and often irrelevant) demographic information, like their age, gender, or interests. As social became more popular, this method for pulling, tracking, and PowerPoint-presenting data was not longer scalable, sustainable, or reliable.

As a part of the highly regulated industry, the Compliance team wanted to secure engagement and see real results in order to give her more buy-in. Onboarding Hootsuite Enterprise solved these challenges, but Courtney didn’t want to constantly turn to Google with questions about topics like SEO, analytics, and content management. She lacked the formal training, knowledge, and confidence to identify social tactics and create an organization-wide strategy.

Formal social media education to develop strategies

To further her personal and professional growth and gain confidence through knowledge and understanding, she signed up for the Advanced Social Media Strategy (ASMS) certification from Hootsuite and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications.

The online certification took 10 months for her to complete on her own time, but what she took away from the course, she says, will last her a lifetime. In July 2013, midway through the first few course modules, Courtney could only dream that her social media program at Legg Mason could embrace some of what she was learning. But then things started to change. As she learned more about integrating social across the organization, developing corporate strategies, securing engagement, and advancing content marketing, she started to get marketing and legal approvals. Her strategic skills and knowledge and the company’s acceptance of social evolved together.

Confidence in tying social media efforts to real business results

During the course, she realized the need for crisis management protocol and discovered how to implement one that would work with Legg Mason’s existing workflow. Implementing course learnings in real life, she began developing social media guidelines and policies, and put risk management and crisis protocol in place.

legg_mason_logo.jpg“Someone shared an inappropriate comment on our Corporate LinkedIn page, and I followed our new policy inspired by the steps from ASMS to avert the crisis within the hour,” she said. “Having the listening tools and knowledge is key to socially securing the brand. Our compliance department is more comfortable with the medium now that protocol, standards, and guidelines are established.”

Today, she can have intelligent conversations with superiors about paid social advertising, campaign performance, and show how social data is driving business. She now knows where to put time and resources in order to effectively drive results for Legg Mason.

“Hootsuite has the tools to expand our growth,” Courtney says about Legg Mason. “After advancing my strategic skills and understanding of social through the ASMS certificate, I can teach others how to listen, engage, and strategize. I’m currently consulting with our affiliates to help propel their own business into the digital future.”

ASMS gave Courtney a more advanced, strategic look at what’s possible with social for large organizations like Legg Mason. Today, she’s a one-woman show, but she understands what’s possible with a larger social media team and hopes to leverage these strategic skills and knowledge in order to advance her career and empower her team to drive powerful results through social. Formal, strategic education in such a relatively new field has made Courtney a linchpin at her organization.

Learn more about how you can start making big moves and advance your career with the Advanced Social Media Strategy Certification from Hootsuite and Newhouse School.

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