Today's PLANOLEADER has called upon her experiences in the fashion industry to cultivate new opportunities in her current role. Enter Erin Silver, the Social Media Lead at Volvo Car USA. While Erin has had the unique challenge of transitioning into an entirely new industry, the seasoned marketing executive's affinity for aesthetics and knowledge of influencers has served her as she continues to cultivate creative and impactful strategies for Volvo. To learn more, we met with Erin for a morning coffee at Bryant Park before she headed off to the New York International Auto Show. During our meeting, we chatted with her about the synergy between fashion and cars, the importance of authenticity, and more.
Please introduce yourself!
Hello, I am Erin Silver. I lead Social Media for Volvo Car USA, which I've been doing since 2015. Some say I am a "spirited" red-headed Scorpio who is passionate about my work, my family, travel and binge-watching Netflix. I most recently re-watched all seven seasons of the West Wing, and I miss it already.
Before Volvo, what were you up to professionally, what role did digital play in your job description, and what have been some notable moments throughout your career so far?
Digital is the only role I have ever known! My first job out of college was the digital marketing coordinator for Burberry. Though I studied traditional marketing, Burberry's digital marketing manager took me under her wing and taught me everything there was to know before leaving six months later. From there, I was the digital lead reporting to the Director of Media. While in that role, I launched Facebook for Burberry and worked with the team to launch other social channels and digital initiatives including Retail Theatre, Runway to Reality, Art of the Trench and the launch of Burberry Beauty. After that, I went to David Yurman as the digital marketing manager, and then Rebecca Minkoff. My final stop before landing at Volvo Car USA was on Ralph Lauren's social team. I worked on the Denim & Supply brand, the Olympics, the 4D Polo Fashion Show and more.
What would you say was the most significant transition into the auto industry from fashion? What's been one example of your work in these spaces aligning with one another?
The biggest transition was understanding the intricacies of cars! It's a different world, which is what made the opportunity exciting. I love to learn; it excites me! Coming in with an expertise in social media and digital marketing is great for my role because similar platforms, units, and formats work across both industries. But I had to completely understand how cars operate, and then how Volvo sets the new standard. For example, what is the new Volvo Scalable Product Architecture and its implications across the new models we are rolling out? I had to learn about vehicle dynamics, safety, design and infotainment systems. And how do I learn to speak to auto enthusiasts at a knowledgeable level? It was a huge challenge, but I am now a car expert. I was lucky enough to be educated daily by my co-workers who are the most brilliant and innovative minds in the industry. The crossover for me is not only how one uses social media and paid advertising, but also how one uses influencers. That strategy didn't change between industries, only the product that I'm focused on. Selfishly my favorite alignment is that I wear head to toe Burberry and Ralph Lauren with David Yurman jewels while I drive my brand new 2018 black on black XC60 R-Design. Not too shabby. That said, I MUST shamelessly plug that I am obsessed with my new car. I got it in January, and I love to drive it – it is so chic!
How would you characterize the Volvo Cars Instagram community and what's been the biggest impact the platform has had regarding brand awareness?
Loyal. Our community is incredibly loyal and engaged. If someone writes something negative or states incorrect information about the brand or a specific model, Volvo rarely has to reply. The community immediately sets the record straight. Also, our organic engagement rate is more than double the industry standard.
How would you describe your day-to-day and what is your favorite aspect of social storytelling in this particular vertical?
I do not have a standard day-to-day. That's why I love this job. Every day is interesting and different, but what's nice and very different from fashion is that I am home with my one and a half-year-old son at 5:30 p.m. three nights a week! This week for instance: Monday: I had a half-day briefing from the Director of Launch on a new car, then a half-day presentation from our CEO and the VP of Marketing, Product, and Communications. Tuesday: Volvo Cars Corporate came to visit from Sweden to work together on a strategy to align global and regional messaging on social. Wednesday: We had a hackathon at Facebook with our media agency, creative agency, and internal marketing team focusing on the V90 Cross Country – our luxury estate wagon. Thursday and Friday consisted of internal meetings and a proposal for an XC90 influencer activation with Volvo owners Arielle Charnas and Aimee Song. I also finished a presentation I'm giving at a retailer conference in Miami the first week in April.
What role would you say "planning" plays in Volvo's continued success, and speaking of which, can you share any of Volvo's plans for innovation on Instagram?
Planning is imperative - you can't wing it in business. Social media is fun, but I still have to sell cars. So, I have an incredibly detailed budget spreadsheet that I update regularly based on the needs of the business, as well as a calendar that I consistently reference. Though, I will say, you need to be flexible since social is ever changing. My favorite type of planning is what we like to call "planning for agility." This is our way of preparing for the unexpected – pop culture, weather, new units in social media. These are all examples of ways to get involved in something we didn't expect. For example, we partnered on an Instagram alpha with Aimee Song to launch the branded paid partnership tool, as well as developing a Facebook in-app car configurator that allows you to build your car within a canvas unit. So cool!
Based on your experience at Volvo so far, what are your recommended best practices for those looking to plan and share content in this particular category?
1. Be authentic. This is SO important, and to me, this has two prongs: Do not over-pose, over-photoshop or over-stage the content. Is this organic and real? The best content is always believable. If it's too disconnected and inauthentic from the brand, then it's not believable.
2. Don't do anything illegal (for some reason this is not obvious to everyone).
3. Keep content specific to each channel. We post business information on LinkedIn, reviews and links to information and details on Facebook, and inspirational and aspirational images on Instagram. It's important to understand what the audience on each platform is looking for and tailor your content appropriately. Otherwise, you run the risk of spamming. Spam is the WORST.