Val DuVernet has a background in what she calls the “dark side of IT,” analysis.
Before joining Advance Auto Parts, she worked for about six years as an analyst, developing systems, marketing insights, and site functionality for Target.com. And in 2009, she took that business knowledge with her to Advance Auto Parts to help the company get up and running with eCommerce and creating digital content.
But like a lot of other SocialMedia.org members, social media slowly became a natural part of Val's job.
Now, as a Senior Program Manager and member of SocialMedia.org, Val works with a small team that's still highly focused on analysis.
Social media has to be an inherently social effort to get people involved — whether you're a consumer or trying to drive a program.
With four people in the core ecommerce, content, and social media program, Val has only one team member who is solely focused on social media. Other team members contribute to social customer care, copywriting, and marketing efforts. But social is only about 15-20 percent of their jobs, according to Val.
And even though the team's small, Val says they're very effective. Right now, they're focused on driving awareness, engagement, and micro-conversions like traffic to the blog, loyalty program signups, and acquiring user-generated content.
She's hoping to expand that reach by getting other teams within the company on board with social.
“I think social media has to be an inherently social effort to get people involved — whether you're a consumer or trying to drive a program. So my goal is to get more people in the company involved in one way or another.”
Val says right now, teams like talent acquisition, legal, and customer care are there main areas of outreach right now. But in the future, Val would like to start a social ambassador program.
Val says it's also important to her to get social more integrated with marketing.
Currently, it's handled separately as a part of Advance Auto Parts' ecommerce efforts — and not involved in marketing. “Our social efforts really should be layering up to our overall marketing goals and not just in its own world going after its own smaller engagement goals,” Val says.
But that doesn't mean they haven't had their own marketing successes.
For example, for this year's Quaker State 400, a NASCAR race Advance Auto Parts sponsors, Val's team completed one of their first integrated social campaigns for the event. They held a Twitter chat with one of their drivers, a giveaway, and had representatives on the ground sending them content to share. They also did real-time coverage of the race and a back and forth with the drivers' individual social teams.
— Advance Auto Parts (@AdvanceAuto) July 11, 2015
One challenge that comes with her job: Determining the right time to respond in crisis situations.
I believe that if something is brought up in social media, you need to handle it in the public way it was brought up.
“Luckily there hasn't been any huge disasters. But we've got 5,000 stores and sometimes when things happen in the world, we become a part of the story.”
Val says they try to stay out of that limelight for the most part, but the unexpected nature of customer care has her always weighing her options on how and when to respond.
“I believe that if something is brought up in social media, you need to handle it in the public way it was brought up. But you have to be aware of situations that you can't handle that way, too.”
“Social media is participating within the rules of the game. Yet, you still have to make sure your brand is expressing themselves in an authentic and truthful way, and in a way that's still putting your best foot forward and protecting your brand,” she says.
Follow Val on Twitter and ask about what it was like to take on social in the early days of the platforms. Val's been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2013.