You’ve seen her on your social media channels. You’ve heard her speak at numerous conferences and luncheons. Hell, you probably saw her face on the cover of a magazine.

That’s Karla Khodanian. She’s a digital community manager here at Big Communications, and she’s done wonders for our clients in her tenure with us.

It’s no surprise, then, that the Birmingham chapter of the American Advertising Federation recognized her as Birmingham’s Social Media Professional of the Year at the annual Ten Awards last month.

How does she do it? Well, we can’t share too much of the secret sauce, but we’d be remiss not to have her answer a few questions about the social media landscape of today and tomorrow.

How early in your career/education did you know you wanted to work in social media?

I knew as soon as I heard the phrase “public relations,” that’s the degree I wanted to pursue. A job that involved talking to people for a living? Count me in. But it was during my undergrad years at UAB that I turned my chatty communication skills into a passion for crafting messages in digital spaces.

What was your first role as a social media manager/content creator?

When I decided to give this whole “social media” thing a chance, I nabbed an internship for a startup record label in Birmingham the summer after freshman year of college. It was there that I began researching and understanding the wild world of crafting engaging messages, platform nuances, and algorithm updates. After that, pretty much every internship, volunteer position, or freelance opportunity positioned me in a role to take on a brand’s social media presence.

For those that don’t quite understand your world, what role do you play at Big?

I like to think of myself as a gatekeeper for all things social. I collaborate closely with our media and creative teams to concept what we’re posting, where we’re posting it, and why we’re posting it. I also typically handle a lot of the day-to-day social posting and account monitoring for various accounts I work on.

Some businesses have been reluctant to embrace social media over the last decade—or at least take it seriously as a marketing strategy. Why is social media so crucial to advertising?

DIGITAL MARKETING IS NO LONGER AN OPTION FOR YOUR BRAND. Put that in all caps, bold it, and shout it from your organization’s rooftop. This is not the “You’ve Got Mail” era of tech any longer. It’s not just about surprise and delighting someone’s inbox occasionally—Users are demanding real-time consistency and transparency from brands these days. Social media is the day-to-day living manifestation of your brand’s voice. It’s the first place people are going to go to learn about who you are and what you do. Stop treating it like an afterthought and make it part of your overall brand strategy. Period.

You probably get asked about “the future of social media” all the time. What is one new trend in particular that you’re excited about?

Everyone says VR, but I’m not going to say VR because I have a weak stomach and VR makes me incredibly nauseous, so I hope it’s never a thing. I’m actually really intrigued by seeing publishers turning their content machines into tangible smart tech products, like Buzzfeed’s Tasty One Pot or even the Snapchat Spectacles. It’s an interesting blurred line we’re crossing between platform/publisher/producer, but it’s definitely a consumer-first model that I don’t hate seeing evolve.

Outside of your Big clients, what’s your #1 brand crush?

Number one?! That’s too tough. I used to say Wendy’s, but now everyone’s figured out Wendy’s social media is gold so I can’t say that without sounding clichéd. So I’m going to say Taco Bell. And also Glossier. Basically the two industries killing it on social media right now across the board are fast food and beauty brands, and I don’t hate it one bit.

Want to Talk?

Rebekah Weinberger

Business Development Specialist