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Stephanie Ramirez: Digital Strategist

In this podcast episode, Sway CEO Danielle Wiley hosts a lively conversation with Stephanie Ramirez, Senior Digital Strategist for Lyft.

As a data-driven social media strategist, Stephanie Ramirez has more than 12 years of experience. She worked on and led teams across different brands such as Proctor and Gamble, Univision, Meta, Cheddar, SoulCycle, Nespresso, Time Angst, People on Espanol, and now Lyft.

Danielle and Stephanie covered a lot of ground in this fast-moving episode, including:

  • The all-too-relatable challenges of being a brand social media manager (particularly when it comes to reaching diverse and varied audiences)
  • Why brands need to understand that each social platform is its own beast — bundling strategies isn’t always a slam-dunk tactic
  • How Lyft uses social marketing for both driver recruitment and passenger outreach
  • Once and for all, which metrics TRULY matter when it comes to determining social media marketing success.

For those who like to jump ahead by content timestamp (hey, we get it!), here are a few standout moments to be listening for:

Standout moments:

  • (11:07, Danielle) It can be a tough mindset for brands to understand that each platform is its own separate beast and you can’t bundle them together. You have to look at a creator’s demographics on Instagram versus TikTok across all angles, like gender, age, and how engaged their following is.
  • (13:07, Stephanie) When we create content about traditions or habits within the US Mexican culture, those who are Cuban or Puerto Rican are not going to relate. We need to make sure we are leading with culture and insights because we are not all the same.
  • (13:33, Stephanie) We want to make sure we have that representation among the folks that we talk to, and with the content creators we work with.”
  • (16:24, Danielle) I love the way that social media can show a day in the life and get across the excitement of a job or just what it feels like.

Episode 9: Stephanie Ramirez Transcript

Danielle Wiley: Welcome to The Art of Sway. This is a podcast that brings you inside the world of marketing through the lens of influence. I’m your host, Danielle Wiley. Each week through candid conversations with industry insiders, we will uncover how influencer marketing is making an impact across all consumer buying habits and is changing the way we talk to each other. Let’s dive in.

Danielle Wiley: I was thrilled to get the chance to talk to Stephanie Ramirez from Lyft. We had some great dialogue about the challenges of being a social media manager, especially within the context of appealing to diverse and varied audiences. It was also really interesting to get Stephanie’s take on which metrics are most impactful when it comes to analyzing the success of any social media initiative. Enjoy.

Danielle Wiley: As a data-driven social media strategist, Stephanie Ramirez has more than 12 years of experience. She worked on and led teams across different brands such as Proctor and Gamble, Univision, Meta, Cheddar, SoulCycle, Nespresso, Time Angst, People on Espanol, and now Lyft. She currently helps lead social media strategy at Lyft, heading up its social data analytics and insights for the ride share business. At Lyft, Stephanie played the key role of launching the brand’s TikTok channel to quickly grow to more than 120,000 followers in under a year. She also helped lead the partnership with Oscar Meyer #Wienermobile Lyft campaign that was nominated for a 2022 Webby and Saber Award. At Univision, she led the social launch and growth of Over the Top Network, Flama, Univision’s first original digital programming, and helped lead social for its first multichannel network, UCN, the number one leading Hispanic-focused MCN in the US.

Danielle Wiley: She has been recognized as a 2017 Forbes 30 under 30 in media nominee and also won the Tecla Award for best Facebook page at Hispanicize 2016 and best brand doing Latino social media at Hispanicize 2015. Stephanie is a popular keynote speaker at conferences, panels and universities, including her alma mater, the University of Florida.

Danielle Wiley: Hi Stephanie. It’s so great to meet you and have you on.

Stephanie Ramirez: Thank you so much for having me. Great to meet you as well.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah, I was so excited when our mutual, I can’t call her colleague, but Brianna Jacobs, who runs an amazing conference, offered to make the introduction. And I was so excited to get the chance to talk to you, so thank you so much.

Stephanie Ramirez: Yeah, no, great here. I’m so glad you made the connection.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. So I wanted to just start by letting people know who you are and what you do, and your journey to where you are today. Because I know you’ve been at Univision, you’ve been at Lyft for quite a while and have made a pretty big impact there. So maybe just talk us through a little bit how you got to where you are today and where that is.

Stephanie Ramirez: No, definitely. So currently working with Lyft right now, and I am their data analyst point of person I would say just because I work on the organic social media team and they never really had a dedicated data analyst till now. And I carved out that role for myself. But yes, so I sit under the brand marketing bucket in the organic social media team. And so we’re comprised of creatives, strategists. And I initially started out as a strategist on the team, but as our team has pivoted towards being much more insights and data driven, we decided having that point person be me, because I’ve had that strong interest and background in data. And so I do the day to day, monthly, weekly reporting, quarterly reporting for the entire team. So I go through all the content performance, channel performance and I help bring that data and insights to the creative team as we’re executing our content so we can dive further, brainstorm and create further content and analyze how our content’s doing if it’s working or not.

Danielle Wiley: Very cool.

Stephanie Ramirez: Yeah, I’ve been there for a few years now. I started with them during the pandemic, so it was a very interesting time.

Danielle Wiley: Wow. Yeah.

Stephanie Ramirez: But no, it was really great to get us out from that spot into a really great point right now. So I think just overall my experience has been so wonderful. I’ve learned so much in the position, especially focusing so much more on data. But yeah, so like you mentioned too, before Lyft, I had worked on my own consulting as well, just building up my own brand. And prior to that though I had such a great experience at Univision. So working on, again, social media, I’ve done social media my entire career. So built out their, I want to say it’s their US Hispanic digital platform called Flama. So it was a startup within a big corporation, and that was probably my most rewarding career experience building platforms from nothing. Because usually in social you inherit the channels when you go into different positions. But to build a brand from scratch and having to introduce a brand new brand that no one really knew about and creating the content from scratch and building the influencers from nobody to just big followings. And so that was a really great experience there.

Stephanie Ramirez: And then prior to that I had media experiences, and then also just starting out in agency right after college. And New York for 11 years but have bounced around in different industries but always on the social media teams.

Danielle Wiley: Got it. So before you had your current role at Lyft, I know that your claim to fame there was building… I’m going to get the number wrong, so you’re going to have to say… But you built up the TikTok, you were the social media manager, I guess, and you built up the tick following to how much?

Stephanie Ramirez: Yeah, it’s over 120,000 now, so-

Danielle Wiley: Wow.

Stephanie Ramirez: It’s growing. Yeah, it’s our best-performing platform to date. It’s just always in the green, just growing and growing.

Danielle Wiley: That’s so good. I know that there’s just been so much buzz lately for everyone in the media with who I follow on Twitter and the influencer media that I keep tabs on. There’s just been a lot of buzz lately about social media managers from a few different angles. One, just how hard it is and the endless work involved in it. And just this constant drive to have to be creating new content, new content, new content and feeding the beast. And you lived it firsthand and had great success with it. But maybe talk a little bit about the ups and downs and what it’s like to be on the front lines like that from a social media perspective.

Stephanie Ramirez: Yeah, I think from the beginning too, it was, I want to say around 2009, 2008, when Facebook and Twitter started coming out for brands and using it as more of a marketing tool. It was this cool new niche that all the young kids are about. And obviously till now everybody is just grasping social media. But I think as it’s evolved, it’s viewed as though with not enough respect as I feel like it should because people think it comes so easy. Or if I have an Instagram account, I know how to run this. But there’s so much strategy, insights and experience that comes with it, especially as a brand that I think most folks don’t see from the surface level. So it is very exhausting too because you always have to be online. It’s not a job that you can just check out from nine to five and you’re done.

Stephanie Ramirez: It’s constantly being online, constantly being on the pulse of trends. And things happen so fast, but they also die really fast on social. A trend can last for a couple days and then there’s a new one and that one’s old news now. So it’s exhausting in that sense, but it’s also invigorating and challenging too because you always try to figure out how can we create a new strategy for this new platform, this new audience. And it’s also nice to see how throughout the years human behavior evolves. Before it wasn’t obviously as video based as it is now, and the intention spans shift. And it’s just always changing and you have to always keep up with it so it keeps you on your toes.

Stephanie Ramirez: But I think as much as it’s been around for now what, over 10 years now at least, it’s still the platform or still I guess the industry that’s not as well known about. There’s still a lot of education that needs to be around it. There’s a lot of restrictions, obviously when it comes to copyright and legal to be able to do fun things on social. And for people to really understand the value, I think has always been a constant conversation that I’m having till now. Even with data of showing the value to folks on why we’re doing what we’re doing to prove the worth of what we’re doing and just to prove that our strategy is working or isn’t working. It’s always a constant battle.

Danielle Wiley: You’re actually a great person to ask this question to or chat about because you were at Univision, which is traditional media, but you were on the social media side. And there are a number of things that make me crazy looking at traditional versus social and just differing expectations in all areas, whether it’s disclosure or metrics. But speaking specifically about metrics, it’s always so interesting to me that even when I started working in this 10, 15 years ago, there were more metrics than you would actually get from traditional. You could actually see how many people saw something, which on TV it’s a little bit vague, and print probably even vaguer, right? But with social media you have this actual data and there’s still such skepticism and such a traditional mindset of this is the way we’ve always done things and this is what works for us. And I’m venting now. And this willingness to ignore the fact that the numbers are fake in a way. Where with social media, they’re real actual numbers and you’re seeing so much true data.

Danielle Wiley: It must have been really interesting to you to be at a traditional media entity doing social media. And did you see that discrepancy between traditional and social? And if so, how did you deal with it? And am I alone in having this frustration?

Stephanie Ramirez: Yeah, no, I definitely agree. I feel like they’re two different beasts. And also, obviously, they’re so supportive in helping with distribution, you have to treat the channels so differently. Even just within our own social media strategy realm, creating content for YouTube is going to be so much different than creating content for Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, vice versa. So I think just doing a lot more education with the internal teams, especially with the production team that is so used to real time go, go, go, which is how most channels run. But for a channel like YouTube it’s not like that. So just doing a lot more education internally on which metrics to be looking at the most. And like you were saying, the big broader numbers are what they focus on here, but as much as impressions are great, it’s how many of those are actual viewers versus times that they viewed it versus are they engaging with it? That’s great that they viewed it, but are they continuing to scroll or are they stopping and actually engaging with the content? Are they sharing it?

Stephanie Ramirez: Reprioritizing which metrics are the most important per channel, and then just being able to educate that amongst the folks that are in the production teams, the senior stakeholders, all those folks that are making the decisions on that. And basically just doing a lot of experimentation too. What’s great about those channels though is that there was so much content to work with. I think I had too much content at some point, which was just so much. But then understanding the audiences that are watching the TV shows are not the same audiences that are part of our social media channels.

Danielle Wiley: A younger demographic might prefer just to engage with Univision on social media and not even care about the TV.

Stephanie Ramirez: Exactly. So that was another point too where just because we have a great TV show and we can go in instantly and clip as many segments as we want and push them out on our channels, it doesn’t mean that same audience is watching the TV show and also wants to watch the same thing on our channels. So being very strategic on which ones are going to be most beneficial for our content. Because sometimes having too much content is also going to hurt you as well, because it’s not really great. It’s more quality versus quantity. So I think that was also a difference there that I experienced than any other job.

Danielle Wiley: That’s something we struggle with brands a lot. We’ll have brands come to us and they want to do both Instagram and TikTok, which is great, but they want to find economies of scale and use the same influencers for both and are often very surprised. You can look at the same exact creator and look at their demographics on Instagram versus TikTok and it could be totally different from a gender perspective, from an age perspective how engaged that following is. And I just think it’s a really hard mindset to wrap your brain around that each platform is its own completely separate beast and you can’t just bundle them up together.

Stephanie Ramirez: It would be so easy if we could, but that’s definitely not how human behavior is. That’s not the reality of the game. And so yeah, no, I definitely agree.

Danielle Wiley: And so it’s really interesting to me that you came from Univision where it’s a specific… Obviously, there’s a range as we were talking about in ages and genders, but it was a specific demographic in terms of Latino or Latinx. And then going a Lyft where it’s like everyone.

Stephanie Ramirez: Yeah.

Danielle Wiley: My daughter who’s almost 21 uses Lyft. My aunt who’s in her late seventies uses Lyft. And that’s just one example. But how do you wrap your brain around that? So you have all the platforms, but then there’s also just trying to reach all those different people where they are.

Stephanie Ramirez: Yeah, no definitely. They’re definitely two different experiences. Also because the Univision I grew up with it, so it’s been a part of my identity since I was a child. So that kind of felt more at home. Versus Lyft, you’re talking to so many different audiences because like you said, it’s everyone but also it’s drivers and riders which are two different experiences. Those who are driving to obviously make a living or at least part-time, and those who are riding to get to the airport or to travel around. And so I think the experience there, there’s so many different demographics. But I think the biggest learning and I take with me in every experience ever since Univision is that if you want to talk to specific audiences, you need to have that representation in those cultural insights lead the way.

Stephanie Ramirez: Talking even to Latinx, we’re not also one big blanket. When we created content about traditions or habits within the US Mexican culture, those who are Cuban or those who are from Puerto Rico, they’re not going to relate because they’re so different. Even though they’re all under the Latin X bucket, we’re not all the same. There’s so many nuances and differences within that one culture that I think that take away, I take away to everything that I do. Really being culture and insights led on who we’re talking to.

Stephanie Ramirez: And then having that audience be within our content and learn from them and have that representation be there. Within everything we do when it comes to our content, although we’re talking to different audiences, we make sure we have culture lead the way, there’s diversity and inclusion, we’re talking to those folks. Because Lyft is very inclusive, we also want to talk to those audiences that maybe most brands don’t want to talk to or don’t talk to enough. And so we want to make sure we have that representation within our employees, within the folks that we talk to, with the content creators we work with. We’re very much that brand forward-thinking. So I think that’s the brands that I always want to work for and work with. And so ever since Univision that opened up my eyes to, I want to work with companies that really have those values that I align with.

Danielle Wiley: And then for that Lyft TikTok you talked about, that you’re marketing Lyft to both riders and drivers. I’m so interested in the process of using social media to recruit, especially in this gig economy where there’s a lot of need out there, there’s a lot of competition for gig workers. Especially during COVID, there were questions about safety and there’s just so much there. So can you talk a little bit about how you’ve used the platforms, not just to market Lyft, but to actually recruit?

Stephanie Ramirez: Absolutely. I think when I got hired in the pandemic, that’s been the biggest effort of obviously no one’s really out and using share, but how can we get back from this? There’s definitely a bright hope that we can get back to a new normal at the time. So we were trying to figure out ways to do that. And I think at the core and the center, we always want to make sure our drivers feel valued. That’s what we repeat constantly. We want to make sure they’re seen and heard. They’re not only riders, but also drivers are obviously the bread and butter of our service, so we want to make sure they’re recognized and valued. So during the pandemic, what we did too was just a lot of different campaigns to make sure that they were heard and to make a big splash across the driver community.

Stephanie Ramirez: And I think one big effort we did was create an access, a transportation access. We never want transportation to be a barrier for folks. If folks need to go to a job interview or they need to feel like they can get from place to place to continue their normal lives, we want to make sure Lyft is an easy way for them to get to and from. So having transportation access for folks to go to job interviews, things like that, creating different campaigns across TikTok, identifying drivers who are actively recording their day of the life as a Lyft driver and making sure they’re acknowledged. Sliding into their DM saying, “Hey, let’s work together. Let’s elevate the content you’re doing on our platforms.”

Stephanie Ramirez: And working with drivers who are really, really dedicated to really creating a great experience in their Lyfts that I think that’s just been a great recruitment tool. I think TikTok has been a great tool in terms of not only just posting content and growing an audience, but building community within the comments section. We’ve seen so many success, even PR moments of just us commenting on TikTok’s, building the brand, communicating with other drivers, creating fun banter. That’s created great relationships for us within just the comment section. So just being active within the community has been a really great recruitment tool for us.

Danielle Wiley: I love the way that social media can show that day in the life and just get across the excitement of a job or just what it feels like. I remember we were learning about Twitch to use for programs, and we were watching, this sounds dorky, we were all watching Twitch together. But we were watching a messenger, like a bike messenger in New York, and he has a live Twitch stream going all day just showing what it’s like to be a bike messenger and picking up food. And on the face of it sounds like the most boring thing ever, but it was so exciting and you have people watching and it was really active and lots of movement. And I don’t know that you could ever find words or photos to convey the excitement of what it’s like to be a bike messenger in New York, but this live streaming platform brought it to life and added that excitement.

Stephanie Ramirez: Absolutely. Folks are using the live feature in different ways that you didn’t even know could be used and it’s just so fun. I think observing other people is also just funny content as well.

Danielle Wiley: So getting back to metrics, I’d love to talk to you about what you think are the most valuable ones. Which ones do you learn the most from? When you pull up a report, where does your eye go first and why?

Stephanie Ramirez: For me, it’s a tie between reach and overall engagements. And for me, it’s more public engagements. Are people liking, commenting and sharing? Those that can be really visible on the post. Because I think of it as if you’re walking by a really awesome bar or restaurant and you’re thinking about going in. If you see a line or if you see a lot of reviews or if you see a lot of conversation or buzz around it, you’re like, “Oh, let me see what this is about.” So that’s how I think about posts. If there’s a lot of public facing engagements, clicks for me where you wouldn’t really know if you passed by an article if it’s really popular or not, but you see a lot of comments or a lot of likes or a lot of shares. So seeing the amount of total interactions on a post versus how much reach it’s had.

Stephanie Ramirez: So if people are sharing, it’s going to get a high reach, so you want to be able to do the calculations and figure out what’s your benchmark engagement rate on average for your posts. And then do that calculation for a post and then see if it’s above or below it. And then that’s how you can determine if it’s a really good post or if it’s a bad post or right up at the cusp. Just seeing that balance because it’s great if there’s a lot of impressions or a lot of reach, but if it has really below interactions, no one really cares for the content. So finding that good balance, which we call engagement rate is our number one metric for success.

Stephanie Ramirez: But then overall, looking at the context of it too, you also want to see if it’s a video. For me, video, it’s of views, but more so video retention, view retention. Looking at the charts, data has become so much more visual, especially on TikTok’s analytics dashboard, there’s all these charts that show you if it’s a below spike, above spike. Just shows overall where are people dropping off and how long are they watching it? Are they watching until the end? And that’s one of the factors of how TikTok also shows content within your For You page. Are people really sticking around long enough? And YouTube obviously, has been the traditional one that’s been using that data from the beginning, but I think now more and more video obviously is not going away anytime soon. So that data is just going to continue to grow. So how can you really be strategic in your video content to get folks to watch all the way through, or at least have a higher retention rate than the industry average. So that’s the content, the data points that I look at from there.

Stephanie Ramirez: And then at the end of the day, is this significant for your brand too? I also want to look at the context. Is this representative of what we want to be doing on social? Let’s say memes or a certain format online is really trending but doesn’t fit for your branding. You’re starting to act like a brand that’s not true to your values and it doesn’t really feel great to create that content. You’re just doing it to be on trend. What really shows your values, shows the message you’re trying to get across, what your brand is about, but then also aligns with great metrics is also a great recipe for success.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that because I think I agree with you that engagement is queen and it’s what you have to look at. But it’s so interesting to look at different types of businesses and how you take those social media metrics and tie them back to the actual business. So it can be performing really well, but is it moving the needle from a number of rides perspective or downloads of the app? Or do you ever look at that or are you purely focused on just the performance of social and let another team bring in the business?

Stephanie Ramirez: Yeah, absolutely. I have experience both in organic and paid. Right now, my role is purely organic. So when I look at the data, I look for content performance and more for brand awareness and brand love. So for a measurement of our success and what we report to our senior stakeholders is brand mentions, brand sentiment. Overall, is it positive, negative, what people are saying across social media? And then also just share a voice. How much of the content being talked about in ride share is Lyft versus our competitors? So looking at those more brand awareness bucket. But on the paid media side, which we work really closely with our paid social team, when they boost our content or create paid campaigns around our content that we’re creating, they’re looking at conversions. So from that content, are people actually converting to new writers, new drivers? Are they downloading the app, are they taking rides? Is our content driving actual conversions? So those two together show overall brand marketing success. So we work hand in hand. So I’ve worked on both sides, but my role is mainly just brand awareness.

Danielle Wiley: I love the way that the performance of organic can help inform paid. We have this conversation often that we don’t ever boost anything without first seeing how it’s trending on its own because it doesn’t make sense to put money behind something that just is not appealing or for whatever reason it’s not hitting. And looking at those numbers on how the organic stuff is doing and how it’s reaching people can really inform the paid, which then will hopefully drive more business.

Stephanie Ramirez: Yeah, absolutely. That’s why we work so closely with that team because as soon as we post content, we’re obviously monitoring it to see how it’s averaging out with our average benchmark of engagement rate. And if it’s starting to tick upwards, we’ll alert the team to immediately put money behind it. Also, it’ll drive the cost down too because it’s good content that people are already organically engaging with. So it’ll be cheaper at the end, but also drive much, much more success for us.

Danielle Wiley: This is out of the blue, but you mentioned YouTube before. What are your thoughts on YouTube shorts?

Stephanie Ramirez: Oh man, there’s so much effort and push around it. I’m seeing it everywhere. You know what? I think at the end of the day, all of us, all the platforms are just trying to fight for attention. And so I think it’s not a bad way of what they’re trying to do. I don’t know how much it’s going to really stick around, but I feel like we can just only watch and see. I think it’s really great. At the end of the day, YouTube’s always had a great reputation, especially with creators on giving them a more ad show than I feel like the other platforms have.

Danielle Wiley: Totally, yeah.

Stephanie Ramirez: So I think they have that loyalty of YouTubers who have been on the platform for so many years now, like Mr. Beast and on and on. So many different content creators have been on the platform. So I think it’ll always be the powerhouse it is. Don’t know how well shorts will do, just because the user behavior of it is so different than what I’m used to doing on YouTube. I’m not used to that type of content, so I feel like there has to be that adjustment period. No, but I feel like who knows where it’ll go now.

Danielle Wiley: The thing I like, I’m obviously coming from an influencer marketing perspective, but what appeals to me about shorts, we’ve always had this issue with YouTube that clients want a full dedicated video, and creators only want to give a segment of a video for paid. And sometimes you’re talking about 20 minutes, 15, the size varies. With shorts, you can suddenly offer up that dedicated video without having to ask a creator to talk about a brand for 30 minutes straight, which can be a lot. So for me, selfishly, I’m like, yes, another avenue. But yeah, we’ll see. I think it is a totally different way of interacting with that platform in general so.

Stephanie Ramirez: Yeah, who knows? But the organic reach is great right now. Just TikTok from the beginning too, if creators are starting to see that their content is actually going to get rewarded with views and interactions, which I feel like Instagram was at the beginning, more people are going to want to gravitate towards those channels.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. Okay, so now we have this fun question that we ask everyone who’s a guest to the podcast just because obviously growing up in the seventies and eighties, TV commercials were everything and were my original influence. So what TV commercial from your childhood has stuck with you to this day?

Stephanie Ramirez: Oh my God. I had an answer and I tried to rethink what my answer was for this. Oh my god, it was the Chocula commercial.

Danielle Wiley: Okay. Count Chocula.

Stephanie Ramirez: Was it kicks? I’m like, why am I thinking kick? If I have to think back at the different commercials I had growing up, I want to say this is going to be silly, but cereal commercials/ just because I’ve always had a sweet tooth and I’ve tried all different types of cereals growing up. And as much as obviously they’re not great for you and my family was never really big on a lot of sugary cereals, I think I always found a way to convince them to get me at least the latest box. And I think the Chocula one with the Dracula was always the one that just stood out because the creatures were just so funny and memorable. And I feel like in terms of Halloween coming up, I feel like that’s a funny one too.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. Well, and it made that delicious chocolate milk that you had an extra bonus treat when you were done with your cereal.

Stephanie Ramirez: Exactly. Yeah. Those always just stuck in my head.

Danielle Wiley: Awesome. Well, that’s great. Well, thank you so much. It was so much fun getting to know you and chatting and loved hearing about everything you’ve done and I am excited for what’s coming down the road.

Stephanie Ramirez: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It was great talking to you.

Danielle Wiley: Of course.

Danielle Wiley: Thank you for listening. Don’t forget to like, share and subscribe. Please check back next Monday for a new episode featuring marketing conversations through the lens of influence. I am your host, Danielle Wiley, and this is The Art of Sway.