Social Bites: John Sabine (Velveeta, Claussen)

What’s your name?

John Sabine

What major social media accounts have you managed?

Velveeta, Claussen Pickles, Just Crack an Egg, Heinz, Chuck E Cheese, Oscar Mayer, Mavrello (NBA mascot)

What was the best thing about managing these accounts?

Creating a distinct voice and POV.
Discovering new audiences and ecosystems to play in.
Also Myth Building.

What were the HARDEST things about managing these accounts?

LOL, where do I begin…
The amount of social platforms and internal processes.
The way advertising as an industry is organized feels outdated: social just still feels so new, so it’s not prioritized.
Too many cooks and not thinking of how the user will receive the info.

How do you think up your posts?

I literally stare at my screen every morning and pray for inspiration. I do not plan many out, but this is just personal preference; I’m not a big planner by nature, but I think that speaks more to my personal background than a universal POV on social. I do think our agility is our biggest strength.

Is there a long approval process for social content or are you trusted to pretty much do your own thing?

I am now trusted to post without approvals. I used to have to get approvals. The accounts where I needed approval always did way worse KPI-wise than the ones where I had trust. It was wild because the ones that required approval were big accounts with way more resources and money.

What have some of your most popular posts been, and why do you think they struck such a chord?

Oh, this is hard—I don’t know if we really have made a dent in terms of going viral.

Our Velveeta Superbowl post from 2021 did well for us:

I live-tweeted the commercials but my goal was to not get sued. I think it did well because it zigged when others zagged, it was self aware, and didn’t try to be too cool.

Also our Claussen turtle tweet got 3.6M organic impressions:

This was also an unplanned, spur-of-the-moment thing. It also shows how naive I was about the pandemic because I thought we’d be back at the office by then. The turtle is still with the parents of a co-worker. I think that one was successful because it didn’t try to sell pickles and gave people a collective fun thing to jump in on. Social is the best when it’s a playground and we allow others to help design it.

What have some of your favorite posts been, even if they aren’t necessarily the ones that went “viral”?

Oh man! This is THE QUESTION, because normally my favorite ones fail. But one time Velveeta got tagged in a thread with the author S.E. Hinton who wrote “The Outsiders” and I got to say “STAY LIQUID GOLD PONY BOY”—it only got 4 likes, but when in your life will you get to say the perfect Venn diagram of S.E. Hinton and Velveeta?

Has a post ever landed you in hot water? (Tell us ALL the juicy details!)

I haven’t really gotten in that much hot water for a post (knock on wood). But I have discovered that the better a post does, the more scared clients get, which I think is wild. I have gotten in trouble because a Utah newspaper once wrote an article about a fun interaction one of my accounts had with some Utah Jazz fans. The article was positive—it was free earned media—and the client got mad because it didn’t “ladder up to their core audience” or something. It was weird to get in trouble because we did something good.

What do you wish you knew before you started managing this account that might have made things easier at the beginning?

Don’t overthink things and lean into creation, not duplication. Also take more breaks—social media is a coal mine for mental health.

What’s your advice for someone starting out in social?

The landscape of social changes so frequently. It’s a gas giant planet: there are no seasons. So find your own compass and develop your own instincts.

Social also has way too many ways to quantify the unquantifiable—so instincts and “feel” I think are super important because numbers can be spun.

Oh, and read the room! Social is a party for humans and brands are not invited to the party so be cool and earn the invite.

What’s your advice for brand managers to get the best out of their social media managers?

Treat them like creatives. Give them the resources like creative and also give them autonomy. The Voice of the brand has to live and breath through the fingers of the person. Authentic connection can happen on social. It can’t happen in any other medium. Let the social media managers lean into their expertise/interests. Does it make sense for Off Bug Spray to talk about “The Bachelor”? Who knows, but I guarantee it can help build brand love/loyalty/connection. It’s social media; nothing makes sense.

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It’s amazing how much time we have to spend explaining to others what is and isn’t good in social media terms.

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