Here is a transcript generated by of The Content Mix podcast interview with Ishani Bechoo, global social media manager at Arup:

Shaheen Samavati 0:12
Hi, everyone, I’m Shaheen from The Content Mix and I’m excited to be here with Ishani Bechoo, who has a long career in journalism and communications and is currently global social media manager at Arup, a global design consultancy based in the UK. Thanks so much for joining us.

Ishani Bechoo 0:27
Thanks for having me, Shaheen.

Shaheen Samavati 0:28
So, to start out, can you just tell us a bit about your background and a bit more about that long history you have in journalism, communications and now social media marketing?

Ishani Bechoo 0:38
Okay, I started out as a journalist, so I trained as a journalist, and then worked at independent newspapers in South Africa for six and a half years. That was quite an interesting time, actually. I covered a, you know, a full range of beats from court reporting, crime, health and general reporting on a daily newspaper, and it was the late ’90s. So, Nelson Mandela was the president at the time. So as part of my job I had, you know, the honor of meeting him. I then decided to take a year off and go on a working holiday to the UK. And with a promise to return, but I didn’t. So, here I am, 19 years later, still in London, working in communications and marketing teams. I worked across, you know, sectors, so government, private charities, international development, higher education, and I’m back in professional services right now at a firm called Arup. But I feel like I’ve worked, you know, across the full range of external comms, you know, from working in a press office and doing PR to doing lots of publishing roles, editing, writing, working on magazines. And then making a conscious effort really into the kind of digital marketing space. So starting off, you know, initially, you know, looking after the e-newsletters and growing audiences there. And then managing sort of, you know, web content, setting up newsletter campaigns. Moving on to website management. So you know, at the international development agency I worked on, I launched and ran a website. In my last role I worked at UCL, the university in London, as the head of digital communications. And there I led the redesign of the university’s homepage, which was quite, you know, a really interesting job. The homepage itself receives about a million hits a month, and I also developed a social media strategy for them. And then that led me to my current role at Arup, where I’ve been for about just over two years, focusing on global social media channels.

Shaheen Samavati 3:03
Yeah, it’s interesting, we have a really similar story. Both have worked at daily newspapers, left to do a year abroad and didn’t go back. And I’m curious in, I feel like newspapers, the time that I worked there was like the end of like a golden era. I don’t know about for you, you I guess were a little bit before me. For me, it was 10 years ago. But yeah, it was, I think, a really amazing opportunity to work in that field at that time, because they had like so much resources and such professionalism and ethical, I guess, and journalistic standards, that it was like a really, I think, unique opportunity. I wonder… yeah, I mean, I imagine the same trend has happened to papers in South Africa.

Ishani Bechoo 3:49
Absolutely. I think that, you know, I think that we’re lucky because we were able to sort of cut our teeth and establish our foundations in that kind of very professional environment where we had to work a little bit harder, because we didn’t have, you know, there were lots of conversations, you know especially in my time picking up the phone, you had to really know your, you know, media law and be really, you know, careful about content, you know, checking, double checking, etc. And especially with the newspaper, as you well know, there’s no opportunity for error, you can’t, you know, delete content quickly and replace it as you can now. But I think that kind of training has been really useful, because social media is, you know, is really quite a risky medium. You know, you get quite a lot of responses and quite a lot of scrutiny on social media. So you really need to be super careful. You know, I say that social media was introduced to most of us, as really, you know, in a social way. So as something that isn’t part of your professional world, and so, in that sense, it’s sometimes not taken as seriously as it should be. And we see that every day with even big brands getting it wrong on social media. So I think you do need to have that level of, you know, a high level of professionalism in your approach to it.

Shaheen Samavati 5:22
Definitely, I know when I was working newspapers, we were just experimenting with a lot of things like on the website and adding comments sections to stories, and it was back then, like comments were totally anonymous. And yeah, and so people were really like, mean, gave really horrible feedback on every story. I mean, how do you think, I guess, like the online etiquette has evolved over the years and yeah, how do you deal with…?

Ishani Bechoo 5:54
Yeah, I think that it’s been a learning curve. You know, I think even like social media is a relatively new specialism, it’s a relatively new function. So people are constantly learning. In addition, it is constantly evolving and changing. People’s behaviors as well are changing. And we know that there’s a lot of sort of backlash. A lot of reactions on social media channels. I think it really is up to us, as you know, the managers of channels and the professionals to take extra precautions. For us, in my current role at Arup, thankfully, we have quite a, you know, good brand, quite a credible brand. So we get lots of good engagement. And I think equally, it’s important to engage with those communities that come to you. So I think people really want to feel heard and listened to, so as long as you have that positive, constant, you know, engagement with your communities, because ultimately that’s who we’re targeting, then you’re in a good place. But in terms of sort of, you know, people and you know, the etiquette of actual followers. Yeah, it’s, you know, you really, you just have to be prepared for, you know, different sorts of reactions and take that into consideration when you’re creating your content to begin with.

Shaheen Samavati 7:22
And in terms of the channels that you work with, primarily for social and for content creation in your current role?

Ishani Bechoo 7:29
So I look after our four main global channels. So LinkedIn, which I would call our flagship, because we’re a B2B, and also because we have almost half a million followers; it’s our biggest one. We have an Instagram channel. Again, really great opportunity there to reach out to our audiences. It’s a really high-growth channel for us, as well as Twitter and Facebook. We also have, so Arup is a global firm, so we work with all our regions, you know, the Americas, Australasia, Southeast Asia, UKIMEA and Europe as a region. So, within the regions, we also have channels, social media channels there, and they have a level of autonomy because you know, as you yourself know, you have that global overview and global standards, but it’s really important to speak to people in their, you know, local languages or with lots of local context. So part of my role is I connect and collaborate very closely with my colleagues in the regions. So the, you know, marketing and communication colleagues, as well as social media points of contact, to share guidance and knowledge and, you know, updates, as well as templates, etc. and strategy. So for example, a hashtag strategy or, you know, any changes I might make on the global channels around, you know, word counts and that kind of thing, so that they can apply those. So that as a firm, we have a kind of consistent style and tone of voice. Having said that, they do have the, you know, they have the autonomy to create the content in whatever, you know, languages and also to zone in on the kind of local regional projects that they want to talk about, that we may not be able to necessarily cover on the global channels. But you know, it’s great because we work in close collaboration, and that’s really, really helpful.

Shaheen Samavati 9:37
So had you worked with social media in your previous roles? I mean, I imagine yes, but like, not to maybe the same degree as you are now? I think this is the first time your title is social media manager?

Ishani Bechoo 9:50
Yes, exacty. So I have, because when you work on websites and on content, there’s an immediate link between the two, so you know, you’re creating content for a website or managing a website, you want to be able to promote that content. So I think, you know, several years ago when I worked for an international development agency, GAIN, I launched the website and of course worked, you know, very closely with making sure that everything we, you know, put out… One of the things that I did there is to make sure that we had dynamic content on the website. So we always had something new every single day. And then that was closely aligned with what we’d put out on social. So really, you know, that helped to really grow our audiences. In my last job at UCL, the university, I put together a social media strategy for the university, and it was a little bit different because it’s a… So, the university’s audience are students, students who are mostly digital natives. So they tend to communicate a lot on social media. So you know, there was a lot of dialogue. So it was a slightly different employer to my current one, who was B2C. I think now where I’m focused on social media, it’s really great because I see it as something that is essential to marketing. You know, it is, as I think you said it earlier, it’s absolutely, you know, it’s of growing importance in our field. So this role has given me the opportunity to do a deep dive into social, not just on the organic side, but on the paid social side. So you know, we’re running paid campaigns. I find them incredibly interesting because I love the fact that we have all this interesting data and analytics at our fingertips. We know so much about the audiences that we are targeting, their behaviors, what they like, what they don’t like, a little bit about their profiles, and it is hugely successful. You can really easily reach out to people that you want to talk to, and if you know how to do it. So for me, I think it’s really important to have that mix of really good content, but also align that with, you know, your own business objectives, your audience insights, and really strong, you know, compelling content, you have the ability to achieve success with campaigns. So it’s, you know, I love, you know, when I think about, you know, what I do every week, you know, I’ve got the content gathering side, you know, scheduling, I work with an agency who support me on you know, social media. And we, you know, have our meetings to discuss opportunities and you know, how best to present content in a creative way. But what I love best is at the end of the week, when I look at the analytics, so I do a review of, you know, performance across our channels, I really look forward to that, because that gives me such huge insights into performance. And then I use that information to feed back into our channels. And, you know, we’ve had really good growth. I’ve been there two years, and on LinkedIn and Instagram we’ve had between 30 and 40%, follower growth, and much more growth on the engagement side, on the different channels, just by applying insights, you know, applying insights back into the different channels and really getting an understanding of what audiences are after.

Shaheen Samavati 13:36
Absolutely. Well, I wanted to go back to something we were talking about before. About like your current role and your evolution into that role, because I think it’s really interesting, a lot of people I’ve talked to in the podcast have similar job titles, and I think that the job title of social media manager didn’t used to be such, or maybe didn’t even exist before. But now it seems to be in a lot of cases like this really senior and strategic role in companies. And yeah, I was just curious on what you think the trend is happening there, I suppose.

Ishani Bechoo 14:09
I think that it is, social media is a really powerful tool and as a function within firms and organizations, it is going to be a growing one. Lots of firms do understand how important it is, and it’s part of their sort of, social media is part of their wider strategy, but I think many firms are still learning about it. You know, if you imagine that, you know, leadership of most firms and organizations have not necessarily grown up with social media. And I think I mentioned earlier that social media arrived in most of our lives as a kind of, you know, a social tool rather than a professional tool. So I think it’s the kind of thing that’s taking a little bit longer to find its place in many firms and organizations, but I think you and I, Shaheen, will be, you know, talking about this in 10 years from now, you know, knowing that social media would hopefully have become an integral part of any business, of any organization. You know, it’s an important part of the business strategy and aligned with all the different other online channels, platforms, strategies, and external events that form part of any, you know, the firm’s marketing approach. So, yeah, I think it’s not something that’s going to go away. It really is part of the future, it is really going to be even bigger and more powerful. And despite the backlash, you know, relating to many platforms, at the end of the day, that’s where people congregate. That’s where the audiences are, and we are all using social media. That’s where many of us get most of our information, whether it’s you know, shopping about products or news. That’s the first port of call. And the sooner firms, organizations realize that they need to invest more in it and prioritize social media, the better. But at the same time, it’s not a standalone, it’s something that works alongside other strategies. It’s something that works alongside, you know, strong content pipelines and, you know, as someone who’s worked on websites and email marketing, etc., these things are all part of the, should be underpinned by the same, or fall within the same strategy. Because audiences move between websites, you know, our email newsletters, our CRMs, and we need to have that holistic view of their movements of their behaviors in order to successfully reach them. So you know, it sounds simple, but in practice, it’s not necessarily the case in many places. But I think that that, for me is what, you know, the future should look like, where social media is an integral part of the business.

Shaheen Samavati 17:10
And do you think social media will replace traditional, I guess not traditional, but other publishing platforms? Because I think we’re seeing increasingly people creating content specifically for certain social media platforms rather than using it as a promotional tool, as I think it was, like, seen in the past.

Ishani Bechoo 17:28
Yeah, I think, you know, I think the social media networks themselves are trying to keep people on social media channels. So they put us in a position where yes, we want to collect these audiences and to engage them, and then show them our, you know, tell them all about ourselves through our website, etc. But social media networks want to hold on to those audiences. So that means that, and then similarly, us as users, our, you know, our attention spans have, you know, are shrinking on a daily basis, so we want to quickly grasp what’s going on. And something has to be really compelling for us to click further in order to find out more. So we need to understand that there needs to be some value behind social in order to get past that. I don’t think that, I think things will continue to evolve and change. And we really need to be on top of that. So it is, you know, there will be challenges, but I think social media also provides us with opportunities that we’ve never had before. And it really is up to us to kind of maneuver our way around that. And that does mean keeping up to date with what’s happening on social networks, because they are constantly evolving.

Shaheen Samavati 18:48
So speaking of that, I wanted to go into recommendations, and my first question is, what resources do you recommend for staying up to date on marketing trends and what’s going on in social media?

Ishani Bechoo 18:59
So I try and keep up to date with trends by, you know, signing up to, you know, newsletters and alerts from, you know, Social Media Today and the likes. What I also find helpful is I use the social media management tool called Hootsuite, which you probably know. One of the things I try to do in order to take my own advice of keeping up to date with what’s going on, is I’ve done a couple of certification courses through them, so they have Hootsuite Academy. And I’ve done you know, like, advanced social media strategy, and I’ve done social ROI. And through those courses, it’s really, you know, that helps me to also stay up to date, and also builds my knowledge around social media. So as part of it, they have quite a lot of blogs, etc. I think there are lots of, you know, learning tools online, you know, LinkedIn at the moment are offering quite a lot of free content. And various other learning tools where I think you you are exposed to useful blogs, etc. There’s so much content out there. So it’s really difficult to, you know, follow absolutely everything but I think it is important to take that time to try and keep up to date with what’s going on in the social media field.

Shaheen Samavati 20:21
Absolutely. And then, well, any favorite book or other resource?

Ishani Bechoo 20:27
So in terms of tools, I think, again, you need, you know, in the, I guess in the social media space, it’s really helpful to have a platform, a social media manager, so again, I use Hootsuite, but in the past, I’ve used Sprout Social, etc. But together with that, and for me, it’s incredibly important to have a good analytics tool. So I use Hootsuite Impact for, you know, to look at all the metrics on a weekly basis, on a monthly basis, even you know, doing year-on-year assessments. But I think alongside that, it’s also helpful to use listening tools, like, in marketing and in, you know, when you’re working on content, like, you know, Brandwatch and Pulsar, which enable you to see what the conversations are that are taking place, either in the social space or, you know, you could use media tools to see what the hot topics are out there. So I think it is important as it is to know about what your audiences are talking about. It’s also really important to know about how the topics you are interested in are being discussed, you know, in the external space. I think in the past, I’ve also used, speaking of you know, tools, I’ve used workflow management tools like Basecamp. So for example, in my last job, I did the redesign of UCL’s homepage. So working with an agency and other colleagues, it was really helpful to have this tool where we could have conversations, you could upload files, you could tick off to do lists. It was a project management tool, but I found it incredibly useful to make sure that the project was, you know, moving in the way that it should and all the people, you know, everything that needed to be done was ticked off. And all the resources that we were using could be found in one place. But I think in this day and age when we have lockdown and home working, it’s not just valuable for projects but for the day-to-day job.

Shaheen Samavati 22:32
Absolutely, yeah. And then just finally, I wanted to ask you if you have any industry group or event that you would recommend?

Ishani Bechoo 22:43
At the moment, so I go to the LinkedIn Labs events. You know, I go to the one in London, so not far from me, and that I found really useful. Again, going back to how, you know, I think I’m lucky because I have that opportunity to deep dive into what’s happening on the organic social and the paid social sides. So LinkedIn has Marketing Labs every, they have one roughly once a month on a Friday morning, and you can go over there, and then they take a deep dive. So for example, I’ve been to one where they looked at Campaign Manager, which is the back end of the paid social tool. So where you’d, you know, you’d run your campaigns separate to the organic posts. And so it’s, you know, obviously something like that can be really detailed, can be really technical, but having that face-to-face discussion with them is really helpful. So I think the equivalent of that you could probably get, it will probably happen online in the future. So something like that’s really useful. Similarly, I go to like LinkedIn conferences and Hootsuite conferences each year.

Shaheen Samavati 23:59
Absolutely. So we’re reaching the end of the time for interview. Do you have any parting advice for other content marketers or social media managers out there?

Ishani Bechoo 24:10
I think, yes, I think it’s really important to know, you know, what the power of social media is and to harness it. I also think it’s not something, a social media strategy is not something that’s a standalone; it really needs to work alongside your business priorities, you know, what you know about your audiences, and, you know, a strong content pipeline and your other digital channels. I also think it’s really important to, and this is not just, you know, on social media, but it’s really important to measure and, you know, and track the performance of your content, and then to apply those insights and feed them back into any future content that you’re creating.

Shaheen Samavati 24:55
Absolutely. As someone from journalism, I think that’s been like the biggest learning curve for me, but definitely a super fascinating and interesting aspect of content marketing. Well thank you, Ishani, so much for sharing your insights with us. It was an awesome interview. Thank you.

Ishani Bechoo 25:10
Thank you, Shaheeen. It’s been an absolute pleasure. It’s really good chatting to you as well.

Shaheen Samavati 25:13
Yeah, and thanks everybody for listening in. For more perspectives on the content marketing industry in Europe, check out and keep tuning into podcasts like this one for more interviews every weekday. See you next time.

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