Lexie Center, a Southern Adventist University alumnus, talks about her job as Social Media Manager for the Women’s Tennis Association.
Question: You are the Social Media Manager for the Women's Tennis Association. Can you explain what that means?
Answer: I help run all of the social media platforms for the WTA: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and more. While everyone is on social media in one way or another, doing it for a brand and as a job is not always as easy as it sounds. A lot of thought and planning goes into different aspects of the digital strategy for the WTA.
What takes up most of your time every day?
No day is quite the same when working in social media. The foundation of posting on the WTA’s social platforms stays consistent, but how that is executed changes daily. Tennis is a year-round sport so unlike football, hockey, basketball, and so on, every week there is a tournament or two happening at a time. Being able to multitask is huge while remembering multiple small details that all add up to the bigger picture.
Can you give us a general idea of a day at work?
Because I am in a managerial role, I have to attend a decent number of meetings. On top of that, I will be covering the tournament/s (up to two simultaneously) that are happening that week. We work in shifts, so our start times change depending where in the world the tournament is happening.
Following our content calendar, we keep an eye out for any holidays we may want to participate in/post about, and any special player or tournament anniversaries happening. We also come up with creative ideas for future content and have to make sure our partnership content goes out.
Working in social media is quite fluid and not your typical 9 to 5 job. Each day brings its own challenges and rewards.
Do you have a team that you work with?
Yes, we have a small but mighty team at the moment. Recently, the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals—men’s professional tennis) and the WTA have started to merge their digital teams so we have started to work more closely with the ATP in some areas. For instance, we are creating a content series together called Tennis United.
Can you tell us about some of your most successful—or entertaining—social media posts for the WTA?
It’s always fun to see who fans gravitate toward, especially when it comes to up-and-coming players. Who the fans decide to get behind can blow up certain social media posts.
Recently, Emma Raducanu won the US Open and it was quite a historic moment! I was lucky enough to have worked the US Open final and with it came some of our top performing posts ever. This was our first IG post to hit 100K likes:
Also, having the Queen of England give a shout out to the British teenager, Emma, was a nice catch:
— wta (@WTA) September 11, 2021
I love hopping on a good pop-culture trend if it fits with the WTA brand. It’s something that no one is ever expecting and is why we, as social media professionals, have to stay on all the different social media platforms and see what is starting to trend as it happens. Trends are only good within a certain timeframe—if posted too late the humor or timeliness is gone. Here are a couple examples of popular trends that I’ve caught early and thought up how it would look coming from the WTA:
Can you guess the Grand Slam based on the emojis? ---- pic.twitter.com/iYLzTA6Ort
— wta (@WTA) May 23, 2020
I am old. https://t.co/6GYTBYP1qZ
— Just Women’s Sports (@justwsports) September 11, 2021
When we had no matches being played because of COVID, I had to think up some other content to keep our audience engaged:
Our players loved posting videos on TikTok during the pandemic, so this was a fun piece I put together that showcased our player’s TikTok personalities:
I love seeing a moment happen in real-time and then seeing the immediate chatter on social media while the match is still going on. It’s key to know when a moment is catching fire and starting to go viral and getting it up on social quickly. At the 2021 Australian Open at the beginning of this year, a butterfly came down on the court and flew around Naomi Osaka. It was a super cool thing to watch and everyone watching thought it was a special moment as well. Later Nike put out a commercial around this content as well.
You have worked for the Women's Tennis Association since January 2020 — just before COVID. How is the job different than you expected, because of the pandemic?
It was definitely an adjustment as for the past two years I had traveled to each tournament to capture content. When Covid hit, they had to scale back and we weren’t able to travel to tournaments anymore. Producing and conceptualizing content off-site was a big change. We had to think of different creative ways to keep our audience engaged with the WTA during a time when no tennis was being played. Now with fans slowly being able to return to tournaments, we are able to start adjusting our content strategy to possibly include on-site content or more content with the players. It has been a great time to challenge my creativity and think outside the box.
What do you like most about your job? What do you find the most challenging?
A positive and a challenge all in one is that no day is quite the same. It’s nice that each week there is a new tournament to promote and new storylines, so nothing is ever the same.
I enjoy traveling and being on-site. I also enjoy looking back and seeing how it all came together for a piece of content. It’s very rewarding to see that whole process through: thinking of the idea, creating the idea, putting it out into the world, and seeing how fans react to it.
Do you get to meet the players? What is that like?
When I was a freelance social media manager, before the WTA, I met and worked with the players on site for content to post on the tennis tournament’s social platforms. Being a tennis fan myself, it’s nice to be able to meet and work with the tennis players. The tennis players and I are both there to do a job—it’s important to always stay professional when working with talent. Since I have been working for the WTA directly, my contact with the players as mostly been through email or messages so far.
Can you work from anywhere? Where are you living and working from now?
When I was a freelancer, I worked for myself and was always traveling. Working for the WTA, I’ve been able to work remotely. We will see how everything plays out moving forward, but the WTA headquarters are located in St. Petersburg, Florida and I live in Tampa, Florida so it works out nicely.
Previously, you did contract work on social media for the US Open, the French Open and the Miami Open. I guess the contacts you made helped you get the full-time position with the Women's Tennis Association? But how did you get those gigs?
After graduating from college, I knew I wanted to work in sports, somehow, but didn’t have the connections one might normally have, since I was coming from an Adventist college. So I made sure to network myself and keep up-to-date on all the different sports job boards. One day a position popped up for a Social Media Assistant for the Miami Open (a contract position just to work the tournament). I applied and was shocked but ecstatic when I was asked to interview and later was offered the job. I worked like crazy during that tournament and it did not go unnoticed, as the person who hired me asked if I would be interested in working as a freelancer for more tennis tournaments. I said of course! Since then I was continually asked back to work different tournaments: Miami Open twice, the US Open in New York, the French Open in Paris and then someone reached out and asked if I would be open to a full time position at the WTA. I’ve been working with the WTA ever since.
Are you tennis player yourself? What are your sports? How did you get interested in sports?
My family is very into sports! Growing up we all played tennis recreationally. I focused more on gymnastics and made it to Level 10 as an AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) gymnast before making the tough decision to focus on getting an education instead of pursuing gymnastics. Tennis has always been in my life because of playing with my family, but we also went to tournaments as fans a lot too.
On top of that, I enjoy cheering on my hometown sports teams (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lightning and Rays) and going to a game in person whenever I can.
You graduated from Southern Adventist University five years ago, in 2016. with a degree in public relations. What did you learn there that has helped you with the job you have now? You said you didn’t make the contacts there that you needed but did any contacts you make at Southern help you professionally?
So this is a tricky question as I learned so much during my four years. Since I majored in Public Relations, that is what my classes revolved around, but I did make sure I was able to take some creative classes as well. A career in social media really did not exist then, at least to me, as it was still early on. Nothing was being taught around social media—when I started college it was just a few platforms to share pictures with your friends and family. So that is why I soaked up everything I could as the marketing specialist for Studio 4109 [a live comedy sketch variety show hosted by Southern Adventist University at the time]. There was no rule book and no guidelines—I really was on my own, learning as I went, testing and trying different techniques and taking different things that I learned from classes and trying to apply them when I could.
Generally, learning the basics about what is newsworthy, how to tell a story, how to take a good photo, and those types of things. The things I learned during my classes definitely translated and helped me during my time with Studio 4109 and beyond. You have to know the basics in anything before you can proceed and grow in any field. So while I am definitely self-taught when it comes to a career in social media, I didn’t start from scratch—the principles and overall teachings would have been super helpful had I stayed in a career for Public Relations.
I consider what I am doing now as a branch of public relations. My professors helped me so much in setting a foundation that would help me land my first freelance social media gig. While they might not have directly contributed to me getting my social media job, they set up opportunities that helped me build my resumé even before graduating. That was huge! Their guidance and mentorship was so valuable and I’m grateful for all of them.
So what was the first place you worked after you graduated from Southern?
After I graduated I was lucky to already have a marketing job lined up. This was great to have right out of college. I then transitioned to being a freelance social media manager after my first gig started to produce more opportunities for me.
What do you like about social media? Are there things you dislike? Are you an active poster in your personal life?
Using social media personally when I work in the field is definitely a balancing act. All day I am on all the social platforms and doing all the things so when work is done for the day, it’s like ohhh I haven’t even looked at my own social feeds. And sometimes I don’t. Putting any energy into my own social media after working on it all day for a brand can be just too draining.
I hear other social media managers say the same—we ask people not to judge us on our own personal social accounts! My personal social media for sure takes a back seat to work.
Seeing social media feeds from our brand accounts, and also from my personal account, can definitely be a help when it comes to hopping on trends though. I can see if tennis players are noticing something and then go on my personal page and see if other brands or influencers are noticing that trend as well.
Where do you think social media is headed next?
Social media is a great way to connect with other people, and seeing how a brand can connect with its fans/followers is a great challenge. I enjoy seeing how we can push the creativity of the brand yet keep the fans engaged and interested in our content. With everyone being home and taking different paths in their lives, social media has definitely become an even bigger part of people’s lives over the past few years. It was a source of entertainment for most, to keep their mind off everything going on in their lives and in the world. It was a time many used to learn new things or skills. It was used to connect with others from shared experiences, skillsets, and hobbies.
Brands have to take all of this into account. Will they continue on with what they know works? Will they use this break to regroup their strategy? Will they start being more fan/follower first? With the rise of TikTok, many followers are showing that they are fine with less.produced content. TikTok is all about sharing in the moment and/or real-time things/thoughts. Brands can try adding that attitude to their strategies and see that sometimes fans just want to know what’s going on.
Social media changes daily and with the recent Instagram/Facebook outage, you never know when it’s going to just go away. So it’s important to build an audience and loyal fanbase that will still be around tomorrow if Instagram, Facebook or Twitter were to go away today.
What advice would you have to someone studying communications or something similar now? What is the best way to get a job?
As clichéd as it sounds, connections are key. I would not be where I am today without the connections I made during my first freelance gig. Always staying up-to-date (as much as you can) with what’s happening in social media is crucial. I had no real sports connections growing up or in college, so that shouldn’t stop anyone from pursuing their dream. Hard work and persistence in the beginning to get your foot in the door is key! Showing you are willing to put in the work, you know your stuff and are willing to jump right in. Scour the job sites for the job or company you are interested in. LinkedIn is a great way to connect with those you might not meet in real life. Look up the company you want to work for, see who works there and reach out to someone, or just the HR department, and start to put your name in front of them. You never know when a simple conversation or greeting could be remembered when an opportunity arises.
Can you tell us about your family? What do you do when you aren't working?
I am very focused on my career currently and enjoy spending time with my dog Misty. She is getting very used to me being around! Traveling is a huge passion of mine and I can’t wait to get back into it. I am a huge foodie so a lot of my travels focus on the local cuisine. I love reading and have happily gotten back into it recently. And as always, whether I’m covering a tennis match, watching one as a fan, or going to a Tampa Bay Lightning game, sports will always be a part of my life.
Alita Byrd is the interviews editor for Spectrum.
Photos courtesy of Lexie Center.
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