CONVERSATIONS: Steaks and Social Media

"Building a blog is building a brand," says fitness blogger Rachel Becker 01C

By Michelle Valigursky, Rachel Becker 01C, Rubina Fillion 05C

Story Photo

Leaders in social media: Rachel Becker 01C (left) and Rubina Fillion 05C (right).

At Del Frisco’s Steakhouse in New York City's Rockefeller Center, Michelle Valigursky of EmoryWire sat down with alumnae Rubina Madan Fillion 05C, social media editor at The Wall Street Journal, and Rachel Becker 01C, blogger/founder of STRENGTH+Sole. Social media - and fitness - were the topics of the day.


Rachel Becker: So, it seems like social media is THE most desirable job in New York City right now! How do you think it has changed both day-to-day operations and the future of journalism?

Rubina Fillion: News moves much more quickly than it did in the past. When there’s an earthquake, a mass shooting, or an explosion, we’ll often hear about it on Twitter first. It’s possible to get first-hand accounts, photos, and videos almost immediately. That puts pressure on news organizations to move fast without sacrificing the quality of their reporting.


“It's critical to have a strong image associated with your Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media accounts. I use my Wall Street Journal "hedcut" (dot drawing) because it's an iconic WSJ style that represents me,” Fillion says.

Social media also creates more two-way communication between readers and journalists. We’ve done callouts to solicit reader opinions or get them to submit photos using Instagram and Twitter. Earlier this year, we launched a Wall Street Journal book club which allows readers to discuss novels on Facebook, Twitter, and on our website. They’re also able to ask authors questions during a live video chat. This month, our WSJ book club host is Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn.

Rachel: Given this, what are the most important qualities in editors directly in charge of managing social media for a news organization?

Rubina: Having good judgment is key because you have to make important decisions fast. And you’re representing not just yourself, but the whole news organization. You also have to be flexible, because social media changes so quickly that the rules one day often won’t apply the next.

What about you? How did you get interested in blogging?

Rachel: I work in marketing for fashion magazines and luxury brands. It’s such a creative, crazy world and exercise has always been the key to my success (and my sanity). I wanted to build a place where I could write about what I love and help people learn how, where, and why to work out. I firmly believe there’s nothing that happens between 9-5 that an hour of sweating can’t fix!

Rubina: What advice would you give someone who wants to start a new blog?

Rachel: Three things. Firstly, self-host, meaning, own your domain name and build your site on WordPress, so that you’ll have complete creative control and your site is easy to manage on a day-to-day basis. Choose content pillars that you’re really passionate about--for me, it’s fitness and fashion--and ones that you feel others want to know more about, too. And, finally, be realistic: building a blog is building a brand. And, that takes time. No single tweet or press hit is going to catapult you into the center of the digital universe. Like any other job, it’s a process (but a really fun one!).

Speaking of Tweets, it’s interesting that Twitter has evolved into a form for major business or federal announcements and celebrities/notables “duking it out.” What do you think the implications of this are from business and interpersonal perspectives?

Rubina: Government officials and businesses now realize that social media is a good way to talk directly to people. Facebook and Twitter had a huge impact on the 2012 election as a way of mobilizing voters. Most brands also recognize that they need to reach out to people where they spend their time. And if they’re scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed, that might be the best place to reach them.

Rachel: You have more than 7,000 followers (and WSJ has 4.2 million), what do you think are the best ways for businesses to grow their following? And, who should we be following?


Becker advises, “Images are like diamonds, so follow the rule of c's: color, clarity and content. Vibrant colors, crisp, high-resolution photos and compelling content will help you capture new followers.”.

Rubina: Before I tweet something out, I think, “Is this something people will want to share?” A good tweet informs and/or entertains people. On both my personal account and @WSJ, I try to put out tweets that make people feel smarter for having read them.

I’d recommend following people in your field so you can learn from them. I get a lot of my news on Twitter, so I end up following a lot of news organizations and journalists I respect.

Where should we be working out?

Rachel: Well, rowing is one of the most popular ways to do cardio right now. Studios like Row House and City Row, here in New York, are definitely onto something--it’s a full-body workout in 45 or 50 minutes. I also love indoor cycling and running. I’m training for my next race, the Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon, this summer!

Rubina: The half marathon sounds amazing. I’ll have to check those places out.

Rachel: So, one last question: what’s your motto, in life?

Rubina: “No regrets.” When I make a mistake, I do my best to try to learn from it so I can avoid it the next time. I try not to dwell on negative experiences, and pride myself on not holding grudges. I try to travel often and say “yes” to new experiences. I want to be able to look back on a life of happy memories, not regrets.

And yours?

Rachel: "The time is now." My grandfather posted this phrase beneath his clock and it's so true. There's rarely a "good" time for anything, right? He was a WWII vet, an entrepreneur, and an eternal optimist. If I can live my life even half as bravely as he did, I will have won.

Michelle: Thanks, ladies, for letting us all listen in on your conversation!

Editor’s Note: Ready to connect with both of these savvy alumnae?

Follow Rachel Becker: - Twitter - Instagram - Facebook - Pinterest - LinkedIn

Follow Rubina Fillion:

Twitter - Instagram - Facebook - LinkedIn

Related content:

This year, the Emory Alumni Association is expanding its live action coverage of Commencement on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. “If you’re looking for a way to stay connected during Commencement Weekend, become part of the Emory Alumni Association’s #emoryTBT project by sharing your Commencement throwback photos. Use the hashtag on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook then head to our social hub to check out our board to see what your friends are sharing at,” suggests Tania Dowdy 08Ox 10C, the association’s social media specialist. “Be sure your social profiles are public to be included in the hub.”

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Michelle Valigursky