By Jenna Peterson

Kristen Sackett is the marketing and events director at the Downtown Missoula Partnership. She originally joined the staff in 2014 and served in this role until March 2018. She resumed her role in 2020 after working for a local marketing and advertising agency. Guiding her marketing and social media interns, the Missoula Downtown social media pages have had tremendous growth. Its Instagram has over 9,500 followers and very consistent engagement. UM student Jenna Peterson recently spoke with Sackett via email on the best practices for social media. Below is a transcript of their conversation.

Q: How do you deal with criticism when people have opposing views on your content?

A: Being criticized is one of the worst feelings, especially in the marketing world; you’re trying to tell a story, share something fun, etc., and unfortunately in today’s world people are quick to judge and spew comments as a keyboard war. Generally, I don’t respond to any negative comments because that would just stir the pot. If it’s a moment where I can educate and provide clarity, I will do so carefully but generally, it’s not worth my time and energy to engage.
If we get a comment that is of a racist manner or has explicit language, I will hide it on Facebook, but won’t delete it on Instagram (we don’t want to be accused of limiting free speech). If there is something I can learn from that person, I’ll make a mental note.

Q: How do you come up with new content ideas when there are not many exciting things going on?

A: I look to other social media pages for inspiration. Look at other Downtowns. Look to other “place-based” accounts. Look to our local businesses. Sometimes I will just go through our photo assets and see if any photos spark an idea. Posts don’t always have to have a specific purpose or message. Sometimes a post can be as simple as “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood” and post a beautiful picture for people to enjoy.

Q: How do you decide if you are going to reshare content from someone else? What is the thought process?

A: As a membership-based organization, it’s hard because we get requests from our businesses to share posts all the time. I feel it is my job to tell larger stories about Downtown, so I don’t usually like sharing every little thing; that’s not a great way to engage our audience. That being said, I will share things like the anniversary of a business, a super special event, etc. I will also share things that are educational as well such as important construction updates for our Downtown, closures, openings, etc. And finally, sometimes I will share things just for fun; this is especially true on Instagram and sharing things to stories like fun reels or little things our local businesses are doing that may be new or different.

Q: Do you try to post original content for most of your posts?

A: Generally yes. It feels more authentic when you’re coming up with new content and sharing your own graphics, photos, etc. on a regular basis. That being said, sometimes resharing things you’ve shared before is warranted but that’s not super often.

Q: How do you differentiate what you post on Facebook vs. Instagram, or do you post the same content on both platforms?

A: Generally, I try to share the same items on both FB and IG to make sure both types of audiences see what we’re trying to say with the post. However, I will sometimes change the copy to fit the platform; Instagram, for example, is a space where you can use more fun language. Instagram gets the majority of the video content, although anything that goes to our IG stories does also post to our FB stories so we can get some engagement from that platform as well.

Q: If a post does not generate much engagement, do you change your approach for future posts?

A: Not usually but we will make mental notes if something really falls flat. Sometimes you’re just putting information out there (such as construction updates) and it won’t necessarily garner much engagement, which you somewhat expect with that type of content. We will sometimes pay attention to the times of posts to see what timeframes are performing the best, but that is almost always before 8:30 a.m., around lunchtime, and after 7 p.m. We have learned that good photos/graphics are important so we’ve always paid attention to what photos/graphics perform the best.

Q: If you have an intern that is running the social media pages, does the feed change? If so, how do you tell them what is working and what isn’t?

A: Everyone’s personality is different so generally yes the feed will shift to fit their writing and graphics style. The important thing is to go through the types of content our page typically posts so they can follow that flow, but I won’t dictate them writing a certain way, etc. I try to always make sure the intern is scheduling posts so I can double check the copy, etc. before it goes out to assure there aren’t any errors although once in a while, I have to edit a post after it goes out. We keep in pretty close contact about the content calendar so we are all on the same page and we know the content makes sense. I try my best to not micromanage the interns; even if a post, graphic, etc. isn’t exactly how I would do it, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Q: What is your ideal time for posting content and is that different depending on the platform?

A: Generally, for Facebook, the best posting times are in the morning before folks go to work or just as they’re getting to work (between 7:30 and 9:00 a.m.), around lunchtime (between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.), and after dinner (7:00-8:30 p.m.). Instagram seems to be successful with engagements no matter what time we post, although anything after 7 p.m. tends to perform the best.

Q: How do you make sure that all content going out is informative and what level of professionalism do you try to maintain?

A: Being a very public-facing entity, professionalism with our social media is extremely important. Generally, the language is a little more straight-laced, although we have fun when the content warrants it. That being said, swear words, derogatory statements, accusatory language, or calling people out with passive-aggressive statements will never happen on our social. Not all content needs to be informative per se, sometimes a post will just be for fun, but we try to keep the content concise and point people to websites that provide further information.

Q: What are your top priorities when representing your brand online?

A: I think knowing that we are representing Downtown and a lot of different people and businesses is important for us to always remember. We have built a brand that is highly respected in the community so that is always top of mind when creating social posts and representing ourselves online. Smaller items such as colors and fonts in graphics are considered, although I am not a stickler either; some variety is a good thing to keep things fresh. At the end of the day, my job is to tell the story of Downtown and everything we do should tell that story in some way and let the community at large know who we are and what we’re all about in the Heart of Missoula; I want people to be as passionate about Downtown as I am and I try to thread that passion into all the marketing we do.

Jenna Peterson is a Marketing student graduating in December 2022. She has had marketing and social media internships at a wellness company, a non-profit, a community college, and most recently a raft company. Peterson is a student in the UM School of Journalism’s Social Media and Engagement class, which conducted Q&As this semester with journalists as part of a research project on best practices for journalists on social media. See more of the Q&As here.

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