Switcher Spotlight: Melissa on Creating Conversations, Social Media, and Writing
As we wind down Melissa’s takeover weeks at Switch, we grab a seat on the couch to ask Melissa about growing up in transit, her time outside of the office, and her favourite project – the Air Malta New Destinations Activation, which ran earlier this year, and which you can read about from the woman herself. For the time being, though, let’s put Melissa front and centre.
Hey! Sorry about the wait – I got caught up with a little bit of work.
Hey friend! It’s okay, no problem at all; how are you doing? Is everything going okay, do you need some help? Don’t worry about asking for help if you need it, really! Sorry, I know I’m asking you the questions and that’s not how it goes, but I want to check in. I’m really excited! I don’t know where to start but—
I’m fine, thank you! Just had to send off some emails, really, not very interesting – that’s okay! How about we start with a little bit of background? How did you start working in social media?
Oof… Yes, okay, God, this was years ago – it was my last year of uni, right? And every one of my friends had internships, or jobs, and in May, I had a complete freak-out, thinking ‘oh my God, June is approaching, my last exam is so close, what am I going to do afterwards?’. Completely freaking out about it! I spoke to my friend, who suggested I apply for this one job with a company I hadn’t heard of before. I applied, I got in, I did HR for a few months – absolutely loved the job, loved talking to people, and connecting with people – that was always something I really enjoyed doing, but I missed social media and communication, and creativity, so a few months down the line, I applied to another company where I could manage their social media accounts. I really worked my ass off, really and truly, and I loved it, every single second.
The environment, I didn’t like so much. Their company culture wasn’t something that I believed in. I loved the job, but when I got the chance to join Switch, I took it.
That’s a huge change! Were you worried about Switch?
Not worried, just — it took me a long time to get used to, you know, the fact that people are just—-friendly, and nice. That people don’t have to yell. That everyone checks in on you, and because they’re genuinely interested in how you’re doing. It was weird. I was very suspicious at first – I’m used to it now, though.
And I was doing so many creative things! I started as a copywriter first – that’s what my role was, in the beginning, but I moved onto social media really quickly, and now I’m trying to move into Events and Activations, as well, which is—it’s a combination I really, really, really want to work on, events and social media. I feel like it’s so easy for companies to come up with an event that looks very pretty, but then sort of—lose the opportunity for meaningful conversations to happen online, and my aim, is to always get meaningful conversations going.
Why social media? Was this always what you wanted to do?
Okay, so I need to give you a bit of background, I think, for this, so—I was born in Paris, I’ll start there. My father is Greek, and my mother is French, and they lived in Libya, but she wanted to have me in Paris, so I was born in Paris and then moved to Libya when I was a few months old. I was in Libya until I was fourteen, at an Italian school, and then moved to Malta, and learned English — I hated that, using English, could not communicate at all in English when I got here, it was horrible.
But! But! Growing up, I was always part of the expat community, you know? Like my friends were all mainly expats whose parents would get relocated for work frequently, and they would be there for a couple of years or so, and then move on to other countries, and I remember when social media first become a thing — no, no, when I was introduced to email, I remember being amazed, like…
At the time, when I was growing up, I was used to writing letters to keep in touch, you know, weekly phone-calls, and then suddenly email was a thing and you could talk to people instantly, from anywhere, at any time. And I only had expat friends, right, but suddenly—like I remember one of my closest friends moving to Australia when I was nine, and I remember getting home, and going upstairs, and you know, you had to put the wire in, and nobody could make phone-calls, and you had to wait for the dial-up to work—that horrible noise, my God, it would take so long—but then you’d connect and there was an email from my friend in Australia, nine or ten hours away, and you got it instantly.
It was a magical time. I loved that time, so, so much.
God, and Skype! I remember Skype, and my great-grandmother, the first time she used Skype, she picked up the mouse, and I remember her holding it to her mouth and asking ‘can you hear me?’ and we just—it killed us, she thought it was the mic, but like I didn’t—grow up with that. It used to take so long for you to communicate with your friends, and suddenly you could do it instantly, and—I’ve tried every social media platform, by the way, every one of them, and they’re incredible, how they connect people. I’ve always loved connecting with people, and with social media, I can—build those connections, those conversations, and work with people. So it started from there, I think.
Huh! I’ve never thought about it in that way, but that makes a lot of sense. Okay! Is that something you kept in mind when you were working on your favourite project? Will you tell me a little about that?
Okay, so! My favourite project is the Air Malta New Destinations events – have you read the article I wrote about it, because I’d love to see what you think? But basically, right, so we had to promote Air Malta’s seven new destinations, but not to Maltese people, who’d find out about it locally – but to the people from these destinations. We started off by running digital campaigns promoting Malta to these 7 destinations — but we then took it a step further.
Oh? In what way?
We contacted, like, 20 influencers from these locations, right, and we offered them a free trip to Malta – it was only 17, I think, in the end that came, because I know one of them had a car accident, but still, it was 17 international influencers. Some had 10,000 followers, so they were micro-influencers, whereas some others had over half a million followers. And so we invited them to Malta for this three-day event.
And we designed the itinerary around Instagram, it was completely Instagram focused. So we listed the most Instagrammable spots in Malta and Gozo and planned the weekend in a way that took them to these spots at the best times, in terms of lighting and what the photos would look like. And we got some beautiful shots out of it. It—it was exhausting, it was long, but it was so, so, worth it. In just under two weeks, we got over 1,000 mentions, and we had people using our hashtag, and having conversations online, and like — to me, if people are having conversations about it online, if it’s being talked about, then you’ve succeeded, and this was a huge success; it was overwhelming, it was so good. I loved it. I loved it so much, and like – that’s what I like about it, like when you go into Facebook analytics, and you do this huge amount of work, and you see it pay off in the reach and the likes, and the conversations people have online, it’s amazing. It’s really amazing.
I get you! That sounds like a really cool event – actually, I think I remember seeing a little bit about it. So—what about in your spare time? I know you run Simba’s Instagram account, but is there anything else you do?
God! Okay, so I started Simba’s Instagram account because people were complaining I post too many pictures of my dog on my personal account, so—it’s become a place for me to try things out, although I know it’s limited because you can’t really—I mean, Simba is a dog, so there’s a limit to what you can do with dogs, but it’s fun to test out new features, and see how they work and stuff before you actually suggest them or use them to clients.
Other than that… My calendar is super, super packed, like—I schedule my coffee and dinners as well, because it is fully booked for months, and if I don’t schedule it, it doesn’t get done? But like — I like that, I hate, not having things to do. Like, if I have a gap in my schedule, a night off, I can put that as ‘me time’, and I even plan out my me-time, but if I just have—nothing planned, it drives me a bit crazy.
I do Mel Writes, too! It’s my hashtag on Instagram where I just—write about things, my day, stuff that happens to me – I love writing, but I can’t commit to a full blog, so I only write the 2,000 characters that Instagram allows.
As for spare time — I mean ask anyone, I don’t really have spare time, I take my work home with me, but it’s okay! I love my job, absolutely love it, so to me it isn’t even work.
Did you always use to write?
Yes! Absolutely! Like — okay, growing up in Libya, you didn’t have anything, you didn’t have any access to books, and the books you could find were in Arabic. So when my friends would go back home for the holidays, they would come back to Libya with new books, and we would take turns reading them, but I remember, at 12 or 13, starting to write my own stories. And these were huge stories, big actual series, with like ‘Book 1’, ‘Book 2’—super secretive, I remember every Word document had a password, which I still remember, somehow— so writing was always there.
When I joined Switch as a copywriter, I remember being really insecure about my English – it’s my third language, you know, so I wasn’t confident at all, and I used to pester my boyfriend to check some of my blogs – my English has improved a lot since I joined Switch, and I’m still not at the level I want to be, but it’s improved so much.
Wow! Thank you so much, Melissa – I could keep talking to you all afternoon, but I think I have enough.
Okay! Thank you, friend!
Next week, we’re debuting another Switcher – any guesses to who it is? Before that, though, stay tuned for one more extra-special post about Melissa.