From Film to Art to Academia — Linda Butler’s Journey as a Social Media Expert

Image Courtesy of Linda Butler

Some people have a clear career trajectory through life. For Linda Butler, that path is anything but conventional. Prior to becoming director of marketing and communications at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, she seized every opportunity to express herself creatively. From helping with the Boston Independent Film Festival to winning a Gold MUSE Award for the #PlayArtfully campaign at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), Linda has been soldiering on while wearing several hats she’d picked up along the way. She initiated many brands into the social media scene watching it grow from inception. As a member of the Social Media Center team, Linda is a crucial asset to our curriculum teaching PRO 314: Social Media Content Development. Being surrounded by the arts as a young child, she found her calling in San Francisco. Her drive to explore unfamiliar territory fuels her ongoing success in the digital world.

Social Media Center: How did you get to where you are today?
Linda Butler:
I studied marketing, advertising and communications. My first job out of school was as a graphic designer at a boutique agency. I loved doing things creatively, so for me it was like, ‘Yes, I can output!’ Then I started realizing I’m not able to decide what I’m creating. So, I needed to go on the side where I can influence the strategy and direction. It started my career doing corporate events and publications. It was a lot of experimentation and learning the ropes along the way. While in Boston, I had the opportunity to get on the ground level of starting the Boston Independent Film Festival: from coming up with advertising campaigns, to designing the program guide, to helping secure sponsorship packages for the likes of JetBlue. It’s in its 14th year now and it’s satisfying to see it grow.

Image Courtesy of Willa Koerner

Her film experience brought her to the West Coast for the San Francisco International Film Festival and eventually she was recruited by the SFMOMA to help launch the reopening of the museum. She worked on the #PlayArtfully digital campaign that received the Gold MUSE Award at the 2015 American Alliance of Museums (AAM) Annual Meeting.

SMC: How was your social experience at SFMOMA and how has the game changed?
I never thought about working at a museum, but because my mother was a painter and I grew up around arts, I was definitely drawn to the opportunity. I gained an immense amount of knowledge about the museum industry directing its social media efforts during a time of major transition and growth for the institution. Over the last year there has been an uptake in real time storytelling via the moving image. I see more animated gifs, Instagram and Snapchat stories, Boomerang videos, etc. Early on we primarily focused on the static image. Occasionally we used video but it was more time consuming and costly to produce back then.

SMC: What is your role at the Contemporary Jewish Museum?
Here I’m not only focused on marketing and social media but also communications, visitor services and design. So far, I have been able to lead the re-launch of the website and blog, hire an Emmy award winning digital content producer and bring on a creative services manager. Additionally, I’m helping the senior management team re-evaluate and rethink the way that the museum is doing business.

Image Courtesy of Linda Butler

SMC: What is the secret to developing impactful content that creates engagement?
It starts with your audience and strong storytelling. Engaging content is about finding a distinct voice and unapologetically conveying that in an authentic way. It begins with asking, “What is my story?” and “How do I present this story without coming across as contrived or fake.” Don’t try to fit in with anybody else, find your own niche. People respond to realness. It’s also effective to pull people in emotionally, because humans want to feel connected. Also, let’s not forget humor. Make someone laugh and they will pay attention!

SMC: How do you see the future of social media?
Facebook has 1.8 billion active global users. In terms of world population, that’s still a small amount. I think they’re projecting it to double in the next four years. Then social media will be even more integrated into our daily lives. Just think how much has transpired in a mere decade! A platform launched in a Harvard dorm room profoundly changed the way we communicate. It’s a huge paradigm shift.

SMC: What is the best advice you got while launching your career?
“Fake it ’til you make it.” Sometimes you go into a situation and you have no idea how you’re going to get through it. And you get to the other side and go, ‘Oh I know how to do that now!’ Sometimes you have to put your boots on and start marching wherever the path is leading you.

For somebody who is always plugged-in, Linda makes sure to take time to disconnect from the digital noise. “I love being a creator in my home life and being an adventure seeker.” She is remodeling a cabin in the country where she can pursue personal endeavors in a distraction-less environment. Her strong sense of work-life balance allows her to recharge and forge new creative paths ahead!

Learn more about Social Media Content Development course here!