Q&A | Talking Twitter
Talking Twitter with Rachel Karten of Bon Appétit
Each month, Talking Twitter takes you behind the scenes of some of Twitter’s most interesting publishers with the social media professionals responsible for some of the platform’s standout Tweets and viral moments. This month we sat down with Rachel Karten, associate director of social media at Bon Appétit magazine.
Tell us a little bit about @BonAppétit. What makes you worth following?
Rachel Karten: I’ve worked on Bon Appétit for almost three years now, and when I first started, it was just me running everything by myself. Adam Rapoport, our editor in chief, had one directive about Twitter: the voice should always be funny, irreverent, and smart.
He really wanted it to feel like a Bon Appétit editor was running the account and not some big capital B brand – it should feel like a friend is talking to you. Now we're a team of two, thankfully, and day to day, Twitter is run by Emily Schultz, who is very funny and has done an amazing job of taking that original directive from Adam and just running with it.
Any particularly viral moment we might remember your work from?
Rachel Karten: In terms of particularly viral moments, we had this garlic bread grilled cheese Tweet – I forget what the exact copy was – I think it was literally just “garlic bread grilled cheese”, in all caps, as if we were very excited about it. It blew up because, first of all, it’s an amazing idea for a recipe, and definitely the kind of recipe that we knew would play well to the internet.
Tell us what it means to be a social media manager in 2019
Rachel Karten: So besides ruining your eyes, and staring at a tiny phone screen all day [laughs], I think it means having a complete and total understanding of what people are talking about on the internet.
I think there used to be this feeling that you only needed to know what people in your field were doing and saying. For me, for example, I only needed to have a pulse on what's going on in the food world, so following food accounts and food influencers and food celebrities, or whatever it is. I don't think that's the case anymore, because there's so much happening right now on the internet, from politics to funny memes and weird inside Twitter jokes, that you really need to be tapped in on all fronts. Both from the perspective of knowing what topics you might want to avoid at a certain moment, and also just knowing what bigger cultural moments are happening, that could potentially make sense for your brand to weigh in on.
Describe your relationship with Twitter.
Rachel Karten: From a brand perspective, when something culturally relevant is happening, we're not asking “what platform should we go to first?” It’s immediately, like, Twitter is where we need to go with this. That's where you're going to make your commentary quickly. I also think it’s also the best platform for showing your community love.
Personally, when I Tweet at a brand, if they don't respond or like my Tweet, I feel kind of miffed, but when they like one of my Tweets it’s this warm, fuzzy feeling that shows the brand cares. It creates that one-to-one connection that I don't think you can really get on any other platform. And as a brand that cares so much about our readers, having a platform where you can really kind of interact with them is key for us.
What's the most underrated Twitter feature?
Rachel Karten: This isn’t underrated, but I think that threads are amazing. Working for a magazine, where our job on social is to translate stories that are sometimes as long as 2,000 or 3,000 words into a small, snackable piece of social content, can sometimes be a challenge, especially on Twitter, where the point is to be quick and short with your copy. So for us, creating threads with photos and polls, and lots of different multimedia is huge in order to tell these longer stories.
We did a thread last year that was an A-Z of sandwiches, that we submitted to the National Magazine Awards, which was a beautiful print feature as well. We translated it from the magazine so it was a pretty long thread, but we switched in GIFs for some of the letters, and polls for others. It created this really interactive, fun story that would never have gotten across the same way with one single Tweet. So, yeah, we are big fans of threads.
And if we could grant wishes what’s the one feature you’d ask for (with the exception of the edit button)?
Rachel Karten: Maybe this is a little bit pie in the sky, but I’d like a magical artificial intelligence machine [in Notifications] next to your Mentions and Verifieds, it would say “Sub Tweets,” and it would recognize when someone is talking about your brand, but they haven't tagged you or used your hashtag necessarily. I don't think it should be available for personal accounts — that'd be scary — but for a brand account, I think it'd be nice.
How do you prioritize the different functions of your Twitter account's role?
Rachel Karten: We've always thought of Twitter as our social platform with the most brand voice, so a place where we can be silly and weird and irreverent. So for me, I'm prioritizing that over traffic back to the site or other number-based stats. Emily and I are always asking ourselves “Does it sound like a BA editor wrote this?” Just having that as our guiding light helps us prioritize everything else.
Tell us about a Tweet so good, you wish you'd written it.
Rachel Karten: There's the one classic one that's like, “how much spinach you start with vs. how much you end up with” — it’s one of those relatable food moments and so hilarious, I wish that we had written that.
In terms of brands, I think Netflix does such a good job of being funny on Twitter without it feeling too try-hard. They used their own data to make this really great Tweet [about viewers repeatedly watching “A Christmas Prince”]. It felt totally on-brand for them.
What accounts are a must-follow for you right now?
Rachel Karten: Some of my favorites are Caity Weaver, Hunter Harris, and Meme Appetit, which is a really hilarious Bon Appétit meme account that we don't run but a lot of people ask if we do. And then my co-workers, Emily Schultz and Carla Lalli Music — I'm grateful to have them be active on Twitter because we can then Retweet them on Bon Appétit.
OK, quick-fire round of questions to close out the Q&A.
Throwing friendly shade at other accounts: yea or nay?
Rachel Karten: I think that any kind of shade, even friendly, can sometimes just come across as snarky on social, so we're selective in our shade. That being said, we aren't above sub-Tweeting sometimes.
Including more than one hashtag: yea or nay?
Rachel Karten: We’re nay on that. Yes, they’re a search function that you can click into to see more content, but for us, we use them more as a branding moment.
Using emoji to replace words: yea or nay?
Rachel Karten: Nay, but we’re not above adding one to the end of a complete sentence.
Go behind the scenes with some of Twitter’s most interesting publishers and the social media professionals responsible for some of the platform’s standout Tweets and viral moments in the Talking Twitter collection.