Q&A | Talking Twitter
Talking Twitter with Pearl Gabel and Megan Coyne of @NJGov
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 Pearl Gabel and Megan Coyne, the team behind everyone’s favorite official state handle, @NJGov.
Tell us a little about yourself. What makes @NJGov worth following?
Pearl Gabel: We don't overthink anything. Everything is spontaneous. It works because it's authentic enough that people are like, “Wow, this is my home state. This is why my personality is the way it is.”
There are three levels of this account: educate, inform, engage. The educating, the informing is never going to happen without the engagement. Megan is witty and knows all the memes and is on top of all that stuff, and I have a big Jersey girl attitude in the back of my head. We want it to be accessible to everybody, even if it’s an inside joke — even if you don't get it — you still get it. Except for something like when we [say] “we stan” for something. I remember we got a bunch of emails from older folk [telling us] “you had a typo.”
Megan Coyne: The reactions have been pretty great — we see a lot of people Tweeting at us, “I'm so proud of my home state,” “I wish I lived in New Jersey,” or “I want to come back to New Jersey,” things like that. So that's all really rewarding and exciting for us.
Any particularly viral moments we might remember your work from?
Pearl Gabel: I think you can get to know us pretty well from the “your mom” Tweet, which is pinned on the top of our profile. It's like Jersey-added gold. It's unbridled, it’s engaging, and that's what's going to bring you in.
What does it mean to be a social media professional in 2020?
Pearl Gabel: For me, I never think of myself as a social media professional, I think of myself as a communications person. I mean, it's the same thing now. I think in this day and age, being a social media manager is kind of being at the helm of your organization's comms. It’s so multidimensional, and it’s so vast and limitless as to what you can accomplish.
An amazing thing is that our social media is potentially reaching more people than all of the media outlets in New Jersey, you know what I mean? It's sad because the landscape of the media is changing, but we realized we have to step up, tell stories, and be that communication and fill a void, because there is a void in coverage of real New Jerseyans in media.
How has social media changed since you started out in the industry?
Pearl Gabel: I started on Twitter when I was at the New York Daily News. I was a staff photographer there, and they had told people you could get a Twitter [account] to share your articles. So I downloaded Twitter, but I didn't really engage that much with it. I had a bit of a revelation when I covered the protests in Ferguson. I was one of the journalists on the ground there during the first days, and that was the first time that I ever realized, “Oh my God, I can reach people.” That was my first real inkling that Twitter is really something special.
We've discovered that what we're doing with @NJGov on Twitter could not work on any of our other platforms. Twitter is super special and super unique in the way that we're able to engage and do the short, bold stuff that we're doing.
Describe your relationship with Twitter.
Megan Coyne: Oh, God, maybe a little bit codependent. [laughs]
Pearl Gabel: I'm still developing my personal Twitter — I'm still kind of nervous about it — but I am definitely codependent on it for when there's news, when there's a good show on TV, when I'm looking for something funny. I don't know... Twitter is the spot to go.
Twitter is all about the conversation. How do you decide which conversations to engage with?
Pearl Gabel: I'd say we go by instinct a lot. We're not afraid to respond, and we respond to people who comment, we respond to people who make fun of us. We see ourselves a little bit as New Jersey protectors and New Jersey fangirls.
Megan Coyne: Yeah, sometimes we start a conversation from an idea, or if there's a certain day, like, two weeks ago was National Bagel Day. So we're like, alright, let's Tweet about that, and then that started a whole conversation/war about who has the best bagels.
Pearl Gabel: It was New York versus New Jersey. Megan had a meme, and she declared New Jersey the bagel capital of the world. So then we had the city of New York coming at us, we had the NYPD 19th Precinct coming at us on Twitter, and we're responding and we’re Quote Tweeting, and having that banter back and forth.
How do you prioritize the different functions of your Twitter account’s role?
Megan Coyne: I mean, it depends on what's going on. So when the governor has a big announcement like announcing New Jersey's energy master plan, we’ll [Tweet about] that because it's a really big deal. We don't have a set ratio of one fun post for every serious post, it just comes as it comes. We do at least one important, informative post a day, but we've also found a way to mix up more policy-focused posts with the fun.
One really good example and a big priority for the governor was promoting enrollment during the Affordable Care Act. One of our really fun posts for that, that Pearl thought of, was “check yourself before you wreck yourself.”
Tell us about a Tweet so good, you wish you’d written it.
Megan Coyne: Did you ever watch “Parks and Recreation”? There's an episode where Leslie Knope’s character says that she's big enough to admit that she's often inspired by herself. And there's a lot of Tweets that I love, and I wish that I had thought of them, but also I couldn't have thought of them, because it has nothing to do with my life.
What accounts are a must-follow for you right now?
Pearl Gabel: Beans After Dark — I just think he's so funny. I love how Ariana Grande does her thing, and is super engaged with her audience in a very personal way. I have a lot of newsy must-follows too, like Rukmini Callimachi and Maggie Haberman.
Megan Coyne: For me, I really like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, because I think she does such a great job of using it, it sounds just like the way she talks you know? I like Internet Hippo. Whoever runs it, they're just very sarcastic, and that sense of humor is very aligned with my sense of humor. BoJack Horseman is a fun one, because it's not just a typical account for a TV show, it's actually the identity of the main character. It feels just like an extension of the show.
OK, quick-fire round.
Throwing friendly shade at other accounts: yea or nay?
Megan Coyne: Yea! All the time.
Including more than one hashtag: yea or nay?
Megan Coyne: We don't really do hashtags so generally, I'd say no, but under certain circumstances, yes.
Using emoji to replace words: yea or nay?
Pearl Gabel: Yes. 100% yes.
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Megan Coyne: The thing is, if we think of something, we just go full send. We don't meditate really. Once an idea comes that we like, we write it down and press Tweet.
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.