The Report

Adobe's social media maven

Posting in Cities

How much income can social media generate for your company? Marjorie Kase will give you the numbers.

Deep within the maze of Adobe's Time Square office stands a long work table, designated for mobile employees. An 18-in. high partition divides the table up into temporary desk spaces. At 2 p.m. last Tuesday, the only occupant is a man in his thirties. He sits with noise-cancelling headphones, intent on his computer. A couple of the other partitioned spaces house flat screen monitors or laptops, but lack any personal details. Then there's the spot Marjorie Kase has claimed as her own.

Items on Marjorie Kase's 2-ft. by 4-ft. desk space:

  1. A computer monitor.
  2. Twenty-six rubber ducks, each imprinted with a different costume, the mascots of a prior employer. (After much consideration she gifts me the “circus” duck, bearing a barbell and a large mustache.)
  3. A white four inch tall cast of her head and shoulders, 3-D printed by Makerbot's artist in residence for the company's New York Notables party.
  4. A full plate of shredded cabbage salad, abandoned in her rush to meet me.
  5. A large letter “M” covered in purple sparkles. It's a gift from her close friend, and “the smartest man in the world,” she adds, the marketing guru Saul Colt.
  6. A long-haired “Eighties Rocker” wig, circa Halloween 2011. “We went to Facebook and we gave them a Halloween party,” she says.

“I guess I'm a fangirl at heart,” Kase admits. The objects of her fandom? Media and brands. She's an Adobe Social solutions consultant, the person Adobe's media clients talk to about their social media efforts.

“Even as a child I'd read the business section,” Kase says. “I loved the media section in the New York Times. I was just constantly trying to keep abreast of what was happening. It wasn't just about the consumption of media, but how it was being consumed. That framework and that concept really fascinated me from an early age.”

Kase interned at Sassy magazine, Scientific American, and Rolling Stone Australia. She built HBO's first HR intranet, and used Razorfish CEO Craig Kanarick's computer to produce video content for Alanis Morissette's and Madonna's websites. Then she turned 22.

Her first job out of college brought Kase to Yahoo headquarters. That was 1998, in the midst of the Silicon Valley boom.

“It was really an amazing time to be there,” she says, “just the energy of it, and so many people with interesting stories.”

Yahoo's stock skyrocketed. Kase recalls, with apparent hesitation, the luxuries that lifestyle afforded - a fancy car, vacations, and generous gifts for her friends.

And then the crash came. “That first bubble burst,” Kase remembers, “and to me, in a weird way, it was kind of a relief. It had just seemed so out of control. Stock prices in general were splitting and rising every day, and I knew it couldn't last.” Like almost everyone else on the scene, she took a financial hit. Twenty-four years old and unemployed, Kase decided to use her savings to attend grad school.

At the University of Texas Department of Media Studies Kase found an academic fascination with emerging social media. “Around 2002,” she says, “wiki's were really starting to build up, and blogging was starting.” She became a regular attendee of SXSW Interactive conference, which back then felt less like a conference, and more “like a family reunion for internet pals.”

After earning her masters degree, Kase focused on blogging as a writer, editor and supervisor for a number of startups. While working with a television blog, she noticed a growing concern among her fellow entertainment bloggers.

“Their chief complaint,” she remembers, “was that they couldn't seem to gain the access to or attention of the networks.” Wary networks viewed the bloggers as likely pirates of content. “Now, of course,” she explains, “networks are bending over backwards to get the attention of bloggers. But at the time it was a very different scenario. These were fan blogs, and they couldn't get access to the networks.”

Kase launched Blogger Reps in 2007, one of the first blogger relations agencies in the country, to address this problem. Her company helped convince networks and studios that they wanted, and needed, the support of bloggers.

As social media expanded beyond blogging, Kase merged her company with social branding strategist Kyra Reed to form MarKyr Media in Los Angeles. They consulted with Fast Company, Adidas Eyewear, Toyota Financial Services, and Guitar Center.

Then came the next crash, in Fall 2008. But this time, Kase's company survived. “We had to reevaluate our entire business model,” she says, “because big brands were no longer going to be taking chances with smaller agencies. And so we developed a whole new model around small businesses, a turnkey solution for small businesses. We'd do an evaluation, we'd provide a strategy for them, and we'd train them. Really the point was to teach a business how to fish.”

Kase views social media as a two-way conversation between brands and consumers. “It isn't just about promoting yourself,” she says, “it's about catering to the lifestyle of your customer, getting a broader picture of who they are, and engaging them on every day topics.”

As the economy picked up, larger clients came back to MarKyr. But by 2011 Kase was ready to try something new and wanted to live nearer to her Long Island family. She took a job with New York City's Context Optional, a social media software company. Adobe acquired it soon after.

With the Adobe Social software, which launched this September, Kase sees herself again addressing challenges in social media. This time, she's working on behalf of business leaders who want to make sure they're efficiently allocating resources towards social media.

“From the management perspective it's about time management,” she says of business leaders' concerns, “and that's what our solution really does, is help with the streamlining of work flow. You have a lot of companies who are employing all these different point solutions to manage different social networks. With our platform we're able to provide them with one solution to help them streamline everything.”

Adobe Social helps businesses manage posts, apps, and social media marketing campaigns from one platform. It then shows which tactics, sites, links, users, and fans are actually driving income.

In addition to Adobe Social's media clients, Kase also works with nonprofits and retail companies to help cater the platform to their specific needs.

“I'm constantly going into a new scenario every single day,” she says of her job. “I'm with a different client, on a different on-site, I have a different conference call every day. And every client's situation is totally unique, and I have to apply their unique scenario to our platform, and how it's going to help them build their social presence. That's what I love about this job.”

That, and the way it ties in to her “fangirl” tendencies. “I just love being on the front lines,” she says, “and being able to talk to brands on a daily basis, brands that I grew up with. For me that's so huge. As a media-obsessed child, it's almost like a celebrity thing for me.”

With that, she's ready to continue the office tour.

“Lewis,” she says to the man in noise-cancelling headphones, “where is it that the ball drops?”

He doesn't answer. Kase walks over to the office's full length window, a seventeen story-high view of Times Square. Many New Yorkers malign the over-trafficked space, but Kase gazes out at the signs and flashing billboards in admiration. This is where she'll ring in the new year, she tells me, overlooking the grandest media display in the city.

Photo: Avi Bonime

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Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure