Beyond The Handle: Matt Korn

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Many people have said this recently and it couldn't be more true - the next generation of CMOs will be coming from social media roles.

These individuals are tasked with building and managing one of the most valuable direct pipelines to consumers for a brand. They overlook channel strategy, brand tonality, marketing campaigns and are building an emotional attachment to the brand's audience. All of this, while being forced to be reactive, proactive and thoughtful in the delivery of every statement and campaign.

That's why we are introducing the Beyond The Handle article series --- to highlight some of the bright minds working in digital and social media, to learn about their challenges and to find out how what they are prioritizing right now.

This week, we're chatting with Matt Korn, who is a Social Media Manager at The Walt Disney Company. Charged with leading the social media team for shopDisney, Matt is responsible for organic and paid strategy across all major social platforms and is tasked with closely working with partners across the business to bring priority messages to life.

Previously, Matt worked in Orlando providing paid social strategy, activation, optimization, and reporting guidance to several lines of business within the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts umbrella (including Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Springs).

Matt, tell us about your journey. Where did it start and how did you get to your current role as Social Media Manager for shopDisney.

I got my first big break immediately after a rejection. It was right after I graduated

college and I was working at my first corporate job. I had applied to be a public relations

coordinator, interviewed, and was passed over for the position. But when the recruiter

called to let me know, she asked if I would be willing to sit down and talk to a team that

had just been spun off of PR – the social team. Five years later I joined The Walt Disney

Company to tackle a whole new world of challenges and opportunities. I moved quickly

once I got there, spending roughly a year with Disney’s Parks and non-leisure team

before moving across the country to lead social media for our Consumer Products

division (shopDisney and Disney Products).

Was social media always the plan for your career or did you have different ambitions?

 Originally, I wanted to be Indiana Jones…but Harrison Ford seems hellbent on playing

that role until we’re all dead so I settled on digital marketer.

Take us through a week in your role.

It’s never the same week twice! At the start of the week I’m focused on the executive

summary – showcasing our paid and organic performance to the rest of the business,

along with the lessons we’ve learned, and the adjustments we’re going to make. The

rest of the week is split between managing the organic day-to-day, our paid campaigns,

and strategizing for our seasonal and always-on efforts, meeting with plenty of partners

along the way.

It's the nature of 2020, many things have changed. What's changed for your role in the last

year and have you had to make any adaptations to how you approach your work because of this? 

There’s definitely been an elevation in expectations and performance. E-Commerce for

the most part has been able to withstand COVID’s impact, but with so many other

businesses and business units being impacted, it’s understandable that any division not

susceptible would be looked at to help mitigate.

What can you share about the organic strategy for your social accounts? Are there certain

communication priorities for your team currently?

Our organic strategy is constantly evolving! If you were to take our current strategy and

put it against what we were running this time last year, it would be night and day.

Creative look and feel, posting cadence, tone/voice, product features – it’s all been

revamped. And while I don’t anticipate as aggressive of a change in the upcoming year,

we’ll continue to optimize and perfect our strategy.

The priority right now is to get it right. It’s a busy time of year and there’s a lot of

expectations, noise, and opportunity. My team’s job is to make sure the integrity of our channels stays intact, that we’re meeting the expectations of our internal partners, but

most importantly, that we’re providing value to our audience.

How do you prioritize different social accounts as it relates to your overarching

communication strategy for shopDisney?  Are you testing the waters with any newer social

platforms (TikTok, etc.)?

 Each platform has its own short and long-term strategy. When it comes to messaging

and communication, it ultimately starts with our products and what audience would be

the most receptive to it. The product influences the message and the message

influences placement. Devoid of that we rank our handles by owned audience and

estimated reach.

In the past year we have onboarded 4 new handles and one new platform…there’s one

more I have my eye on right now, and we’ve got a really fun way to bring it to life, but

that won’t be until sometime next year. Stay tuned!

You’re reaching two and a half years with Disney. What’s some of your biggest learnings

during your time with this larger than life organization?

 I’ve learned to be a better teammate and leader. There are things they don’t teach you

in college or on-the-job training that are ultimately key to your success – patience,

flexibility, partnership, navigation. I’ve learned if you don’t have these skills it’s going to

be tough to reach your full potential.

You’re pretty active on your personal Twitter account. What made you prioritize building

your personal brand online and has that ever helped with new opportunities for you?

This is going to be a really unpopular answer, but my personal Twitter account is really

just for me and less about “my brand.” I don’t have my title in my bio or talk a lot about

work because before I was a social media manager, before Disney, I was just a kid from

St. Louis with a smart mouth and an eclectic assortment of interests. I don’t Tweet that

much about industry trends, work, or advice - but hey if you want to talk about theme

parks, movies, or random pop culture references, I’m there.

I will say being active on Twitter has led to a number of incredible friendships with

people from all across the country. Julian Gamboa’s now legendary unmasking thread

brought so many amazing marketers together. 2020 has been a year of loss and

hardship…but it’s also been a year of friendship and love, and for that I’m grateful.

As you continue building your career in digital media, what’s some advice you would share

with professionals who are considering entering the world of social media marketing?  

 I think the biggest thing is understanding what this is before taking a step into it. Social

isn’t like traditional media or public relations, there’s not a standard rule-book for

success. This is an industry that has its rule-book rewritten multiple times every single

year. It’s chaotic, and if you don’t keep up it will leave you behind. You’re stepping into an arena that amplifies negativity, hate, and polarization. Your standard for success will

forever be a moving target, you’ll never stop learning, and you’ll fail. Make no mistake,

this is an incredibly hard field to be in. Now that I’ve hopefully scared some of those

considering this field into becoming an accountant, I will say I’ve come across nothing

more rewarding than social media. This is an industry that is never boring and where

some of the best marketing of the last 50 years is taking place. If you have a talent and a

stomach for it, pursuing a career in digital media could be one of the best decisions

you’ve ever made.