CXO

Jenn Eldin: Director of Marketing at American Express Serve. Nighttime photographer. Future Paleo blogger.

American Express' Jenn Eldin tells TechRepublic about getting to know customers on social media.

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Image: Jenn Eldin

When Jenn Eldin looks at her career, she sees change and her willingness to embrace it as a major shaping force.

Eldin, now director of marketing at American Express Serve, went to Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and studied economics and psychology. Considering she'd eventually get into marketing, it was a pretty good pairing of degrees.

After college, she entered the Gap retail management program where she learned a valuable lesson — she really didn't like apparel retail. But there was a silver lining in that, because it helped move her closer to the thing that was for her: marketing.

Eldin went to work for News America Marketing, a company that sells coupons to CPG companies and food advertising.

"It's very nuts and bolts, traditional forms of advertising that encompasses a lot of what CPG companies invest their money in," she said.

At the time, she was only just realizing that coupons were a huge, multibillion dollar business.

"It was really interesting learning ways to drive sales with promotional sales and tactics," she said. At that time, she was putting together marketing and advertising programs for CPG companies.

She then decided to go to business school at the University of Chicago, thinking that she wanted to create a startup. Instead, she wound up American Express doing more traditional marketing, and then at a division of American Express called OPEN that's focused on small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Specifically, Eldin worked on the online community called OPEN Forum and got to work with tech startups, primarily in the New York area. Essentially, Eldin inherited an editorial team that was producing about 50 pieces and a few hundred social media posts a week.

"I didn't really have any expertise or background in content and ended up loving it," she said. It was a turn of events that exemplified her philosophy of running toward change.

"The most fun I've had in my career is doing things I had no idea how to do," she said.

Her approach was immersion — to ask as many questions as she could, spend time with those in the digital publishing space, spend time with content startups, and to hire a really good editor.

About a year ago, Eldin moved over to Serve, another division of American Express. The idea behind Serve is this: There are roughly 70 million Americans who count as financially underserved. That means they don't have access to traditional banking accounts or banking services, and that leaves them in the position of having to rely on places like pawn shops and check cashers.

Serve is a prepaid account that can be reloaded, and costs a dollar a month, which helps make the financial resource more attainable.

Eldin is responsible for the overall brand. That spans from working with partners on campaigns, to the Serve website and the customer prospecting website. It's a lot of meetings, and a good chunk of time with data. She's discovered a new affinity for slide decks.

"I actually have learned in this role that sometimes putting pen to paper on strategy is actually a good idea it can help you communicate things and and lay them out in a way that other people can understand," Eldin said.

One of the initial challenges of the move was getting to know a completely different customer and figure out how to reach them. When Serve launched, the campaign fanned out over radio, television, online, and on social media.

She works on branded posts and tries to keep authenticity, as well as a lightness to them.

"Social is meant to be fun and it's important to bring that to life when you're running a channel," she said.

Some posts talk very specifically about the product, others are typography-based graphics, or DIY crafts like how to make a snow globe, and of course, the occasional cat. Eldin calls it "breathing room."

"People still like puppies, even if they're choosing a prepaid card," she said.

Another challenge is figuring out where to invest time and money when there are so many sources for stimulation these days. Even within social alone, there are myriad options.

As a digital marketer, she's keeping an eye on the state of organic reach. It's getting harder and harder to come by. Yet, there could be a positive to that.

"I think we're going to have to push that envelope even more. I think we'll start seeing longer form, more in depth content," Eldin said. "It's going to get harder and harder to make a dent and we're going to have to be creative more to make it happen."

In her own words...

How do you unplug?

I tend to put on either music or bad TV in the background at my apartment, which bad TV includes Real Housewives. I'll fess up to that. I cook. I'm gluten, dairy, corn, soy-free and really into Paleo and organic food. I will put something on in the background and usually cook some very elaborate Paleo dish. I'll either be online and Instagraming photos of my food, or I also do a lot of photography. I do long exposure night photography. What I'm starting to get into is a little bit less the night photography and I want to get into food photography.

If you could try out another profession, what would it be?

I would love to be a Paleo blogger. If I could do anything I think I would probably get certified as a naturopathic doctor and then use social media and blogging to find some kind of business that helps people find the path to being healthy. I believe that a lot of health issues come from the food that we're eating and our food system, so the whole "you are what you eat" thing is pretty important to me, so I would love to have the time to really focus on that.

Is there a website or social media account you like to follow for fun?

On this crazy food train I was referencing before, probably my favorite blogger is PaleOMG. Her name is Juli Bower. She writes these very funny and sassy and self-deprecating posts that have recipes in them, so they're both fun to read and then also have incredible Paleo recipes.

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About Erin Carson

Erin Carson is a Staff Reporter for CNET and a former Multimedia Editor for TechRepublic.

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