It would be an understatement to say that Genius has changed the way we look at (and consume) music in the digital age. The “music intelligence” platform has evolved since its initial inception in 2009, but one thing that’s remained consistent is the company’s commitment to storytelling across channels. That’s where Teresa Fardella, Genius’ Senior Social Media Manager comes in. As one of the founding members of the Genius social media team, Teresa has been at the helm of the brand’s social efforts from the onset. She has also been able to draw upon her past professional experiences in publishing (and personal passion for music) to create content that truly inspires. As someone at the intersection of music and storytelling, we were interested in learning more about how Teresa’s responsibilities have evolved in tandem with the company — so we recently met up with our featured PLANOLEADER at Genius’ stunning HQ in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Read on to find out more about Teresa’s day in the life along with how the company’s offline initiatives play an equally important role in driving brand awareness on social.
Please introduce yourself!
Hello! I’m Teresa, a lifelong Brooklynite, social media enthusiast and Senior Social Media Editor at Genius.
Before Genius, what were you up to professionally, what role did digital play in your job description, and what have been some notable moments throughout your career so far?
Before starting at Genius, I worked in book publishing for several years, first at Simon & Schuster and then for Phaidon. I love books, but people seem to be reading them less and less. So, I decided to make the jump to online media, first serving as the Executive Assistant to Genius co-founders Tom and Ilan, then parlaying my way into becoming one of the founding members of our social media team.
When I first started at Genius in 2015, the team was still growing, and there was no one officially dedicated to social media yet. Given my love of rap music and memes, I naturally saw an opportunity to insert myself into the role. While working as an EA, I ran Genius’ Instagram as a sort of side project, posting a few times daily, testing the waters to see what worked and what didn’t.
I remember one early initiative that involved overlaying popular hip-hop lyrics (it was 2015, so think Fetty Wap) over photos of really cute puppies. Naturally, this idea didn’t continue, but it made for some funny posts and a lot of confusion from our audience.
Before officially working in social media, I had plenty of practice via my personal accounts. Whether I was tweeting Lil Wayne lyrics into the void of my 13 followers in 2010 or experimenting heavily with the first iteration of Instagram and the front-facing camera on my iPhone 4S, I was always finding ways to represent myself digitally.
I’ve always gravitated towards social media because it’s easier for me to express myself online than in- person. On social media, I’m quippier, more sardonic, and more observant. People always tell me I have a certain online “persona,” but also that my internet presence makes them feel a personal connection to me, even when they don’t know me well. My obsessive documentation of the fast food I eat and the trials and tribulations of my three-legged dwarf hamster (she has her own account, and you can follow her here: @frendy_hamster) helps give people a unique glimpse into the strange depths of my personal life with the click of a button.
Walk us through your day. What’s on your to-do list at the moment and can you share details around a specific content or social media initiative that you’re planning?
At the beginning of each day, I peruse the internet to see what’s going on in the music world. Has Kanye tweeted a bunch of things at 6 AM? If so, is there any info about a new project? Or is he just waxing on about philosophy and giant Yeezy slides?
The vibe at Genius is pretty much an open, roundtable discussion. Our Social and Editorial teams sit in close proximity, headed up by our Executive Editor Insanul Ahmed. The first thirty minutes or so of the day consists of a live debrief about music news, debating what’s worth covering. I work closely with my fellow Social Media Editor and Genius Resident Young Thug Stan Cam Johnson, who helps keep me in the loop about the latest goings-on. I spend the rest of my day creating content on an immediate and long-term scale. I begin by firing a few posts off on Genius’ Instagram, then creating a daily IG Story centered on the latest music happenings or a noteworthy music anniversary.
I also work closely with our Sales & Marketing teams to execute social activations around branded content campaigns. One cool example was our collaboration with Nike Air Max last March—I created a custom Story highlighting the most iconic name-drops of the shoe in hip-hop lyrics.
We also just finished a deep-dive into early aughts pop icon Ashlee Simpson’s best lyrics, creating custom social content around classics like “Shadow” and “Boyfriend.” I had the urge to throw on a graphic tee and rock out like it was 2005.
Storytelling seems to be at the heart of Genius’ mission. How has this translated into Genius’ social media presence over the years?
Absolutely! We’re all about telling the full story behind a lyric, a song, an album, an artist. Genius’ tagline is “Music Intelligence,” so we strive to provide just that, whether it’s the origin of a popular sample or the history behind a lyric — Genius is focused on bringing our audience the meaning and the knowledge behind the music.
Regarding social media and Instagram specifically, a big challenge was figuring out how to translate this giant database of music knowledge into bite-sized pieces of digestible content. How do we package this information in a way that’s easy to consume and doesn’t feel overly academic?
Since Instagram isn’t a primary traffic driver to our site, I have a little more freedom as to what type of content I create. Our feed is primarily comprised of various Genius-branded templates that house lyrics, facts, quotes, and punchy news headlines. These allow me to mine our website, videos and editorial posts for nuggets of knowledge that will resonate with our audience, whether it’s an annotation by Pusha- T, a fact about Nirvana or an anecdote from one of Biggie’s producers.
With the above in mind, tell us a bit more about Genius’ expansion — especially regarding offline events like IQ/BBQ. Why do you think these experiences are important to bolster Genius’ online community and social presence?
Genius started as Rap Genius, a Reddit-like community of hip-hop fans who liked to nerd out online over rap, both old and new. That community is still very much at our core, but, in conjunction with dropping the “rap” from our name, we wanted to become a comprehensive database for all types of music. On social media, this meant tapping into fan bases of other genres.
Aside from expanding our site and the types of artists we cover, we’re also focused on using our office and event space as a place where people can come to consume music knowledge, in-person. As you noted, we just hosted our second annual live concert series, Genius IQ/BBQ, which featured onsite music trivia and live sets from 2 Chainz, Princess Nokia, Tierra Whack and more.
In August, we hosted a live, intimate Q&A with Nicki Minaj, during which she broke down her most iconic lyrics and revealed her writing processes. Documenting these live events on our IG Stories and feed is a great way to show our audience the wide breadth of content we offer. It’s also a great way to create a little FOMO.
Looking at the content itself, video seems to be a big part of the strategy. Why do you think that video makes sense for Genius and for music-focused content?
Video is a huge part of our content strategy! Since so much of our content is lyric and audio-focused, video is the best way to distribute it. Our flagship video series is Verified, in which artists break down the lyrics to one of their top songs line by line. Another one of our original series, Deconstructed, follows a producer as they take us step-by-step through the creation of one of their beats. Whether it’s tracking the usage of a single sample throughout multiple songs or breaking down the subs in a diss track, video is the best way for users to consume our content. It brings the music creation process to life.
So much of the content also features some of the world’s leading artists. What have been some of your top learnings in working with or featuring artists in Genius’ social content?
Genius is such a great platform for artists, both established and emerging, to explain the meaning and inspiration behind their music. In turn, this gives our audience uniquely intimate access to their favorite rappers, singers, producers, songwriters, and even audio engineers.
We have an amazing in-house artist relations team who is responsible for connecting with artists and managers. As to be expected, the bigger the artist, the more logistically difficult it can be to book a shoot, event, or performance, largely because of their jam-packed and ever-changing schedules. That being said, I think artists enjoy coming to Genius because the content we create is very much on their own terms—a wholly artist-driven narrative. When the artists arrive at Genius for a shoot, they’ll often tell us, “This is the first time all day that I’ve just talked about my music.”
Based on your experience at Genius, what are your top three tips or best practices for those looking to create content and strategies that strike a balance between informing and inspiring users?
- Post like a human! If the copy I write is not something I could see myself or someone I know writing, it’s not worth posting. We want our content to resonate organically with our audience.
- Be involved in the conversation. Genius is a music media site, so naturally, everything we post on social is music-focused. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t insert ourselves in conversations happening outside of music. There are so many ways to tie in current events to music, particularly through lyrics.
- Always get your facts straight before you post. Music news moves fast, but it’s important to triple- confirm and check your sources. It’s our responsibility to deliver the most accurate information to our followers, and misinformation is easy to come by in the digital age.