28th Annual Webby Awards April 18, 2024

Verizon, NASA and Rare Beauty on Social Media that Works

Three visionary digital creatives present their ideas on what makes great social media content

Our second edition of Vitals explores the fundamentals of social media today. In partnership with Verizon, The Webby Awards gathered New York’s creative community to hear from three leading digital strategists about the social media practices that should stay or go in 2024.

Our speakers presented how they’re thinking about social across three topics: Vital Today (a current practice they love), Vital Forever (an approach they find essential) and Vital Never (a practice they would cut). The event featured Tom Chirico, Senior Director, Head of Brand Engagement at Verizon, Stephanie L. Smith, Social Media Manager at NASA, and Ashley Murphy, Vice President, Consumer Marketing at Rare Beauty.

ICYMI—explore our takeaways from each of our three presenters and get inspired by the social disciplines they turn to.


Social media is a conversation, it’s not a broadcast medium.”
— Stephanie L. Smith, Social Media Manager at NASA

Tom Chirico, Senior Director, Head of Brand Engagement at Verizon

Tom Chirico leads brand engagement for Verizon, inclusive of social marketing and content development, creator and influencer strategy, and social editorial strategy. Previously he spent 8 years at Twitter (X) leading creative strategy as part of the platform’s in-house agency partnering with the world’s leading brands to build unique ideas and activations that pushed the creative potential of the platform.

1. Vital Today: The Co-Creator Economy

A move away from the old linear model, where brands traditionally would partner with talent to reach a spectrum of audiences, today’s co-creator model centers on the audience. It’s about intentionally developing partnerships with creators to thoughtfully connect with their audience. It’s vital to understand the audience as a brand. Get to know what makes every niche tick, and find your brand’s voice in it.

2. Vital Forever: ​​Celebrate Your Wins

There’s a ton of pressure online to keep innovating forward, but it’s vital to take pause and recognize your hard work. Fact is, social media is tough, and it’s not an exact science. With so many ideas pitched, only so many make it to the marketplace. So take time to celebrate your big campaigns and successes when they happen. Savor your moment, take stock of what worked and toast your team’s creativity.

3. Vital Never: Never Undervalue Your Instincts

If you’re in a social media position, it’s because you’ve showcased your instincts in this space were right. Instead of instantly getting caught up in all the trends, trust your social media intuition. The best data and strategy come from your instincts in action. Don’t just rely on the atmosphere on social or your data analytics—trust your gut. If you believe it’ll work, try it out.

Stephanie L. Smith, Social Media Manager at NASA

Explaining in plain English what’s new with America’s space program (and why it matters) is what Stephanie L. Smith does. She oversees NASA’s flagship social media team, which has conversations with the public and the media about all of the agency’s activities, from astronauts to X-ray telescopes and back again.  

1. Vital Today: Surprise and Delight

When you have an idea and your entire team is excited about it, there’s probably something there. Get creative about avenues you can take to reach different communities on social. Bring in talent that deeply resonates and dialogue with them to get their audience to tune in. Don’t be afraid to slide in comments and engage your brand in pop culture moments. Keep your audience’s head on a swivel—use references and inside jokes relevant to the platform and non-traditional for your brand.

2. Vital Forever: It’s a Conversation

Social media is a conversation, it’s not a broadcast medium. Listen closely to online communities, understand their opinions and create opportunities for them to ask questions. Find out what people are excited about online and engage. Create channels for interactive Q&As to connect meaningfully. 

3. Vital Never: Inaccessible Content

Design and create with accessibility in mind. Use alt text with clear image descriptions. Add captions in visual content. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Don’t let that stand in the way of the good. It’s critical to create with everyone in mind, considering accommodations that can be made for every kind of user.

Ashley Murphy, Vice President, Consumer Marketing at Rare Beauty

Ashley Murphy spearheads Rare Beauty’s global go-to-market strategy, overseeing integrated marketing, paid media, social initiatives, and community engagement, contributing to the brand’s rapid climb as one of the fastest-growing prestige beauty brands on Instagram and TikTok. Her dynamic and holistic approach to consumer marketing involves crafting brands that not only captivate visually but also leave a lasting imprint on the cultural landscape.

1. Vital Today: Create Space for Intuition

Create a path for your team to trust their gut. The social media team knows your community best, connecting with your audiences daily through comments and DMs. With the emotional connection your social team builds, they have insight that data can’t provide. In a rapidly shifting social media landscape, data is good at understanding the past but not predicting the future. Push them to value and act on their instincts—synergy between creativity, keeping up with the moments and data analytics. A culture of informed intuition.

2. Vital Forever: Being of Service to Your Community

On social media, brands ask a lot of their community, from liking the post to commenting and sharing. Flip the script; create social media strategies by thinking about how you can be of service to your community. Think about unique ways to show up for them and make them feel seen, heard, and valued. Foster a relationship with your audience and understand how you can provide value. Create meaningful content that reflects your audience and meets them halfway.  

3. Vital Never: Tracking the Competition

Yes, it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of innovation. But that doesn’t have to rob your team of your originality or creativity. Instead of contending with the competition, stay focused, tune out the noise and strategize your next move. Make sure your social team has a firm foundation on your brand’s missions, vision and values.