On any given Monday morning, when most of L.A. is sitting in traffic on the way to work, LaQuishe “Q” Wright, 41, can be found in a dark movie theatre with her phone out. She’s usually the only one there, which is ideal for her purposes: She wants to watch the latest flick while working, without anyone getting annoyed.
“I love movies — a movie is what started all of this,” Wright says.
Wright is talking about her job. She’s a pioneer of a new kind of career: social media manager to the stars. Wright works with seven to 10 A-listers at a time, who rely on her for around-the-clock Twitter and Instagram posts.
Her job is an important one in Hollywood, seeing as how a celebrity presents themselves online can determine what movies they’re considered for, who their fanbase is, and how they’re written about in the media. Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to name an A-lister without some sort of social media presence, whether that’s on Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. But just 11 years ago, when Wright was launching this career, being online was far from status quo.
Now, Wright gets the kind of access that reporters and fans can only dream of. (Wright asked that her clients remain anonymous for the purposes of this piece, though a quick Google search will give you a good idea of who they are.) In order to do her job well, she needs to combine complete access with constant awareness. Her celebrity clients know she’s someone they need to text back.
Her phone is always powered up, ready for when a message comes in at 3 a.m. She has special ringtones for each of her celebrity clients so that she doesn’t miss them. She also needs to know each and every one of her celebrity clients intimately. Otherwise, the voice she helps them develop online won’t feel authentic — and fans can sniff out inauthenticity from a mile away.
From the onset of her work relationship with a star, she is in constant communication with them. She sees it as a partnership; working together to “navigate the social space organically, just like how they would if it was just them doing it all the time all by themselves,” she explains.
“My job is to figure out each person’s comfort level in the social space, because everyone is different,” Wright says. “We have to figure out what your social personality is, who you want to be, and how you want to connect with your audience.”
Figuring out someone else’s social personality is nowhere near as easy as it sounds. It’s a time-intensive, deep-dive process: Wright does extensive interviews with clients, research on her own (which includes watching and reading past interviews they’ve done), and spends time on press tours and film sets. All of this is to gain a better understanding of how her clients talk about themselves — from their voice, to how they tend to answer questions, and what issues are important to them.
Once she has that down, she amplifies a celebrity’s presence on social media, and makes sure to post on a steady base. “You need to be consistently communicating with your fanbase or whoever follows you, because that is how we authentically use social media.”
Wright learned the value of posting consistently through her own experiences blogging about celebrities. Her path to the entertainment industry and even social media was an unexpected one. A self-described “tech geek,” Wright enrolled in computer classes at a local university at the young age of eight. She went on to earn a scholarship to Texas A&M University where she majored in computer science, with a minor in business management.
After graduating, she spent a number of years working as a management consultant and then in the financial systems department at Continental Airlines. But she worried about layoffs post-9/11, and taught herself web design and search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy as insurance. She took on small projects for local clients. One day, Wright Googled actors from a movie she saw and was surprised to find they had no presence whatsoever online. Instead, she found fan communities, mostly ones run by young, teenage girls with crushes, who proclaimed their love online on blogs and MySpace.
It was her first exposure to the world of blogging. “I wanted to learn how to create content people were interested in and how to foster a community,” she says. She picked an actor she liked and started a blog of her own, using entertainment sources like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter to find news and share it in ways that resonated with her audience, which grew to 30,000 visitors within the first month.
“It was the very beginning of teaching me how to wrangle a fanbase,” Wright says. “I figured out where the communities were, and how to bring them to one singular space.”
A few months into blogging, she received a message: One of the actors she had been blogging about liked what she was doing, and wanted her to become their official presence online. At the beginning, MySpace was the primary place for developing a voice, but as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook grew, Wright set out to establish her client on those platforms, too.
“My job is to figure out each person’s comfort level in the social space, because everyone is different."
LaQuishe "Q" Wright
Wright now tells her clients that they don’t need to be on every social platform, but they do need to be where their audience is. For a long time, many of her clients were hesitant about using Snapchat, because they didn’t feel comfortable handling it themselves in real-time when she wasn’t with them.
A big part of Wright’s job is helping the stars she works with become more comfortable online. When she is with them on a press tour, for example, she’ll use Snapchat so they become more accustomed to doing it on their own. She teaches them how to effectively use newer technologies like Facebook Live, too.
Wright is a born-and-raised Texan who still calls Houston home, but she spends much of her time in L.A., since it’s where her clients reside. She has a small team of employees in Houston who help her organise her clients’ content calendars, keeping track of when studios are going to release trailers for actors’ films and figuring out what posts will need to go up around these. But everything funnels through her. In addition to planning posts ahead, she specialises in finding last minute social coverage solutions.
This year, Wright went to Spain on vacation and was sailing in the middle of a lake when she found out some images related to a client’s movie were coming out. Her WiFi hotspot saved the day.
“I know people on the boat were a bit annoyed with me because I was trying to work, but I’m on 24/7,” Wright says.
The images Wright wants to post aren’t always the ones a studio or an actor’s team want them to share. But the numbers, millions of followers and hundreds of thousands of likes, don’t lie, and Wright knows what kinds of posts get the most engagement.
“If I post something that’s behind the scenes and organic, [as opposed to] something that’s more stylised, the numbers are always off the charts,” she says.”That’s my job with my client and their fans — to help the fans feel like they’re being brought into this amazing and interesting and different process.”
As for what the future holds, Wright says she wants to start training film studios and on-set teams to be more social media savvy. After all, there is only one of her.
“People ask me what my system is, and I wish I had one, but I don’t,” she says. She doesn’t end our interview without doling out some sage social media advice: “Maybe that’s why it’s authentic. It’s literally just, ‘Who are you and what do you want to talk about?’ Don’t overthink it.”