Every week, we share the shortcuts, workspaces, and productivity tips of our favourite experts. This week, we’re going behind the scenes at Lifehacker. I’m Tim Mulkerin, and this is how I work.
Name: Tim Mulkerin
Location: New York, NY
Current gig: Social media editor, Lifehacker
Current computer: MacBook Pro
Current mobile device: iPhone XS
One word that best describes how you work: Sponge-ily
First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
I got my start in media a couple of years out of college. I studied art history and considered going to grad school for museum studies, but quickly realised how burned out I was on school. I was ready to work. So I started writing for a few small sites and then eventually got an internship as a writer for Business Insider. From there, I got a full-time gig as a staff writer”and then a social editor”at Mic. (May she rest in peace.)
A fun aside: After my last day of work at Mic”the place I left to join Lifehacker”a few coworkers joined me for going-away drinks at a bar near the office. While we were there, news broke that Bustle was buying Mic, and the tone of the room shifted, uh, shall we say, dramatically. Less than 24 hours later, all the (likely very hungover, as was I) people who were at my going-away drinks had been laid off. Fellow media folks (and everyone, really): Unionize your fucking workplace.
What are your job responsibilities?
I manage the day-to-day posting for Lifehacker’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. (Like and subscribe!) That includes writing a post’s share text, reformatting images if necessary, doing some light image editing in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, making stupid memes, and generally acting like a dumbass online. An endearing one, hopefully.
I handle most of our posting using SocialFlow, which lets me post to multiple accounts through a single portal and get a quick understanding of how our traffic’s doing that day compared to others. I also edit the layout of our daily newsletter and pitch Lifehacker articles to third-party syndicators as a way to round out our traffic and reach new readers. When I have time, I exploit my past as a Starbucks barista for the clicks and organise Q&As with experts working in topics that Lifehacker covers.
What’s your workspace setup like?
I have an adjustable standing desk with a dual-monitor setup. I spend most of my time sitting, but in the afternoons I tend to get squirmy and stand up for a bit. My MacBook Pro sits on my right and the second monitor’s on my left. In between my monitors, I have my most prized possession: a teeny-tiny area rug I got from The Met gift shop. It’s technically a mousepad, but it sucks at being a mousepad. I use it as a coaster for my drinks. The only picture I have on my desk is a boudoir shot of Winnie, my best friend’s dog who is also my goddaughter.
Take us through a recent workday.
I usually get to the office between 9 and 9:30, depending on the mood the subway’s in that day. By that time, at least one story has probably gone up on the site, so I’ll quickly schedule a tweet and a Facebook post for it as soon as I get in. (If I’m running late, I can do this from my phone on the subway or as I dodge Times Square tourists and people dressed as Megatron.)
Once I’m situated at my desk with a hefty cuppa cold brew, I spend a chunk of the morning checking emails, scrolling through our Twitter mentions, and moderating Facebook comments from overnight to make sure nothing horrific has unfolded that needs dealing with. Banning someone from our Facebook page for saying something wildly bigoted or for harassing other readers is something that happens with depressing frequency.
By about 10, I can get into the core of my job: promoting Lifehacker’s work on our various social channels. For every story on the site, I post two tweets (one when the story goes live and another later that night), usually a Facebook post, and less often, a blurb on Instagram. We publish about 20 stories per day, so that keeps me pretty busy. I have to read every story before I promote it, because there’s often an interesting nugget or quote in the story that didn’t make the on-page headline, but that offers a perfect little teaser for a tweet or Facebook caption.
If our video team has anything publishing on the site that day, I’ll spend a little time packaging it for our social channel. Otherwise, in the downtime between scheduling posts for Twitter and Facebook, I can work on various long-term and lower-urgency projects. I’ll check my Instagram plan for the week and see if I have to whip up an image for that. Also, all the G/O Media sites can share each other’s articles on social, so the other social editors and I drop links in a Slack channel throughout the day with stories we think would fit on each other’s feeds.
At 12, I check on our daily Lifehacker newsletter and make sure all the stories that have been pulled automatically make sense for that format. The post that’s been selected as the lead story by algorithm magic isn’t always a great choice, so I’ll go in and swap it out for something a little heftier and on-brand. This is all a relatively new process for the social team, so I’m having fun experimenting”and eventually, I’ll A/B test a few different components to refine the format and see what our audience likes.
Lifehacker typically publishes its last story at 5:30 or 6, so I try to leave the office a little after 5 and schedule the last post of the day from my phone while I’m at the gym or commuting home. Nothing depresses me more than getting home late at night once the sun’s gone down, so if I can get to the office early and scoot out a little early and do some remote work, I’m a happy boy.
Of course, I have pre-scheduled tweets and Facebook posts going up long after I leave the office, so I usually check our comments and Twitter mentions a couple times throughout the evening to make sure I didn’t post the wrong link in a tweet or make a typo. If you fuck up, readers will let you know. Believe me.
What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?
Jabra Elite 65t bluetooth headphones
What’s your favourite shortcut or hack?
It’s probably too basic, but AirDrop changed my goddamn life.
Take us through an interesting, unusual, or finicky process you have in place at work.
The typical format we use for a tweet includes share text, a shortened link, and the header image. To tweet out that image, I have to save it to my desktop from the article, resize it to SocialFlow’s liking, then drag-and-drop it into SocialFlow. This means I have million stock photos saved to my desktop with names like “soup,” “kids,” “vivaldi,” “freebies,” “arse,” and “big pickles.” (Those names, for me, are much easier to find than whatever word salad our site spits out as the default file name.) I hate clutter, so deleting them all en masse (20 articles per day = about 100 images per week) is such a great feeling.
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
We have a bot that posts every story we publish into a special Slack channel. When I’ve scheduled a post for social, I note that I’ve done so by “reacting” to the post with the blond-boy-sitting-at-a-laptop emoji. A very sophisticated system.
I also use Slackbot’s reminder system”you just type “remind me to [whatever task] at [whatever time]””on the daily. “Remind me to post the job interview video at 10 am on Wednesday.” Stuff like that. And, of course, I usually have a few sticky note reminders with various levels of sun damage affixed to the bottom of my computer screen.
How do you recharge or take a break?
I like to look out the giant window by my desk and watch all the people walking down on the footpath. If it’s nice out, I’ll go for a walk around the block or buy something carb-y at a coffee shop. If outside is bad, I’ll watch a Vine compilation or this video of people singing Robyn on a subway platform.
What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?
I’m currently reading Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. Here are my favourite books I’ve read in the last year or so:
Can you share a music playlist you’ve made, whether for working or elsewhere?
I’ve never been great at making my own playlists, so I usually rely on friends and Spotify’s pre-made ones, like:
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
John Mulaney. Ali Wong.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
You do not work at the CIA. You are a human first and an employee second.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
How to convince Mark Zuckerberg to give me a billion doll hairs.
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