The Person Behind @Elmo
I interviewed Christina Vittas, Social Media Manager for Sesame Workshop and the online voice of Elmo.
Read the following tweets:
As social managers, we speak on behalf of a brand. We have guidelines that outline the brand’s voice and tone—and we, for the most part, stick to them.
But what happens when, as a social manager, you speak on behalf of a puppet? And not just any puppet, but arguably the most beloved, iconic, and funny puppet in history?
Today’s interview is with Christina Vittas, social media manager for Sesame Workshop and the online voice of @Elmo. The accounts for the 3.5-year-old red monster have over one million total followers—racking up engagement numbers most non-puppets would dream of. What Christina has been able to do with Elmo’s accounts is remarkable. I, an adult, love following along for Elmo’s wholesome Tweets, silly videos, and amusing beef with Rocco.
In this interview, Christina and I talk about what she does to “get into character”, how she curates Elmo’s calendar, and why she loves working in social media.
Karten: First, can you tell me about your current role and any previous social (or not!) roles you've had?
Christina Vittas: I am a social media manager for Sesame Workshop, the global impact nonprofit behind Sesame Street and so much more. My team is responsible for managing accounts like @SesameStreet, @SesameWorkshop, and the Sesame Street Muppet accounts on all major platforms.
Sesame Workshop was my first internship and first job after graduating college. Since joining in November 2020, my role has evolved from Marketing Coordinator to Audience Development Coordinator to Social Media Specialist and now Social Media Manager. In this position, I continue to support our Sesame Street and Sesame Workshop channels, as well as manage Elmo’s social media.
RK: I'd love to focus specifically on the work you do on Elmo's accounts. I've always said it must be so interesting running the social for a celebrity, and that's...basically what you do. Can you summarize the social strategy for Elmo?
CV: It’s truly an honor to manage Elmo’s socials. My little red friend keeps me very busy, but I love what I do and who I do it for. Elmo’s social media is managed from his perspective and one of the most important parts of this job is maintaining the fourth wall. After all, in my heart and in many others’, Elmo is a real 3.5-year-old monster who lives on Sesame Street with friends, fairies, and beyond!
We look at Elmo’s social presence in a few different ways; it’s a mechanism to stay top-of-mind with fans, it’s how we can meet people where they already are, and it’s one of the most direct ways to spread joy, love, and laughs. When curating his calendar, I look to keep a healthy balance of heartfelt, funny, and educational content. And what I learn time and time again is that we could all use a little more Sesame Street in our lives.
RK: Is there anything you do to get into the spirit of channeling Elmo on social? Do you feel like that side of you is easy to turn on?
CV: I love this question because yes…sometimes I do need to “channel Elmo.” A daily question I ask myself is, “what would Elmo do?”.
Ryan Dillon, the puppeteer behind Elmo, is in my opinion, one of the greatest to have ever take on the craft and I feel really lucky that I get a front-row seat. I learn so much from studying his work and the work of our tremendous writers. I probably watch more Elmo content than a whole preschool class combined, but I am not learning my ABCs and 123s, I am learning comedy, character traits, and so much more that all goes into the work I do. I feel in touch with my inner-Elmo and am grateful that the joy, curiosity, and spirit of friendship that we share comes naturally to me.
I have thought about this a lot, and I believe we all have a little bit of our Sesame Street friends in us all. For me, I feel like Elmo, but I love to use my imagination like Ernie, I embrace my family heritage like Rosita, and when I’m low on sleep, you can find me feeling like Oscar the Grouch. We all can channel our inner Elmo, or Oscar, or Cookie Monster—it’s all about finding that side of yourself.
RK: I feel like this year in particular has been a big one for Elmo on Twitter. How would you describe Elmo's voice and personality on that platform? How do you balance being for kids but speaking more to an adult audience on social platforms?
CV: I would describe @Elmo’s voice on Twitter as funny, inspiring, and relatable—and that is because Elmo’s voice on Sesame Street is all of those things. One of my favorite replies I see from fans is “I read this in Elmo’s voice.” That to me means I hit my mark.
Strategic social media management involves figuring out the best combinations of how, what, and when content should be shared on platforms. But when you are working with children’s content, there are added steps and layers to think about—can adults connect with this? Could this be adapted or re-contextualized for social audiences? And so on.
I do my best to make sure that Elmo’s joy, heart, and realness shines through his content on social media, in an appropriate way. Sesame Street always has been and always will be made with the mission to help children grow smarter, stronger, and kinder but from my three years working on @Elmo, I have come to realize that adults need a little Elmo in their lives, too, and social media is a way for that to happen.
CV: Whatever @Elmo does, it always must feel “authentically Elmo.” Some questions I ask myself and my teammates are “Why Elmo?”, “Should Elmo?”, “What makes this unique to Elmo?” and “Can we put a Sesame-spin on this?”. By participating in trends and cultural conversations, Elmo can show other parts of his personality and relate to folks near and far from the Sesame Street target audience.
With Elmo’s World Wrapped post, we were able to touch on a number of things that make Elmo, Elmo, as well as infuse a curricular topic like belly breathing. To me, that is the perfect opportunity to join a cultural conversation. Sometimes, it’s cheering on a friend like Ms. Taylor Swift and other times, it’s jumping in with kindness—especially when our feeds need it most.
RK: Can you walk me through the process of creating social-first content like this Reel? It's obviously one thing to pull clips but it's another to create videos specifically for use on social.
CV: My team at Sesame Workshop has the unique opportunity to create content that is social-first. This involves photo shoots, video shoots, static graphic development, and more!
When it comes to video content, it’s a formal production process. My teammates and I brainstorm content all year-round, we finalize our priority pieces, and we work with our colleagues in production to bring these social-first videos to life. It’s a fantastic feeling seeing our concepts on platforms and reading comments from fans.
RK: What's a recent post you're particularly proud of? Talk to me about how it came together and why it worked!
CV: What makes me particularly proud is when Elmo helps folks feel seen and appreciated. This past March, Elmo posted “Ramadan Mubarak to all of Elmo's friends! Elmo loves you!” on Twitter/X, totaling more than 8 million impressions and 176K engagements. This is just one example of how Elmo’s content continues to grow in inclusivity and meaning and this growth is important to me and my team.
RK: What do you love about working in social media?
CV: In my eyes, social media is where it all happens! Where else can you find celebrities, world leaders, furry monsters, and your Aunt Joanne all in the same place? It’s news, entertainment, and connection. It's a unique balance of permanent and fleeting.
Working in social media continues to challenge me to be my best creative self. I constantly need to tap into a growth mindset and just when I think I have something figured out, it’s time to re-invent. It’s a special kind of storytelling that I hope to keep working on.
RK: Finally, what's the current relationship between Elmo and Rocco??
CV: You’ll have to keep your eyes on Elmo’s social channels to find out! ;)
Quick reminder that there are some really great new postings on the Link in Bio Job Board. We’ve got jobs at Hourglass Cosmetics, Yes Way Rosé, VSCO, Oyster Sunday, Smallhold, ProPublica, Vote Save America, and more.
Speaking of, I am helping Pleasing, the lifestyle brand founded by Harry Styles in 2021, look for a Senior Manager - Social Media and Creators. Responsible for the growth, development and day-to-day operations of the brands social media portfolio and network of creators, candidates should have proven experience contributing to and executing against holistic social strategies and working cross-functionally in a dynamic start up environment. NYC or LA based. Salary range from $100-120k. If you’re interested in this role, reply to this email with your resume. Thank you!
Okay! See you all next week!