Pop-Up Magazine's Social Media Master

Monday, January 27, 2020
Zoneil Maharaj (`07). Photo courtesy of Maharaj

Zoneil Maharaj (`07). Photo courtesy of Maharaj


By Audrey Esomonu (`20)

When Zoneil Maharaj graduated from SF State in 2007, social media was just in its infancy.

Now as the social media editor of The California Sunday Magazine and Pop-Up Magazine, he tweets and Instagrams all day long, creating content, conducting interviews with contributors, hosting fun backstage moments, strategizing social media takeovers and conducting live interviews.

Pop-Up is a live magazine featuring journalists reporting their stories from a stage. The twist is that nothing is recorded; you have to be there to witness the moment, which makes the experience more intimate.

“The magic of it is being present and having a shared experience with an audience,” Maharaj said. “You laugh and cry alongside hundreds of people with your phone turned off. Nothing is ever recorded or shared online, which gives me the challenge of building buzz and excitement without revealing what happens on stage.”

Pop-Up does three tours a year in spring, fall and winter. The fall tour kicked off in San Francisco before heading to San Diego, Vancouver, New York and other locations around the country.

During the off season Maharaj must keep social media fresh and active.

“I'm capturing behind-the-scene photos, videos of rehearsals, photos of the venues, things our staff and contributors are doing around the city and live backstage interviews with our contributors,” he said. “I'm trying to build as much hype around the show as possible, without revealing the specifics of what the stories will be. We don't want to give away any of the magic!”

His job is a bit more relaxed at California Sunday. He works with writers, photographers and an editing team to plan out the social media calendar while also managing web traffic.

Prior to his current jobs, Maharaj was the director of digital content at the now defunct Vegas Seven.

He graduated in 2007 with no post-graduation plans. He just wanted to work in a newsroom. He spent time freelancing while also managing Oh Dang!, an online publication, with some classmates.

Three years later he landed a full-time reporting and editing position with Patch.com, where he launched hyper-local community news websites in Fremont and Union City.

Maharaj said the journalism faculty and his classmates were instrumental in helping him land jobs after graduation.

“A big reason I got my current position at Pop-Up Magazine and California Sunday is because Summer Sewell used to work there and referred me,” Maharaj said.

Sewell now works as an editor at The Guardian UK in New York. Her experience at Pop-Up and California Magazine helped her grow in her career.

Sewell wanted Maharaj to experience the type of mentorship she received at The Guardian UK. "I also just thought he'd do a good job handling social media for them and that he'd fit in well,” Sewell said.

Maharaj said he isn’t the best at giving advice, but one thing he would like journalism students to note is that hard work doesn't go unnoticed.

“Grind,” he said. “Journalism isn't easy, and it's a highly competitive field. If you really want to be a journalist, you have to prove it. I got a lot of opportunities through the faculty, but they weren't handouts. I had to prove I deserved them. Once you do, others will take notice.”