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The ugly truth about being a social media manager

Social media managers are in the burnout zone, working around the clock, multitasking and handling massive amounts of pressure.
social media managers

Much more than a job, being a social media manager is a lifestyle. Managing social media cannot fit within a 9-to-5 schedule. A social media manager’s tasks include quickly replying to conversations between consumers and a brand, defining the tone that a brand is going to assume in all their posts as well as a short SLA to maintain the best engagement as possible during tough times.

But did you know that social media managers are actually real people behind a screen? How are they handling the pressure of a pandemic?

Today we’re not bringing any specific data, we’re here to tell you real stories. We talked to Vanessa Amaral, Worten’s Head of Social Media. We had quite an open talk about how challenging it can be for social media managers to work during such complex times and turnovers. All this happening while still maintaining a good public image and a positive posture for the brands they communicate.

Being a social media manager in times of crisis

Although social media managers can work on a remote basis, the fact is that real problems are only a click away. And sometimes it can be overwhelming.

“During the first weeks of lockdown, everyone was online, everyone was consuming news, fake or not, everyone had an opinion, well fundamented or not”, said Vanessa Amaral.

It was chaos. Fake news did not help because people that are less informed passed them on, creating more fear about what was going on. And of course, everyone had an opinion on it, generating hate on every comment box on the internet. As I said, it was chaos.

And it is still a chaos. An increasing number of social managers are running away from social media due to the stress COVID-19 caused.

A recent study by West Virginia University claims that social media managers had to work much harder during this pandemic. However, most respondents said that they’re only a “team of one”. 

“More work” to social media managers doesn’t mean more recognition 

Although we are taught to handle communication in a crisis situation, there was no such training for mental health while handling communication crisis in a world pandemic.

Being a social media manager during these difficult times made it hard to unplug from work, fearing that they will miss the next hack, the next boycott, the next news alert. The social media manager has truly become the messenger for brands across the internet and the public has indeed shot the messenger.

With Social Media I get to push my message and my content across the world and that’s powerful”, claims Vanessa to Digital Affair. “However, it’s also dangerous because every kind of message goes across the world and becomes viral, and sometimes those messages are prejudiced, extremist, violent and so on… We all know what goes on the internet.”

“I still have to prove to someone how valuable my job is for brands, businesses and organizations. They have no idea what it takes to create a good social media presence.”

Vanessa Amaral, Social Media Strategist

But how does the upper board in a company see these tasks? Vanessa answers that “I still have to prove to someone how valuable my job is for brands, businesses and organizations. Most people still think social media is as simple as taking a picture and posting it and that anyone can do it.

They still ask why they have to pay for post creativity, production and media push when “it’s just clicking a button” and posting. They have no idea what it takes to create a good social media presence.

In the study quoted before there were interviewees that reinforced Vanessa’s opinion. There are social media managers who are working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, reacting to every single news alert and the pool of toxic comments, waiting to be answered on social media channels. 

However, there seems to be a lack of assessment of how much time, effort and stress being a social media manager entails. There’s a great impact on their mental health, constant pressure to stay online, always be on a call, respond quickly and politely and of course without any spelling mistake. 

“It’s ok not to be okay” and social media managers should say it

Not in the social media you manage, but to your leaders. More than ever, there’s an urgency in pulse checking our sentiment towards the company.

We should tell that having more virtual team building activities doesn’t solve the problem. The happy hours don’t make up for people who had their COVID adrenaline dump two months ago.

If you’re in a management position, ask yourself: What do you really know about your social team’s day? How are you providing opportunities for stress relief?

In our conversation, Vanessa shared how she had a lot to cope with during the first times of COVID-19. “2020 was a very demanding year for everyone’s mental health. Mine was no different. I have an Anxiety Disorder and my anxiety skyrocketed last year. As soon as I understood what was happening I searched for professional help. I’ve been doing therapy for almost a year now”.

Sometimes, I do meditation, abdominal breathing and I stretch a lot in order to decompress any stressed points of my body. Walking has helped me as well, but what I found most helpful is to build routines and stick to them”, she said.

social media manager tasks

So how can we take it from here? 

Social media professionals may not be in a hospital working 24/7, but we need to consider them as a company’s first responders. They’re reading toxic messages towards a brand in 280-character bursts.

The professional often regarded as an intern, a volunteer, a teen with a smartphone, is stacked against a torrent of anger, frustration, and whatever announcement their comms team is ready to unleash, breaking the internet and signaling press reports with soundbites, quote cards, and the ubiquitous embedded image to make the reader click. 

In addition to being the voice of the brand, they also act as the eyes and ears of it. Social media are a great source of market studies. In such a short timeframe, the world turned upside down, and there weren’t any comms crisis manuals to follow.

“In most cases a social media manager does the job of 5 to 6 people. We do strategy, we do planning, creativity, content production, content posting, content performance, reporting and analytics, and community management.”

Vanessa Amaral, Social Media Strategist

So social media was the best way to see what the general public was saying about their brand/industry/latest announcement. It was also a great portrait of how consumer’s life has changed.

“How can our business adapt to these changes?” “How can we convey the right message while we’re distant?” were some important questions answered while scrolling on social media posts. 

Teams need to expand in order to face the ambition brands have for this area”, reinforces Vanessa. “And we need to have better pay, in most cases a social media manager does the job of 5 to 6 people. We do strategy, we do planning, creativity, content production, content posting, content performance, reporting and analytics, and community management. This needs to be recognized and valued by companies.”

Run social media manager, run! 

Not from your job, obviously, but from social media. We know how overwhelming it can be to be drawn into hate messages, rude comments or even impolite claims towards a negative experience with your brand. 

Set an hour, or at least half of it, to distract yourself from the social media noise. If for Vanessa a walk around the block works, maybe you should try dancing because that’s what you love. Or doing that body combat class on YouTube. Maybe investing on a board game night via Zoom with your friends?

Whatever works for you, please try. We need to give ourselves the grace of knowing that we’re handling a pandemic as well, and any defense mechanism is valid, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. 

If FOMO is taking over our routine as social media managers, there’s no need to be ashamed and get some professional help. If there’s one thing that working with the Internet and social media has taught us, is that we’re not always onboard with what’s going on in the world.

It’s not because of an appointment that we’re going to be fired. It is quite the opposite – there are great benefits to having a good night of sleep. We can find our great friend “creativity” in them.

We’re all doing our best 

Spreading the word about creating a community around social media, we also wish every social media manager gets their own. It is important to have a community if there’s a minimum sign of feeling lost. It’s not normal to have days, months full of drama to handle.

We wish that you have days (or at least a few hours) away from press releases, rude comments or professional disbelief.  We wish that you have the time to realize that we are doing our best. And it’s ok not to be ok.

Carla is a marketing manager who doesn’t like to talk about herself. She prefers to write and talk about the stories she helps telling as a marketing manager. Her professional path is connected to content marketing strategy, copywriting and social media management. She’s passionate about travelling, reading biographies and cooking a new recipe every week.

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