The Catch-22 of social media management during challenging times

woman at computer with hands in hair, frustrated

The other day, my colleague Amanda and I were leading an AMA Richmond small group conversation on social media. There were only six of us on the call, but half of the group actively said they were limiting social media use because it’s just too much. Some Hodgers have even quit, or greatly reduced, their social media use for the same reason.

But what do you do when you’re a social media manager who operates in the social media world for a living? I love my job and I love the work I do for clients but having a work/life balance on social media is excruciatingly hard in 2020 – and here’s why.

Our job is baked into the platform

In 2016 – the day of the last presidential election – I experienced a traumatic event, which was compounded by the election results. I deleted all my social media apps from my phone and deactivated my accounts. For eight weeks, I was free from my feeds. But I got a new job back at Hodges and social media management was back in my job description. I waited as long as I could, but I had to reinstate my social world to function in my working world.

Now, with everything that’s going on this year, all I want to do is delete some of my accounts, but I can’t. Social media platforms are constructed in a way that requires me to have an account so I can access the tools needed to run ad campaigns for clients. Additionally, managing social media requires listening and monitoring, which means engaging with the content on the platform.

Content filters and fact-checkers only do so much

In the last six weeks, I have muted and unfollowed more people than I care to mention. But short of jumping off the platforms entirely, it’s idyllic to think I can control something that is so far out of my control.

Platforms have fake news and fact checkers in place, but if you have friends and follow lists that are as diverse as mine, you’re likely still seeing a mix of things breakthrough to your feed. And once you pay attention to one tiny piece of content, inadvertently or not, the algorithms think because you spent time on that content that you need to see more of it.

Our strategies have turned on us

We’ve shown this graphic from Domo in presentations with the deliberate intention of overwhelming an audience, to set the stage for our conversations about amplifying messages with social media advertising.

Platforms have done their part to tighten up restrictions about who can advertise what, but just as we’re fighting to get our clients’ messages seen by the right people at the right time, every fact (and opinion) about COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and the 2020 election is landing in my newsfeed – whether I attempted to curate my organic feed or not.

So, how do we fix this? How do we do our jobs and support our organizations and clients, without completely monopolizing our mental health and wellbeing?

  • Have an honest conversation with your teammates or manager. If social media is a shared responsibility, pull in help when you can.
  • If it’s not a shared responsibility, turn this into a strategic pause and lean into other channels. Redirect your energy to other tactics you’ve previously moved to the back burner, like a podcast or email newsletter.
  • If you have paid time off, use it. It’s OK to not be OK. Take a day (or days) to recharge – however that looks for you.

Anyone else feeling this way? If so, feel free to use me as a sounding board. I can talk about not talking about social media all day.

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Casey Prentice

A self-proclaimed organizational junkie and data geek who confesses to a secret desire to be a professional organizer, Casey enjoys account management, writing, editing and digital content strategy. Her agency work has helped clients like Virginia’s Community Colleges, VCUarts and Swedish Match.

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