Updated: Nov 1, 2020
What do you get when you combine a content writer, a press officer, a videographer, a graphic designer and a marketing officer? You get a social media manager, someone who frequently combines their many talents and applies it to a rapidly changing online landscape. It’s an incredibly fun job that requires creativity, innovative thinking and staying on top of trends. At the same time, it’s a job frequently seen as “just tweeting a bit”, and it’s often not considered on the same level as a lot of other roles within an organisation despite the huge amount of responsibilities.
As social media managers, we’ve encountered enough bizarre requests and angry messages to last us a lifetime. Here’s eleven of the things many social media professionals have no doubt encountered.
1. Being told to “put this on social” with no context or prior notice
“We’ve got a huge event happening tomorrow. Can you put out a tweet about it?”
Head, meet desk.
Where do we begin? First of all, don’t give us last-minute events to promote; they won’t be anywhere near as successful as you expect. Second, we tend to need a lot more information. Who is the event for? Where is it held? How do people book? What do people get out of attending? Give us as much detail as possible.
One of the best things you can do is keep your marketing team in the loop as early as possible. Invite them to a few meetings, CC them into a few emails, and let them know a rough timeline of events. You don’t need to invite them to every little thing, but letting them offer their input early on will pay off in the long run.
2. Dealing with rogue social media accounts
When your team asks us if they can have a social media account and we say no, it’s not because we’re mean. It’s because we don’t believe the account will be successful. It could be because your team isn’t familiar enough with social media or wouldn’t have the time to run it long-term. Whatever the reason, the social media team have made this decision based off expert knowledge and prior experience.
It’s the bane of every social media manager’s existence when an account gets set up without their permission. Not only does it mean tracking down the people responsible for running it, but it also means ensuring they know what they’re doing. It means updating audits, including them in mailing lists, monitoring the account to ensure no mistakes are made, approving logos and branding…the list goes on.
Always speak to your social media team before setting up an account. If they say no, listen to them. You wouldn’t ignore the majority of other teams if they told you not to do something, so why ignore your social media team? They have years of expertise, and if you ask nicely they can give you some support with promoting your services. After all, why spend years running an account that gets 500 followers when there’s a team who can reach that amount of people in less than a day?
3. Bearing the brunt of people’s anger
“i bought this drink from your shop and it's a day out of date???? absolutely disgusted, fucking hate you”
Somewhere out there, a social media manager is sobbing loudly.
More than most other teams in an organisation, they’ll deal with abuse and negativity on a regular basis. Not only are they often unable to resolve the issue, they won’t always get the support they need from other members of staff. Add this to the amount of other tasks they have to do, and it’s easy to understand why social media professionals feel overwhelmed and undervalued.
We can’t make world peace a thing, but we can do things to make the world a little nicer. Consider whether your tone of voice is appropriate, especially if your enquiry is not that serious. Remember that there’s a person behind the screen who has to deal with your abuse; they’re often not the person who caused the issue in the first place.
Organisations need to do more to support social media teams, who often struggle to deal with the negative comments they receive daily. Simply saying “we have wellbeing services” isn’t enough. Hire more social media people to ease the burden. Offer social media people more opportunities to step away from the screen. Train senior management to recognise the impact of such comments so they can help those they manage. Whatever you do, please understand the stress social media professionals are constantly under.
4. Being blamed for the failure of a product or service
In an ideal world, social media forms part of a wider campaign or marketing plan. It plays a significant role in communicating with a target audience, and its work is seamlessly blended in with the rest of the project. When it works, it’s everybody’s success. When it fails, all aspects of the project are examined. Makes sense, right? Sadly, that’s not always the case.
Far too often, social media is an afterthought. It’s something that’s done before a product launches or an event happens, and there isn’t enough time for the social media team to plan out some proper promotion. Alternatively, sometimes the event, product or service simply isn’t exciting enough, or isn’t targeting the correct audience. Social media likes/shares are easier for the public to see than other key performance indicators (KPIs), therefore the blame often falls there.
This isn’t to say social media managers don’t make mistakes – after all, we’re (vaguely) human. However, social media is thrown under the bus far too often. It’s often not the only reason something didn’t work out, and project leaders need to consider various other angles (including other forms of advertisement and product interest) before faulting social media.
5. Dealing with micromanagement from people with far less experience
If social media managers had a pound for every unsolicited piece of advice we got from someone with far less experience, we’d be able to buy our own island and live far away from everyone else. Sadly, that’s not the case; instead we’re forced to listen to people tell us “putting this flyer on Instagram will make everyone want to come to our event”.
Senior management know the power of social media, but they don’t know how to wield it. Far too often, they’ll get involved and make situations worse. Support from them is often appreciated, but not when it turns into them telling social media managers what to do. A collaborative approach works far better, and it allows social media staff the freedom to do what works best.
Trust me when I say this: do not control your social media manager’s actions. Do not force them to do things they know will not work, and do not go against their expertise. In the grand scheme of things, social media is still relatively new, and a lot of senior management will be unfamiliar with how it works. Trust in your staff, and they’ll trust you too.
6. Hearing the words “make this go viral”
Every single social media manager wants a post that’ll go viral. Trust us, making a good post with over 50,000 retweets is an absolute dream. Do you know why those posts go viral? It’s because they resonate with the audience in a significant way, whether it’s funny, educational or heartbreaking. Send us a blog post about a work trip to the beach, and we might be able to get you 3 likes (probably from the team who went on the trip).
The phrase “make this viral” brings us back to the idea that social media people are wizards/genies/gurus/rockstars (delete as appropriate) who can do anything at the snap of a finger. Social media isn’t rocket science, but nor is it so simple that every post will make an organisation successful beyond its wildest dreams. All social media managers can do is craft a post to the best of their ability, use their expertise to effectively share the content and hope it performs well.
The best thing you can do is offer support to a social media manager. They may not be able to make something go viral, but they can increase its effectiveness with a little help. Provide plenty of information, answer any questions they have, and trust in their ability to effectively create content.
7. Random branded hashtags
When a social media team uses branded hashtags (for instance, Coca-Cola using #ShareACoke), there’s usually a science behind it. Has the hashtag ever been used before, and if so how was it used? Is the hashtag easy to say and understand? Will it fit seamlessly alongside other marketing materials? Sometimes the perfect hashtag comes to mind instantly, sometimes it can take a little while to figure out.
People outside of the social media team will sometimes create hashtags for the company, and the intentions are great. Sometimes, the hashtag is perfect. Sometimes…not so much. It’s a new hashtag for something which already has a hashtag, and which the social media team have been pushing for years. Before you know it, this new hashtag is on posters, flyers, branded pencils, pop-up banners, and those little fluffy things with googly eyes.
If you’re a social media manager, you may want to create an infographic to showcase each of your hashtags and what they mean. You may also want to discuss the process of using the hashtag, including any research involved. If you work in an organisation and want to use a hashtag, please speak to the social media team first. Or at least search your hashtag to make sure it doesn’t mean something else.
8. Everybody jumping on the TikTok train
Here’s a fun fact: loads of us actually like TikTok. It’s entertaining and unique, not to mention creative as hell. We’re figuring out how to use the platform without it feeling forced, and how to create content specifically for TikTok instead of reusing old content. However, we’re also dealing with colleagues and clients who want to be on TikTok without understanding how the platform works.
One reason not all social media professionals are rushing to TikTok is because they want a solid grasp of the platform first. Meanwhile, some of us understand how it works but can’t keep it updated alongside the many other channels we have to run. Stop saying “why aren’t you doing this challenge?” or “can you put this on TikTok?” and sending us a video that’s wildly unsuitable for the channel.
If you want to offer some assistance with TikTok, speak to your social media manager. Ask them what can go on the channel and what can’t, and ask them whether some content is better suited to existing platforms. Better yet, spend a little time learning about TikTok and understanding what good video content should look like.
9. Being expected to respond to messages out of hours
Believe it or not, social media managers have a life away from work. Apparently, they eat, breathe and sleep just like other humans (although further research is needed). Outside of working hours (often 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday), they’ll try their best not to look at their company’s social media channels.
On top of that, social media managers often have a range of tasks. They’re not simply responding to messages; they’re also creating content, planning campaigns, working with other colleagues, and a whole lot more. It’s not always possible to respond to a message immediately, although we understand the importance of a quick, concise response.
When you contact an organisation on social media, manage your expectations. Know that even if it’s a huge company, you may not get an immediate response. Shaming them into responding doesn’t always work, either. If you need something answered urgently, calling them is often the quickest and most effective method. We’ll still try to get back to you as quickly as we can, but a little patience goes a long way.
As a side note, putting ten exclamation marks at the end of your message doesn’t make it more urgent.
10. Getting asked questions they don’t know the answer to
“When will we hear back about this?”
So often, the temptation has arisen to respond with “when you find out, can you let me know?”. Social media teams are often the last people to hear about something, yet they’re the first to respond to enquiries about it. We also tend to get bizarre questions such as “I’m trying to connect with someone who worked with yourselves in the 80’s, do you know how I can find him?” or “Do you have any dangerous chemicals I can borrow?”
(One of these was an actual request received by yours truly)
There are two ways to make this process a little less awkward. If you’re a colleague of a social media person, provide them with as much information as possible about your service, event, etc. Even better, include contact details or a web link that has loads of information. If you’re the one asking the question, consider finding an email address to the specific department you need. The social media person may not know the answer to your finance-related question, but the Finance Team most likely will.
11. Being completely underestimated
Social media is a strange paradox where your job is “not that important” yet if you haven’t tweeted three times a day about this small-scale event, you’re ruining the company. People’s opinions on the importance of social media in an organisation flip-flop constantly, and it mainly depends on how useful they find social media in that moment.
The truth is, social media people do a lot of work. They don’t simply post a few pretty photos on Instagram; as well as spending loads of time planning and scheduling that content (which includes creating photos and videos), they’re also contributing to other projects and answering enquiries as quickly as possible. Due to the amount of work required in maintaining accounts, social media people often become a jack-of-all-trades in the marketing and communications sphere.
If you work in social media, demand respect. What you do is a vital part of how your company operates, no matter what you’re told. You’re often the first impression someone gets, and you need to constantly create content in order to keep your accounts active. Take pride in your work and don’t let other people get you down.