Social media is a tough job, especially in 2020.
It’s a company’s front line of customer interaction. When people are angry with an organization, the first thing they usually do is voice their gripe on social media, often posting rude or abusive comments that they would never say in person. Shielded by screens, these keyboard warriors either forget or simply don’t care that there’s another person whose job it is to read, absorb and respond in a measured, professional attitude.
It’s not all hostile, though. Social media managers represent a brand; it’s their duty to evoke positive feelings from followers who are then likely to support that brand. That positivity is fostered through responsiveness and engagement in a timely fashion. “Distributors are working all hours of the day and night and every day of the week,” says Charity Gibson, national account coordinator at Newark, NJ-based Peerless Umbrella Co. (asi/76730). “They need answers when they ask the questions, so the idea of taking a break isn’t really an option. There is no turning off or unplugging. If I’m lounging poolside, grocery shopping or on vacation, my phone is there with me keeping me connected to all things promo all the time.”
The “on call 24/7” mentality hadn’t been an issue until this year, Gibson says. Social media has become a breeding ground for “negativity and division.” Government restrictions and social distancing measures have kept people home with plenty of time on their hands to scroll, share, post and engage in heated debate. Users are bombarded by information and misinformation regarding the coronavirus, police brutality, protests, riots, social justice movements, corruption, sexual harassment, celebrity scandals, local business shutdowns, etc. As the middle ground crumbles day by day, differing opinions are scolded rather than welcome. With so much fear and anxiety brewing inside us, social media is the only release many people have left.
And it’s only going to get worse as we draw closer to the U.S. presidential election.
“People are blaming mainstream media, but media outlets simply publish information,” Gibson says. “It’s the public that shares it, so each one of us that participates is just as much, if not more, at fault.”
The toll of scrolling
The intense environment has caused trepidation for marketing teams. Feeling heightened scrutiny, now there’s even more due diligence before posting to ensure someone isn’t offended by the content. “It makes you stop and think about what could go wrong instead of using it the way you originally intended, which is to share the things you’re interested in,” says Britney Godsey, vice president of sales and marketing at Top 40 supplier Gold Bond (asi/57653). “If we all found kind ways to support each other, it could provoke even more innovative creativity in our industry with the freedom to imagine instead of feeling the intimidation of a public stoning.”
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by information, opinions and arguments while scrolling through social media feeds. From mid-March to mid-May, Google searches for anxiety symptoms were the highest they’ve been in the history of the search engine, according to Qualcomm Institute’s Center for Data Driven Health. “Anxiety” and “panic attack” searches corresponded to major news events, including March 16, when social distancing guidelines were put in place nationally; March 29, when those guidelines were extended; and April 3, when President Donald Trump announced face mask recommendations.
With all this angst trapped inside us, people are avoiding as many triggers as possible, including social media. More than half of Americans (56%) say their social media habits have changed because of tensions surrounding current events this year, according to a survey by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Furthermore, one in five Americans say they’ve taken breaks from social media because of tensions surrounding those current events.
Of course, social media managers don’t have that luxury. They must dive into the cesspool and filter out as much harmful content as possible. “For as much as I am frustrated with social media, I also find great beauty in its ability to keep us connected with people across the globe,” Gibson says. “We have the power to shape our feeds into a digital pipeline of stories, photos and influences that are edifying, motivational and positive. It’s up to us to sanitize our feeds and protect our headspace. We all need to do a better job of taking responsibility for the content we’re consuming and be better stewards of what we’re feeding to our friends, co-workers and family members.”
Sanitizing your feed
Controlling the content in your feed is incredibly important to improve the quality of your life. To flip your feed from being stress central to a motivational haven, you may have to do some spring cleaning. Delete or unfollow anyone whose posts don’t contribute to your life or business.’
“Don’t feel bubbled in,” Godsey says. “There’s a ton of other people out there craving your energy, and they’ll be ready to support you. Social media is one lens of your life – don’t let negativity from others ruin your lens on life.”
If you’re worried about offending someone, you don’t have to cut them out of your social media sphere altogether. Facebook and Instagram have “unfollow” options that allow you to stay connected with people without being subjected to their posts. “If someone’s posts don’t save me time, save me money, make me money, get me closer to my goals, make me laugh or smile, or entertain me in some way, then their posts don’t belong in my feed,” Gibson says.
You don’t want to just trim your feed, you want to add to it. Follow people and brands that promote positivity and post content you can learn from. They’re likely to follow you back if you do the same. “Our social media crew knows the world can be grave and stressful right now,” says Laurie Prestine, who works in the marketing department of Top 40 supplier alphabroder (asi/34063) | Prime Line (asi/79530). “While we understand we need to acknowledge what is going on, we aim to provide relief to our friends and customers by engaging them with relevant and optimistic content.”
Creating positive vibes
Alphabroder | Prime Line incorporates its employees into its Facebook posts, illustrating the team’s personalities. Whether it’s sharing outside sales consultant Beth Belich’s snack mix recipe, showing sales rep Steve Meldrum’s home office by the pool or recalling a funny anecdote about his dog Stella eating a stress reliever, alphabroder | Prime Line strives to keep things light and fun on social media.
Inspired by entrepreneur and motivational speaker Gary Vaynerchuk, Jeremy Picker follows the mantra of “CREATE, don’t CONSUME.” “Spend more time putting helpful and positive content out in the world rather than being sucked into consuming, which tends to lean negative,” says Picker, co-founder and CEO of Lakewood, CO-based AMB3R (asi/590243).
Providing value to his followers, Picker shares industry news articles, innovative product ideas and inspiring messages. Copying a LinkedIn post from Danny Rosin, co-president of Morrisville, NC-based Brand Fuel (asi/145025), he recently offered to help people who have been laid off or furloughed during the pandemic. He offered to help with polishing up resumes, writing LinkedIn recommendations or even just hopping on the phone to chat.
“I choose to share positive vibes as much as I can because I need it for me,” Picker says. “If it helps me get out of a funk, hopefully, it will do the same for others.”
Ann Baiden, CEO and founder of Innovatex Solutions Inc. (asi/231194) in Toronto, understands that social media is a double-edged sword, especially when it comes to getting information. Although news breaks on these social networks, it’s not always accurate. Plus, there’s an abundance of stories being shared. You can easily get sucked in for hours on end. “If you focus on social media all day, every day, it can definitely seem negative,” Baiden says. “I have a COVID file where I put updates I want to view later, so that I read the information at a set time to stay current.”
Even though social media managers are expected to always be available, burnout is inevitable, says Cody Belnap, digital marketing manager at Top 40 supplier Snugz/USA (asi/88060). Contrary to popular belief, he says it’s important to take breaks when you need them. “You need to take a little time for yourself to maintain your sanity,” Belnap says. “Go for a walk in the middle of the day or grant yourself permission to log on just for a few minutes before spending the evening with your family. You need to set the right limits so you’re still engaging and responsive, yet still achieving that peace of mind.”