Social Media Manager Fatigue

Posted on April 25th 2011

Everyone knows being a social media manager is the funnest job in the world, right? I mean, what's NOT to like about being paid to be on Facebook and Twitter all day?

If that's true why am I spending more and more time thinking maybe getting into this line of work was a terrible idea and maybe editing articles about enteral and parenteral nutrition was actually not boring or tedious? Depending on what people call my job, it's supposed to be the hottest job of all time. What's not to like?

I just read a post about social media and the stages of grief and it really resonated with me and, frankly, also depressed the crap out of me. If you're thinking about making a career of social media, you need to read that post. I think it's important to know that a) the phases (denial, bargaining, anger, and despair) Amber describes in the post are totally accurate and b) when you're a social media manager, all the emotions and upheaval during each of those phases are directed towards YOU. Are you down with that? You sure?

The important thing to know, I think, is that working through these phases takes time...a LONG time. Moving an organization from being "1.0" to social is incredibly hard and can take years.  Being the person on staff who's responsible for instigating these uncomfortable phases is really hard. I suspect it's probably easier if there are other people on staff to share in your misery--other members of a social media team, for instance--but especially in the association or nonprofit world, organizations are lucky to have budget to dedicate ONE hire to social media and I don't imagine that will be changing anytime soon.

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I've been at it for 3 years now and I'm about worn out. And I know from talking to others in similar roles that they're just as beaten down and burnt out as I am. And the thing is that social media is still so new that it's not like organizations are going to be doing any forward thinking about avoiding burnout and retaining talented employees in this role; they're still mostly stuck in the phase where they see social media spending as experimental, and just possibly (fingers crossed), something that they won't need to worry about in a few years.

Anyone care to share tips on how they're avoiding burnout in a social media role? Anonymous comments are fine, btw.

maggielmcg

Maggie McGary

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Comments

I am a social media strategist and manager. It is not that hard for me to be excited daily. Maybe it's just me and my focus. I do yoga and work out several times a week. I can't imagine a better job than the one that I have. It suits me and I love it. I haven't experienced burnout partially too because I force myself to take a few hours a week without phone, social media, laptop and all other social media devices and ways of accessing. About once a month I take a day or two break from all technology and focus on family and friends .. taking walks.. spending good times laughing.. watching movies whatever... You have to do that to stay fresh and focused.. It can become such an intrustion into your life because this does take over and we end up working over and late and such. 

 

Hi Debbie,

I feel your pain!

Having been in a similar position myself for the past couple of years, I wrote a blog post a few days ago for other social media managers.

I hope you find it handy.

I fully agree that one of the most important aspects to remember is that full implimentation takes time, especially in larger organisations.

If you ever fancy a chat, send me through an email, find me on LinkedIn or tweet me.

Best of luck!

Rob

I know that when I spent a large amount of time (months) on a client's twitter, fb, or other social media network for a while developing it, it takes me a while before I get back into liking social media for myself again.  Social media I find, can be incredibly fun...but when you do it for work, it's different.  Social media management involves a lot of what I can '1930's office routines.'  SMMs often are those people filing everything in triplicate, collating by hand, and could you grab everyone a latte since you're so with it? 

 

The tools aren't very powerful, but the internet is.  It's a challenge that no one has really mastered just yet. =/

 

For me, the best decompress is reading.  Reading a real book.  It sort of unplugs me.

Brennan - Since you mention the fact that the tools aren't that powerful...

I'm with a start-up softare company - we've been showing our social media marketing tool (content creation) for the past three days to social media savvy folks in San Francisco.  It's crazy powerful...just trust me and take a look. Free to download/no obligation.  If you like the tool and want to give us a good case study, drop me an email chantelle at zingzag - we can arrange something.

Know exactly what you mean! Here are my tips:

  • Switch off all social devices outside of work hours. If you have to use it for personal use, do it at lunchtime.
  • Work things out on paper as much as possible.
  • Do something physical (I climb) to switch off from the virtual world.
  • Have a plan in place to deal with customer service issues and know who you need to pass things to.
  • Keep 'action' lists and have goals in order to understand how your role is developing.
  • Don't take things personally if they don't work out.
  • Take a step back and look at the big picture reguarly.

Charlotte--these are great and exactly what I would also recommend. I love my job as social media manager and thankfully have a huge amount of company support. Still, I feel the fatigue at times. Logging off, looking at the big picture and working things out on paper all help me to power through.

Hi Maggie! I read the same post and your thoughts echo many of my own. I don't think any of us realized what a long process we could be up against and getting the blues is more than natural.  You just have to push on through. Sometimes, when I feel like it's too much, I take a day or two break from it and step away to regroup. It's not always possible in an orginization that might get comments and replies steadily throughout the day, but I found that it can help to step back and refresh your perspective. 

Great insight into the not so fun-filled SMM's work.

Short feedback: been doing it for the past 2 years, never counting hours, never watching the clock, always saying "in a few minutes honey" when my wife was calling to ask when I get home so she can re-re-re-re-warm dinner....

... and yesterday it happened: got diagnosed with pneumonia!

A simple flu, on such a fatigue-waisted body got its toll.

Simply put: take CARE of your self first, and WORK after...

All the best!

Val

Great article - thank you. So those of us in the despair stage aren't alone. We just need a support group! Especially those of us who are trying to spearhead this effort alone. The learning curve is steep and the expectations - as well as skepticism - are very high. Let me know if you're interested in starting a group - I think having a 'safe' place to share ideas and frustrations and learn and grow together would be great. The general public forums on Linked In, Twitter etc. are too far up the learning curve for me just yet... Thanks.

Wow I thought I was the only fried from trying to convince businesses to have a page on Facebook (puhleaze) to managing upmteenth pages, fan campaigns, twitter/LinkedIn/YouTube accounts. Some of my friends think I have a glamorous job but have no idea how tedious it is to craft compelling updates, post them in a timely manner and track conversations. We should start a support group lol!

WOW! I can't thank you enough for posting this article. It is exhausting and fatiguing and I'm definitely burning out. I'm in an organization that hired someone under the guise of "social media guru," upon taking the opportunity it became clear there was a lack of understanding of what social media was and how it can fit into the organization. What they thought could be a full time responsibility and "thing" unto it's own, isn't quite what they needed. What they needed was someone that can use social media as a tactic to support communication strategies. Moving the organization to see this is exhausting and my mind-body-spirit, can attest to that!

I think what is so exciting about Social Media is also what is the most fatigue-inducing -- that there is so much potential out there to do great, exciting and engaging things. If you have a client or company that is receptive to progressive experimentation -- great, run with it! But most likely clients are hestitant and more cautious about trying new things -- especially when there is very little guarantee, which in turn can make managing social media very daunting.

For me as a social media strategist for small businesses and schools, the momentum ebbs and flows, allowing me enough time to get ready for the next wave!

This post is amazing. I'm the only SMM for an enterprise-level company. It can definitely feel like you reach major burnout mode when social is really just getting started. Thanks for acknowledging this.

 

Great post, Maggie - I posted a visual last month on social media today that tries to explain what an important, multi faceted role you have :

http://bit.ly/lHr2a0

Interested to know if this is how you feel !!

Rob

Hello, 

I totally understand that feeling. 

I am currently building a social media marketing strategy for a French business in Montreal. It sometimes seems like it's not worth it because everyday, you kind of have to start again feeding multiple walls for differents purposes with brand new contents all the time... it's always a work in progress!

It's the neverending story! :-)

But as many said in the comments above, the best way to deal with it is to dedicate time to yourself only, no computer, no phone, just you and your thoughts in the real world.

 At least I think....

I worked as a Community Manager for a major, national restaurant chain with 1+ million very vocal Facebook Fans, and I was burnt out on answering their comments, dealing with the negative and being the chipper face of the brand 24/7. I took a position that was behind the scenes, more strategy and analysis and am happily off the forefront.

 Maggie,

I can totally relate - it's a 24/7 job! Some days are better than others and I try my best to keep going, but I it can be a lot. It is no wonder so many businesses outsource this type of thing!

 

 I think that the key is to make sure you disconnect when you can - try having someone that can take over for a day - - or even a few hours!. Balance your day by exercising, reading a book for fun, and socializing with people in real life. Most importantly, try not to think of it as work.  Having a positive mindset can sometimes be the toughest hurdle!

 

Best of luck, and remember, you’re not alone!

 

Rachel

Central PA Webster 

http://www.centralpawebster.com

 

As a guy who focused on studying social media marketing during my final year of college (just a year ago this May) I can say it was an eye-opener after landing what I thought to be the job of a lifetime. To be doing something I had been doing for years (I consider my generation practically born with mice in our hands) and to now get PAID to do so was beyond awesome...at first.

The day to day life of a SMM, I'm finding, is a rollercoaster ride. What worked yesterday to gain hundreds of followers, "Likes" and general kudos for clients might do absolutely nothing the next day. Keeping your clients ranking highly with Google SEO is even worse (cursed Google algorithms!)

Even worse, clients sometimes don't realize this kind of work isn't something you can monetize overnight. More often than not they just want 1000's of people on their Facebook and Twitter in a matter of a week or two - something that (as many of us know) is not realistic for the run-of-the-mill client. All of which just adds stress to us.

Like Kimmie and Charlotte mentioned, I find a good run or some kind of physical exercise really reboots my focus and interest in getting the job done on a daily basis to keep the client happy. Beyond that, just staying fresh on information and reminding yourself that you're on the cutting-edge of an industry that is literally and statistically sweeping the WORLD off its feet really helps fight off the stress.

Best of luck Maggie, you're not alone.

 

 

Take short vacations, instead of one long one. You may find you're less stressed if you take two days each month (or one day every two weeks) rather than taking two weeks in a row.

I find the short vacation lets me feel as though I'm playing hooky, and it sure comes around a lot faster.

Then I use the time to do something that's not work related -- cooking, cleaning, drawing, whatever.

It doesn't completely take away the burnout, but it sure helps.

Phew, great to hear I'm not alone!  I think there are some differences from those that love it and those burned out.  Do you do it brand side or agency side?  Those of us on agency side that have to juggle multiple accounts w/multiple channels, all for clients that don't always get it....burns a Mgr/Strategist/Guru/etc/etc out!   Am I successful at it....of course, very very successful.  Is my brain beyond mush at the end of the day, of course :)  Great article, and great responses. 

Although we work with social media strategists, I monitor campaigns which means A LOT of time online.  And I recently went through my own preventative burn-out period.  

What helped was as I was starting to feel tapped out, I began following comics on twitter (and people who I found inspiring.)  The comics helped tremendously.  I checked in on their tweets as a pick-me-up during the day or I'd watch a funny youtube video.  I subscribed to tumblr blogs that focused on photography and music to take my mind off of copy/deadlines.  I minimized my personal social media and cut out accounts.  

Also, I made myself stick to my timeline.  Finally, I agree about yoga/exercise.  I brought exercise back into my life and any errand within my zip code or nearby, I am trying to complete by walking/biking.  Small changes however they made a difference.  

Maggie - this is a brave post and I appreciate your points here. I hear about this fatigue that you are describing from just about every new client that we take on. To give you some background on my point of view, I am the VP of Social Media at an online advertising agency. I, therefore, manage social media accounts and campaigns for a wide variety of companies, both b2b and b2c. Often when companies come to us, their internal resource for social media management is completely burnt out after not only juggling the workload, but also taking a beating from key stakeholders within the company who remain skeptical about spending budget to support the efforts and want to see more measurable "proof" that it's working.

This is where we come in. We have the history, data and experience to support the case for social media, so that we can get the clients past the point of defending the medium and to the point where they're able to create really powerful campaigns that they can be excited about and proud of. 

Really, the secret is that when you're able to measure and prove great results in line with a company's marketing goals, they start rewarding you rather than beating you down. You just have to get to the point at which you can alleviate their fear that they're wasting resources. I'm sure that what you've been working on has been producing great results, the only trick is in measuring them and presenting them to "prove it." 

What you write here is such a valuable point. I'd love for you to be in touch with me if you ever want to discuss some other tricks I use to alleviate the fatigue and stay motivated about social media. 

Morgan Siem, Media Two Interactive

@morgansiem

Amen! Social Media is such a new arena and so fast moving what with the big tech firms pushing the next big thing or way to 'engage' your fan base, etc. Yeah it can be a big challenge - especially in the non-profit sector! Work longer and more hours in a day is a slippery slope when it comes to social media. Too slippery sometimes. I have spent a good deal of the last 15 years online with the last three being focused on putting Manitoba Wildlands online fb and twitter wise. Huge learning curve. Hard to keep up with all the recommended this and that. My sure fire secret technique is slow and steady and keep on networking. It's like building a group of friends who .. are not close intimate friends but you want that 'share' factor all good friendships have. SO I work on it constantly. 

My main strategies for dealing with the stress and burnout are as follows.

Have evenings and weekends. Discipline everything down to an absolute minimum or non-existance outside the workplace. I teach chinese martial arts and meditation so I look forward to my three classes every week. Doing something physical helps get me out of my head and into my body and stay present. I have been training for over 20yrs and find it is the best thing to combat burnout. Rewire the body, really change gears physically because we use so much analytical brain juice trying to strategize our social media worlds getting into one's body does wonders for de-stressing and re-calibrating the universe. :))

 

I ditto pretty much everything Charlotte Clark wrote. Instead of climbing, I run and hike AND I don't take my gadgets with me.

One tip I can suggest is when a new social media tool comes out, it doesn't mean you need to use it. Review it first and determin an ROI. Imagine if we all acted that way, we'd be exhausted becuase it seems there are new tools always released. Be methodical about tools you're using. Less is more sometimes.

Oh yes I hear you. I'm 3 years in and wondering are we ever going to get there?

I have noticed lately several new people have come in to the business full of enthusiasm with great ideas and want to push ahead at a millions miles an hour, but don't want to hear the lessons of the past. I'm struggling to find a blance between encouraging enthusiasm and providing realistic advice. It is very easy to fall into "tried that, it didn't work" mode, when often it is not a bad idea to try again.

 

Wow. I checked my e-mail right before another Hootsuite binge and found this. Just today, I was telling my partner how social media can become incredibly tedious and the worst part is, it's tough to find some one to commiserate with. It just never ends, because in order to effectively run social media for a client, you have to be in the trenches every single day. Sure, you can schedule, but that takes the heart out of it. We've been trying to find ways to prevent burnout and so far, the only thing we can think of is trading off.

Brennen, you had a perfect analogy! It really is the type of thing where you have to collate everything by hand. Charlotte, every one of your tips are awesome. It's so important to step away from the virtual world every once in a while.

Just to add to everyone's comments, it's so important to take time to enjoy the campaigns that go well. Social media marketing can be very tangibly rewarding and that's what keeps me coming back for more.

This post made me feel so much better. Thanks!

Oh kwitchurbellyachin'... you DO have an idea how many folks are jobless these days, don't you?  How many folks are burned out from job searching for the past few years?  How many would welcome job fatigue over jobless fatigue!  Besides that, if you'd been in the professional world for any length of time, you would know that typical job burnout phase cycle is 3 years... the first year you're excited and learning, the second year you're adding value, the third year you've done all you can in that position and it's time to move on, restart your cycle and let someone start theirs in your position.  Plus, you might wanna spell check your stated title... I would think it's very important, as a social media manager, to be uber sensitive about typos 'n' such.   "

Hi Maggie - also really enjoyed your article, specially the part about being the first and only one trying to spearhead social media efforts in an organisation. This is my last day as the Social Media Specialist for a big corporate organisation (in Australia) because I literally felt like the job was crushing my soul.  I love social media and I love what my job is ON PAPER, but the problem comes in the inability to push anything forward.  I got so overwhelmed by everyone in the company making it so HARD to do anything - partly because they don't understand it, but also because they feel like they should be doing it themselves.

I'm still perservering - just heading over to another big corporate organisation with (probably blinded) hope that they may be a little more advanced and ready to actually do things. 

I'd be keen to get involved with a 'social media support group' where we can all get together and bitch about the people and processes that are making our lives hard... I know I've got some pretty entertaining horror stories :)

Thanks again for reminding us that we are not alone!

I too am burnt out.  I work for a company that has about $300 million in annual revenue and only has me on their digital marketing team.  I am responsible for the job of about 3 people and because upper management does not see the true value in social media, I am being denied an intern.  They know that the future is digital... they don't deny but until they can see hard figures, they don't want to give the support needed to actually GET them there.  One cannot do everything asked for me at once in a QUALITY manner.  While I've been able to get these social channels up and running, they don't realize the investment that it takes to truly make these channels work for you, involves a lot of time... to be expected to do the strategic planning of campaigns, managing of vendors, copyrighting, community management, internal selling, internal education & other odds and ends is silly if you want to see real gains in the digital space.  For non-profits, this is excusable but for companies with deeper pockets, it's just plain silly.

Without belief and a little more investment & risk, big companies will never get there and social media managers will be burnt to the core.

Interesting points being made but in all matters pertaining to life and the choices we make - if we aren't truly excited about the choice, interest will wane and complacency can kick in. For me, the possibilities in business are endless and is only limited to my imagination. Sometimes a swift kick can be necessary to snap us back to what made us passionate about a decision. The inspiration must come from somewhere and maybe just a step back to look at what made us "fall in love" is deserved also...

Great honesty and humility has been exhibited in this article and it may be the "kick" that will harvest that desire again.

I hear ya!  People think I have the dream job and in some ways it is. I work in social media in the tourism industry, so even when I am out "playing", I am really "working".  Day on the beach?  Photos to my communities with my iphone.  Day ziplining?  Video, pics and blog.  There is no "down time".  I just took a two week vacation from the office, tried my hardest to stop thinking about work, but everything I did I did with work in mind.  

At least I am coming back refreshed and with new material.  (And I promise not complain too much, I know I am lucky to have this gig, it does get exhausting though!) 

Like I have written before I recommend that you try your best to love your work or change it.  I have changed carreers three times because I hated my job and I changed.  But as of late I discovered what for me is the secret to being happy.  At my advanced age I have finally learned what is more important and I recommend the The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and Updated, With Over 100 New Pages of Cutting-Edge Content.    and recommend that you change if you are not or find clients in the field that you love!!!!!!  It seems as i curated an article on this very subject that many people have this problem. 

Like the expert on travel that commented here, I too was always on even when travelling but I did learn to make each thing I did fun and to plan for what I did for work and pleasure fun so they would be both work and pleasure at the same time.  My stress came when everything I planned did not turn out to be as good as I wanted but now with the feeling of genuine capture being good for content marketing it turned out my stress was unwarrented.  So find something you and work on it not as a job but as a passion, even if that means you must switch professions!!!

I hope you find the peace you need and find the path that leads you to your happiness, work is necessary but for me work is a passion I embrace and find happiness on it...even with that as I wrote in my last blog, finding joy outside of it is also great and slowing down because we naturally slow down with age is not bad either!!!!  So I wish you the best in finding your true passion that makes work seem like life!

 

I have feeling the same cause its not just that you initiated the while social media thing, that people laughed at you. More importantly it has become even more difficult to get yourself up say that you want to conquer the world (in the social media way). But now, it is not just client but also family expectations that need to be managed. Macro-environment has just too many gurus, ninjas degrading the social media as a term.

Great post!! I agree that SMM can be a stressful job (I also have been providing SEO solutions for 2 years and feel the same way). However, every job comes with a certain amount of burnout and stress no matter which field. This post inspired me to start a group and, as per the request of many of the professionals in this forum, have started this support thread called Social Media Manager Support Group in LinkedIn. http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=3895011&mostPopular=&trk=tyah Being that most of us probably work from home based offices or entrepeneurial centres etc it is nice to have a forum in which we can vent, receive advice, share stories and generally network to help us not feel like we are on an island sometimes. Hopefully we can build up a membership together and am looking forward to collaborating with everyone! S

I appreciate your post!

As a social media virtual assistant I have learned a lesson which has helped to eliminte social media fatigue.

Redefine my 'ideal soicial media client'.

There was a time when I would perform social media responsibilites with just about any good business which was eager to enter the world of SM. But I have found that smaller, solopreneur companies are my best customers because they take a more active responsibility in SM.  Working one-one-one with mostly online business owners meant I had more content to work with and could easily contact or notify them when a good post would come through that needed their attention.

However, working with large companies whose CFOs/CEOs/HR VPs are responsible for social media is a losing battle.  These folks have other responsibilities so the work I did was not really important to them. Emails or questions about content went unanswered. It was rather frustrating and therefore fatigue would set in. 

So once I redefined who I wanted to work with on social media the problem lifted.

There are plenty of people who want to work with big companies and so I don't tackle that market.  And there are plenty of small companies who can use the help. 

i went through much of what you described until I realized that I could make a change and still do the work I enjoy for people who appreciate my time and effort.

Janine Gregor
www.Facebook.com/YourVirtualWizard

 

I think this is the same wherever you are doing a job which isn't operational or core business. I am working in a tiny Information Management team (of two) and my manager is tearing her hair out for exactly the same reasons you describe so well in your article. Me, I'm a comic artist in my spare time and I do the job to pay the bills so I don't care.

I could see how being a full time SSM for a company would burn be out, but having my own business with clients in an industry I'm both passionate and knowledgeable about keeps it fun and exciting.  I tend to work with solo business clients so I'm often taking something of their plate that they just can't manage and they're thrilled when they do google searches and find themselves in the first two pages...

 

Searching for more information on this position I ran across your blog and found it very interesting. As a professional web developer the principles are the same and the symptoms are equal. I was considering taking on this role for a few of my clients but now I think I need to take a second look at what all is expected and make sure it is a good fit for me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts this really hit home.

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