It’s getting harder and harder to work in social media without experiencing troubling side effects.
Out of a surveyed 1,200 participants in a recent study from the journal Depression and Anxiety, it was calculated that for every 10% of negative social media interactions a person experienced, their depression risk rose by 20%. Popular YouTube stars like Alisha Marie also admit to suffering from burnout - Marie admitted in a Forbes interview that she went on hiatus this year due to the pressure of delivering new videos, and being unable to take any days off. And an increasing amount of studies point to smartphones and screens, and the amount of time we spend with them, as one of the root causes of unhappiness.
If you work in social media, it’s highly likely that you've encountered some, if not all, of these issues, whether from a professional or personal standpoint. When it comes to burnout specifically, it’s simply not possible to follow all of the advice provided in most listicles.
Delete your apps? They’re an essential part of your line of work. Unplug for a few days? Eventually you’ll have to sync back up - and there will be plenty of notifications, emails, and messages waiting when you do.
So how do social media professionals combat burnout at every stage of their career? I spoke to several social experts, ranging from one to ten years of experience, to discover their techniques to avoid burning out.
1-3 Years: Define Your Content’s Purpose
The early years of a social career are usually the ones where workers are at their most bright-eyed and bushy tailed. They’re hungry to learn, and enthusiastic about creating content - however if they’re not careful, they could suffer from burnout from doing too much work too quickly in an effort to prove they have what it takes to succeed.
For over a year, Lauren Petermeyer has been the manager of digital planning and strategy at 301 Digital Media in Nashville, Tennessee. Petermeyer's well aware of the dangers of burnout that come with trying to build an engaged audience - specifically the struggle that surrounds content overload.
Instead of pumping out sub-par posts, Petermeyer advises paying attention to the actual content you’re creating and sharing:
"You want to ask yourself, 'Does this provide value to your reader? What is your purpose for posting? Are you engaging with the people who interact with your posts?'"
Petermeyer notes that while frequent posting may seem like the best strategy to increase engagement, it can actually have the opposite effect on brands. When you take into consideration the key components behind your content - value, purpose, and how the brand will engage with its fans - you’re doing social media the right way.
4-6 Years: Learn How to Identify a True Crisis
At this point in your social media career, you’ve likely enjoyed sizeable victories, like a viral tweet or gaining a famous follower. It’s safe to say that you've also figured out how to juggle multitasking across channels, are BFFs with scheduling platforms, and are less likely to sweat the small stuff than you were a few years ago. Before, sending out a tweet twenty minutes too early might have left you spiraling with fear. Now, it’s far from the greatest issue you have on your plate.
Christina Hager, social media manager and digital strategist at Overflow Storytelling Lab, has been in the social industry for over six years. In that time, she’s integrated multi-faceted marketing plans and created original content for brands in a wide variety of industries. Throughout those years, Hager has learned how to identify a true crisis - an incredibly important skill for anyone in the social space.
"Clients and team members alike will ratchet up the importance of all issues and push these to the forefront - but not every single problem is a crisis and needs immediate attention."
What happens if a social professional doesn’t learn how to identify a crisis? Hager warns that when you make everything a crisis, you’ll be stuck living in crisis mode. In addition to dealing with high stress, being in crisis mode forces your current objectives to fly out the window while you’re stuck dealing with whatever is considered to be the "crisis" of the day.
7-9 Years: Think Like a Journalist
At this point in your social career, certain pieces of content are easy to create and guarantee a moderate engagement from fans. It's National Ice Cream Day? Might as well post an aesthetically pleasing cone on Instagram and hashtag it appropriately to reel in quick vanity metrics. This isn’t going to lead to burnout necessarily, but it does have the potential to let you coast on what’s easy to create.
Stefanie Rosenfield, co-owner of digital marketing agency Cleveland Marketing Team, wants you to start raising the stakes. Having worked in the social field for eight years, Rosenfield sees social media strategists as akin to newspaper journalists:
"The angle we take for social media is that the strategist (reporter) must be good at finding stories."
In order to do this, Rosenfield says that one has to look at the storytelling behind social media:
"If we take the time to learn about a business and can find compelling stories taking place within their office or with their product or clients, it makes social posting a lot easier and more effective."
10+ Years: Take Your Content to the Cutting Edge
Award-winning designer and motion graphics artist Crissy Bogusz has the job that a million girls would kill for — creating content for British Vogue and Vogue Paris’ Snapchat Discover channel team.
Bogusz has had over 10 years of design experience for interactive and new media, and the videos she creates are seen by millions daily - her most popular series of Snaps covered the Royal Wedding live earlier this year. And while her job may appear to be glamorous (and it is), Bogusz assures me that a great deal of planning and hard work goes into everything you see.
"My job entails three weekly editions published for the British Vogue and Vogue Paris Snapchat Discover channel with 10 snaps in each edition. This means 60 videos are created as content each week that are split between myself and another designer.”
The content itself is high-end design and video, combined with animation motion graphics. Bogusz says that doing this cuts down on the feeling of social media overload. Instead of emphasizing the observation of lives, the Snapchat Discover channels focus on news stories and content.
"Creating animated content, like this video of the Gigi Hadid x Tommy Hilfiger collection, is not only highly creative but allows your audience to engage more with it because it’s not what they’re expecting from social media. Our aim with Vogue’s Snapchat Discover editions to engage the viewer enough visually to keep them interested in viewing the entire edition rather than one Snap."
Bogusz also adds that this should be the goal of every business on social - to engage the user enough to want to view more of your content.
Outside of getting clever with animated content, Bogusz advises working with social influencers to create video content. Aside from the relevancy that the content has for the publication - see Rihanna’s beauty tutorial for Vogue as a good example of a viral hit - it also keeps content interesting for the viewers and the business.
"The audience likes to see your content being introduced by someone. Naturally, using a popular celebrity helps it to be successful but that’s not always necessary. If the only person to appear in your social content is you, add a few more faces in there. This makes the content feel, well, social and physically interactive."
As social media becomes more engrained in business process, it's important to also look deeper into the various digital processes and ensure that you're not focusing too heavily on the smaller elements that can lead to increased psychological impacts. A level of business maturity helps, but it is worth keeping in mind the various elements noted above and working to stay focused on your broader goals.