Plenty of digital-first jobs in the knowledge economy have seen reports of burned out employees over the past few years. But perhaps none more so than social media managers. The role of a social media manager, sometimes referred to as a quintessentially Millennial job, is one that can be "always on" by nature, requires myriad skills, and often doesn't pay well. Turnover is often high. While I recommend speaking directly with your social team about their specific concerns, here are a few key places to start.
Difficulty finding work-life balance
Social media users can be online at any hour of the day or night, and, on average, they spend more than two hours each day on social platforms. While platforms like Later or Hootsuite can help with scheduling posts in advance, engagement and community-building requires real-time responsiveness from a human being.
If a potential customer comments on your business's Instagram post asking a timely question such as "When does the sale last until?" or "I have a problem, how can I contact customer service?" it is in your best interest for the social team/person to respond quickly. So you make sure they do. Their personal social accounts are linked to company accounts, which they'll already have downloaded on their phones. What's a few minutes here and there to respond to an important customer concern?
It takes "my boss emails me after hours" to a new level. If a social media manager ignores or misses something on a brand social account, it makes the whole company look bad. Not just the social media manager. Many social pros consider their work day to be never ending, which can quickly lead to burnout.
Lack of assistance and respect for one's time
One of the most common phrases I have seen in job postings for social media roles is "someone who can wear many hats." Social media moves fast and changes often. Social pros are often expected to be skilled in copywriting, graphic design, video/audio editing, data analysis, and more. In the past, these areas may have all fallen into different jobs. Now they are routinely done by one person or a small team.
Performing this many types of tasks daily requires exemplary time management skills. Switching between them can wreck focus and make it difficult to think deeply and creatively about strategy. Your social media team may feel underappreciated, especially because many companies refuse to let die the running joke that their social accounts are run by an intern. Maybe that was the case in 2013, but times have changed. So should the respect given to the social media department.
In the same vein, social media roles typically don't pay well considering how much responsibility the department has in managing a brand's image and communicating directly with customers. The national average salary for a social media manager is $55,117 per year, according to Glassdoor. That may seem like a reasonable figure, but when you consider how much time is often spent working after hours and the skills required to excel at the job, it's a mismatch. That is also the average. I made less than $30,000 per year as a social media coordinator in Pittsburgh from 2017 to 2020. Social jobs are also disproportionately held by women, which, coupled with the low pay, has led to the field being named the Pink Ghetto.
Here's what you can do
The most direct way you can improve employee retention on the social team is to increase headcount. Most brands want to have a presence on many different social platforms, and managing that can quickly become a complex and massive workload. If growing the team isn't an option, though, there are other ways management can help.
Provide clear guidelines and expectations
Help your social team, especially junior members, figure out what success looks like by outlining exactly what is expected of them and what is not. What constitutes an "emergency" on social media, and how should they respond? Go over some possible scenarios and a best course of action in each. If possible, stagger the schedules of the team so that someone can be available during more hours of the day without any one person being spread too thin.
Make social help a priority for other teams
If your business has a designer or design department, be sure they are considering social needs, so that the social media team doesn't have to create their own assets. Allow the social team to easily communicate with your customer service team to get any questions answered quickly. Could the marketing team help with social copy for some campaigns? Social media can touch almost every part of your business, so every part of your business should be interested in doing the best work on social media.