Social media is changing and so should we
As the years have passed, working in social media has become more and more complex. Digital freelancer Rebecca Givens is here to tell you that, you can not – and should not – do it all.
Fellow social media managers, look how far we have come.
Hasn’t our industry grown? Our job descriptions have become longer, the number of available channels we use has increased and the content types within those channels has become nothing short of staggering.
I believe that, as digital professionals today, it’s not just our role to manage this increasing chaos, but to also fully understand and appreciate the effectiveness of having adequate time, resource and headspace to do so.
And, as we’re more often than not Tweeting away in this little virtual bubble all by ourselves, it can become an isolating challenge to communicate this to our audiences, colleagues and superiors – that it’s impossible, and often pointless, for us to try to run multiple strategies and accounts simultaneously.
All organisations will operate differently – few with large full-time social media teams and others with just one part-time individual. Despite this, you will notice that the job descriptions released for these positions will often include the same amount of responsibilities and the same quantity of social media accounts to look after. [Ed: See also The AMA Guide to Marketing Job Descriptions and Skills]
This article is designed to, not just give professionals the inspiration to speak up about the power of being able to focus on a limited number of communities, but to also encourage those writing recruitment adverts to re-think the way their organisations approach social media.
Eight days a week
Live content across social can perform excellently and earn good algorithm ranking if done well. Photo: Libby Penner, Unsplash.
There are always humorous (and all too real) memes doing the rounds that poke fun at the reality of social media management being an all-consuming job. Due to the very nature of the accounts we run, in that they are talking to us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it can become increasingly difficult for those in control of accounts to switch off.
As the social media industry finds it harder and harder to achieve that work-life balance, the job descriptions we write for the staff within it have become more important than ever. Is it realistic to ask just one person to “manage and create content for the organisation’s Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok”, especially as these individual platforms become more complicated as each day passes, with app changes happening every week?
There is often a gross misunderstanding with regards to what running a social platform actually entails. For those not using apps strategically and daily, often the exterior perception is that someone managing an account just effortlessly uploads a photo, types a message and clicks ‘post’, and therefore the solution is for the load to be spread amongst many others within the organisation (“I have got a work experience student here next week, she can do it”). In 2022, as these increasingly complex entertainment systems now offer such a diverse range of functionalities to reach potential audiences, the days of writing a post, clicking publish and logging off is officially a thing of the past.
Competing with the noise
The era of click and post is behind us. Photo by Sara Kurig, Unsplash.
The truth is that the organisations still using social media this way will see, or will soon see, a huge decrease in their engagement levels. Today, in order to beat the algorithm and compete with the noise, a good social strategy will incorporate a mix of engaging content types. These will be filmed and created consciously, in different sizes and lengths, with well-written captions, for separate online communities that are regularly nurtured, at relevant times and days, with a solid awareness of trends and changes, and regular reporting at the end of it all, of course.
“Why do we need to bother doing all of that?” We hear our organisations ask.
Well, firstly, the future is coming. And we’d better be ready for it. As we head into the era of the metaverse, tech giants are prepping for social media sharing to eventually look more like a VR experience. Whilst the day in which we all wear headsets to check our notifications hasn’t quite arrived yet, some of these apps are already gearing up for what is coming and where they predict the bulk of their future income lies. Facebook rebranding as ‘Meta’ and Instagram officially declaring itself “no longer a square photo-sharing app” (Mosseri, Head of Instagram, 2021), are just some of the initial nods towards what is an upcoming period of vast digital change.
Short-form video content like reels and the immersive nature of something like live broadcasting ranks the highest on social platforms like Instagram because it takes viewers into a user’s world in the same way that an eventual metaverse-type set-up could. The reason why we are seeing particular content-types decline in engagement on channels like Instagram is because the algorithms that power these channels are increasingly prioritising forms that not only keep up with the likes of TikTok, but forms that get consumers ready for eventual VR and AR experiences. With 40% of the world’s population categorised as ‘gamers’, it is not surprising that Silicon Valley’s priority is predicting how the tech-loving user will absorb content in the years to come.
Do less and do it smarter
So, what does all of this mean for the average social media manager? Well, it leaves us in a situation where it’s more important than ever to see our jobs as much more than taking a photo and posting it. Everything we do across our digital channels right now should be backed by a vibrant strategy, a clear mission and SMART objectives that are not only appropriate to our organisation’s overall visions but have at their heart an awareness of how digital consumption is changing and where the future is headed. And in order to do this well for each platform, the truth is that we are going to have to do less.
If we want to encourage our social media staff to thrust our brands into the future through deep industry-understanding, innovative vision-making, brilliant strategy-creation, excellent content-planning, ground-breaking community-nurturing, engaging caption-copywriting, dazzling video-editing and regular evaluation, reporting and reflection, then we have got to start taking away from that job description, rather than piling onto it. Because by spreading ourselves too thin across too many platforms, we are simply not going to achieve any of the above.
As a digital freelancer working with clients looking to increase their social engagement, one of the first things I vehemently tell them is that they shouldn’t try to do it all. By focusing efforts on just 1 or 2 apps, we are able to really stop and consider why we are using those apps in the first place – what we are trying to achieve and how we are going to do it. By scattering messaging across multiple channels on a daily basis, not only are we often repeating ourselves across platforms (and not to mention regurgitating messages communicated elsewhere in marketing campaigns), but we also aren’t leaving ourselves any time to use these channels and engage with these communities in the ways that we should be doing.
In order to identify which social mediums to focus on, and to spend time truly understanding them, we must re-look at our mission and our target audience. By stopping to think about these key things within a firm social strategy, we will then know which accounts to really pump all of our efforts into. There’s a separate conversation needed here another day on salaries, isn’t there? If we’re moving towards powerful strategising rather than frantically posting, the money we are investing in our social media team needs to reflect this.
When the social media manager or officer position within the arts was first realised, the truth is that we were running 1 or 2 platforms that were very simple, quick and easy to use. The world has since changed. But our available output has not. Many of these departments are perhaps working with even less resource than ever, recovering from the pandemic – trying to do more, but with less. All this confirms to us, however, is that now more than ever, it is time to re-look at those roles and responsibilities and carefully choose where to channel momentum.
Step off the treadmill and start to strategise
If you’re reading this and you are a social media professional struggling to communicate this ‘up the chain’ or to your clients – keep going and focus on growing your knowledge. If you aren’t already, surround yourself with information that inspires you to strategise – try to step off the treadmill and:
- Read blogs about social media.
- Interact with the industry of live online events and experiences.
- Be aware of social app updates, changes and those organisation’s long-term strategies.
- Follow other social media professionals and experts online.
- Subscribe to industry newsletters (start off with AMA, Digital Marketing Institute, Substrakt, Hootsuite, Culturehive, Digital Doughnut, Later, Marketing Examples and Sprout Social).
Fill your head with knowing what your job is going to become in the decades that will follow.
I hope that we can all eventually find enthusiastic, passionate and positive ways to say “I can do all of this, yes, and it will be good… or I can do much less, and it will be GREAT.”
Rebecca Givens, RG Arts Marketing