I know I'm sort of turning into the Taylor Swift of two-hour relationships, but something happened on a date last week that made me sharpen my quill.
After hearing about what I do for a living, my date referred to my work as "fucking around on the Internet all day." I suppose this would hurt if the comment weren't completely laughable. Instead I felt sorry for him, being completely unaware of the responsibility and potential that come along with working in social media, much less owning it in-house for a brand like I do.
To be fair, social media (my title is Director of Community) is still an emerging world. Brands and companies are figuring out how to manage it on their own, deciding the weight, skill, and importance to give to this marketing method. So for that dude and everyone else who doesn't understand what I do for a living, here are 10 ways my social media job is not a punchline.
10. Try ignoring it.
It's just "playing around"? OK. Sure, you don't need it. Not worth your time. Lots of brands feel like you do -- wait, NOBODY feels like that. Everyone, every website, has social media icons that lead to social media presences on the Internet. That presence must be maintained, daily. When a brand wants to say something, they don't take out a carefully worded add in a print magazine or newspaper. They tweet it. They blog it. They Instagram it. Right effing now.
While I'm at it, this isn't something to give "the intern" or "the kids." This is a profession that requires someone with excellent communications and writing skills to think on their feet 24/7. You want to trust someone with zero professional experience with representing your brand to like, the world? Mkay.
9. There's no science to this.
"Go get us 10K followers, right now." This is a sentence I hear a lot. And unfortunately there's no formula (short of a Kardashian helping you out) that works. Those who work in the world of "sure things" and like, science will be massively disappointed with the results in a world where virality is difficult to predict and even harder to replicate.
Try assigning numerical values to things that are "cool" and "buzzworthy," then try making them last. What's buzzing around the Internet today, allowing brands to pick up followers and traffic will be old news in a matter of hours. Example: Do you still want to talk about Miley's foam finger?
8. Performance anxiety.
What if I spell something wrong? What if my links don't work? What if I tweet something at the exact moment of a national crisis and make my brand sound like a total idiot? Help! There can be a lot of cooks in the social media kitchen, but when it comes down to it, there's always someone pulling the trigger, and she better have excellent aim.
"Our numbers were amazing this month!" Must be because of all that amazing, buzzworthy news. "Our numbers were terrible this month." What did you do wrong?? Social media directors get no credit and tons of blame.
It's our job to exist behind a laptop and nowhere else, and no one will ever know our faces or personalities. And that's OK. We're a megaphone, a voice to blanket the earth with on-brand, engaging messaging. Good or bad, we keep going, and it's a constant, constant learning process. That's actually one of the reasons it's so fun, and never boring. You're constantly challenged in a positive way to keep your eye on the Internet (yes the whole thing) and respond accordingly.
6. Cheap tricks.
Yes, I realize our numbers will shoot through the roof if I tweet, post, and Instagram about the scandal du jour. Calling out a competitor for a mistake, or comparing our brand to another for the sake of one-upping them, these are things that get "attention" in social media. But is this attention we want?
A social media job is a constant struggle to establish, present, and maintain a brand's voice and image. Veer just a little in the wrong direction, and you're a joke, a liar, or an asshole. Staying the course is harder than it looks, when you're speaking publicly for your brand every hour of every day.
I'm sorry I don't understand the question. If the actual Internet stopped for a couple of days, so could I. But it won't, and on I go. Schedule posts, you say? Sure! I'll just do that while simultaneously posting everything that has to go out as usual for today, meaning you're working double time before the vacation that was supposed to remedy some of the exhaustion you had before you started prepping for vacation. Then you just decide to stay home.
4. The "News:"
Do you think I want to know what kind of woodland animal Miley Cyrus resembles? Do you think I give a damn that Pippa Middleton is secretly engaged, omg?? No! I care about the Senate hearings on US involvement in Syria! I care about things that matter but the Internet won't let me!
If I spend my time online involved in current events and "real" news, I miss the split second release of something that could benefit my brand. A new photo of Michelle Obama is released and if I don't post about what she's wearing, I'll miss out on traffic. Fear of missing traffic (FOMT?) is what keeps me up at night. Literally.
3. Offline Opinions:
Much like the opinion that spawned this whole post, everyone thinks you fuck around all day. Everyone pokes at you for knowing the latest celeb gossip, fashion collaborations, and Internet time wasters like viral videos and cats. They make fun of you, while simultaneously needing you to know this shit so that you can interact with it online and generate traffic for your brand. Thanks guys.
2. A Constant Podium:
Hey all you marketing folks, try speaking publicly for the brand you represent, every hour, on the hour, for 10 seconds. That's all the time you've got, speak any longer and you lose your audience's attention. Speak any less often and they forget you were ever there. And you think you'll have time to plan what you say? No more weeks spent building a marketing campaign. You have to talk, on brand, right now. Grab attention, get a laugh, get a mouse click. Think on your feet, all day.
Picture a microphone in your face that never shuts off. And only people you need to like you can hear it. Screw up, and they put in earplugs. Succeed, and they turn up your volume so others can hear. And oh, you're never, ever going to know exactly what to say, why it failed, or why it worked. But your boss will ask for an explanation anyway.
1. The Fire Hose.
I refer to my work as "drinking from a fire hose." More is coming at you than you can possibly handle, but you have to work it out anyway. And it never stops, slows down, or gets any less necessary.
Taking on a job in social media can be incredibly rewarding and challenging. It's certainly the best job I've ever had. But while the nature of my work is still being (mis)understood by outsiders, it can hurt when others think what I do doesn't matter, when it's clear that it matters more every day. Now if you'll excuse me, I have #work to do.