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Your social media manager is reaching their breaking point. Here’s what you need to do.

By Kristin Johnson / August 25, 2020

The events of 2020 continue to keep all of us on our toes. We’re juggling a pandemic with seemingly no end in sight and one of the largest social uprisings in modern history.

For marketers, it feels like we’ve been in crisis management mode since March. We’ve been writing the playbook on overcoming crises as we go.

But as fatigued as I may feel, I know my social team and other social marketers around the world are feeling it tenfold. They’re the ones on the receiving end of hateful comments responding to brands’ public support of Black Lives Matter. They’re the ones answering the never-ending stream of pandemic-related questions. In the wake of public boycotts, it’s the social team interacting with angry customers who often forget there are actual humans behind a brand’s social account.

Want to know how COVID-19 is impacting your industry? Or what consumers are saying about your brand and why there’s a dip in sentiment around your business? Your social team probably already knows the answer.

And when they’re not dealing with crisis communications, social teams are expected to be plugged into the never-ending news cycle and doomscrolling in order to do their jobs.

The need to be constantly plugged in puts social managers at risk of extreme burnout. While these grievances are nothing new, the events of 2020 have exacerbated these issues to the point where social managers are questioning how much more they can take. In higher education, for example, 88% of social marketers say the pandemic has made their work much harder and nearly half don’t have adequate support or resources to manage their mental health. Some social media managers are leaning on each other to manage their burnout while others are asking leadership to help their social teams unplug.

But for those of us overseeing social teams, we have to do more than alleviate the burnout our teams are experiencing today. We also need to reevaluate how our culture reinforces burnout and develop solutions to protect our social teams’ mental health for the long run.

First: Address the immediate problem

There are several signs indicating your social manager is in the throes of burnout. A drop in productivity or a lack of engagement at work should raise an immediate red flag. An inability to focus on big picture projects because of excessive time spent answering messages or monitoring social sentiment are equally causes for concern.

If you find your social manager nearing their breaking point, focus on getting them the help they need to get through this rough patch with a few key actions:

  1. Ruthlessly prioritize. Ask your social manager to list out everything that’s on their plate, from publishing and reporting to content creation and dealing with online trolls. Work your way down the list together and trim any unnecessary tasks, determine what can be saved for later or reassign items to someone else. Prioritize work that has a visible impact on your business goals and automate tasks wherever possible to create a workload that won’t overwhelm your social team.
  2. Gain perspective. It’s all too easy for social managers to get lost in their work and become siloed from the rest of your team. Help your social team get out of their social vacuum by showing them how their work impacts the broader organization. Remind your team that what they say on behalf of a brand is not a reflection of who they are and that their work on social is just that—work.

Remember, providing short-term relief is just the first step towards supporting your social team’s mental health. Burnout is just the symptom; you also have to tackle the root cause of burnout to prevent these situations from recurring.

Then: Develop a long-term solution

Creating an environment where social managers feel truly supported starts with addressing the internal cultural issues that have contributed to how we treat and work with social teams.

Consider how some organizations still view social managers as request factories meant to churn out memes and viral Tweets. Or how others revere them as gurus or wizards, as if their work is done with a simple push of a button. In reality, social managers are much more than content creators; they’re also data analysts, crisis communicators and brand strategists. But when we consistently devalue their work, or brush it off as something an intern can do, we’re essentially telling social managers that they are replaceable. Feeling undervalued leads to apathy, anger or exhaustion.

One way to combat these misconceptions is to create opportunities for social managers to share their insights upwards. Don’t just ask your social manager to report on the numbers; give them a seat at the table to present their findings and their recommendations to the broader organization. When you treat your social manager like the valued partners they are, it can help dispel the feelings of inadequacy or imposter syndrome that feed into burnout.

Equally important is creating a space where your social team feels comfortable sharing with you when they feel overwhelmed. Are you regularly checking in with your social manager to talk about their workload and clarifying roles and expectations? And don’t be afraid to share with your team when you’re feeling overwhelmed too. Leading with vulnerability and transparency can help break down some of those barriers previously keeping your social team from having these conversations.

Lastly, make it a habit to regularly recognize the efforts of your social team. So much of the work they do is considered behind-the-scenes that the true impact a social manager has on business goals is often overlooked. In addition to recognizing their individual acts, take a moment to highlight how their work influences the brand overall. 2020 has proven how valuable social is to any business. It’s about time we let those in charge of our brand accounts know how impactful their work really is.

A much-needed change for social

Fixing social media burnout is about more than providing immediate relief. It also requires management to take a good hard look at how their internal culture encourages and perpetuates burnout. Our social teams deserve a working environment that supports their wellbeing, one that addresses their immediate burnout concerns and provides a roadmap for a sustainable future.

Kristin Johnson

Kristin Johnson

Kristin Johnson is the VP of Content and Communications at Sprout Social. She is an experienced marketer with a passion for impactful storytelling, fostering her team's growth and sparking thoughtful discussion. Outside the office, she enjoys yoga, cooking and a great pint of beer (usually, in that order).
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