Social Media, We Seem To Have A Problem

Working in social media is, for the most part, incredibly fun.

Except when people think that’s about all there is to it – fun.

Whilst it’s enjoyable, and exciting, and ever changing and growing, it comes with a serious amount of bashing-head-against-wall moments.

Or is that just me?

The thing about working in an industry that isn’t fully developed or established is that – besides everyone thinking they’re an expert – there’s no blueprint. There’s no formula. There’s no X, Y and Z. Most elements of social media are dependent on a variety of things; the client, the type of business, what service/product is being sold, the market, the tone, the platforms being used – I could go on and on and on – so every approach to social media needs to be different. Tailored. Customised. And yes, there are common features and patterns, but every day is different, because, shock horror, social media is driven by people, and you can’t always predict and categorise people.

None of this bothers me. It’s actually the thing I most like about social media – that every day is different, that a new skill needs be learned, that there’s always a challenge, because not every day is identical.

Working in social media actually requires a skill set that is incredibly varied – some of which can be learned and some of which is pretty inherent. Hence the reason why there are social media agencies that are thriving and those that are dragging the name of social media through the winter mud – because they’re lacking in most of the fundamentals that are essential to any basic campaign or community.

It’s frustrating having to witness that kind of behaviour. Sure, it’s wonderful when my phone rings and people say, ‘We want a piece of what you’re doing,’ but I’d rather all parties involved in social media pulled up their socks and acted in accordance with the titles on their business cards.

And, if we can manage it, it’d be great if clients employing the services of social media agencies and community managers and companies et al. could also act in accordance with the parameters set by the people they’re paying to do a very skilled job.

Let me share an example.

If I employ someone to build a website for me – something I have done before – I certainly don’t tell the web designer what I want, then monitor their every movement, then edit, alter and change code on them whilst they are developing what I am paying them to do, then tell them all the ways they could be doing things because ‘I read on this website somewhere that…’

Or how about this one?

If I call a tradesman to come to my house and fix something that is broken, I would not hover over their shoulder, incessantly tapping it and asking them what they are doing and to please justify every single step. I probably wouldn’t tell them how to do their job, either, nor reference some DIY handbook, extolling my knowledge on the very thing I called them and am paying them to fix.

I would, instead, make the tradesman a cuppa and gather some biscuits for them to enjoy after their hard afternoon of work. I’d probably say thank you, too.

Truthfully, I understand clients with complaints. In many cases, they’re bang on. Especially if they’ve been overcharged for a service that has been well and truly under delivered.

What I don’t understand is why social media managers, agencies et al. need to bear the brunt of a businesses frustrations – and why we’re expected to be the answer. To everything. But I also cannot understand why a business or person would pay money for someone – or an agency – to manage their social media profile, and then feel the need to check on their every movement and click.

Mostly, I can’t understand why it’s acceptable to treat the social media industry with the level of disdain and distrust that it’s currently experiencing in Australia. Businesses cannot group all agencies and managers together in the one basket – sure, there are some rotten apples – but we’re not all mouldy.

And because I’m the kind of person who cannot keep anything inside for fear of self-combustion, and because my fingers are typing without my brain even needing to kick into gear, here’s a list I’ve titled:

Things I’ve wanted to say in meetings or to clients, and some things I really have*…

*because if no one tells it like it is, how will anyone know what it’s like?

Social media will not solve all of your problems. It will most probably amplify them. Unless you are prepared to deal with your problems honestly and politely, avoid the social media space because I can guarantee you will not like what you read, hear or see.

Oh, you read Mashable? You must be an expert in social media.

Have a little faith. Sure, there are less than brilliant social media agencies out there. Chances are, though, most people you encounter that are working in social media on a day-to-day basis have a fair idea of what works and what doesn’t. If they offer you some advice, you’d be best to take it, then make your own mind up from there.

Oh, you have a Facebook profile? You must be an expert in social media.

If you aren’t happy with the agency/person you are paying to manage your social media presence, find another agency/person that meets your requirements.

Oh, you’re on Twitter. You must be an expert in social media.

Social media managers are not like Jesus. We cannot turn water into wine (although I guarantee some days at our desk we truly wish we could), we cannot walk on water or perform any other such miracles. We do, however, have something in common; we don’t appreciate being crucified.

If your social media plan involves clicking delete and block, on repeat, you’re doing it wrong.

Social media managers are not mind readers. Keep that in mind next time you expect them to read yours.

Oh, you’re on Pinterest? You must be an expert in social media.

Social media doesn’t switch off. Measure that.

When I was at University, my lecturers told me I’d be working in a job that hadn’t even been invented yet (at the time). They were right.

If your social media plan involves screaming HIT LIKE on Facebook, you’re doing it wrong.

I’d rather poke myself in the eye with a fork than go to most of the social media networking events or conferences. Most of the time, they’re full of back-patters – and wankers – that have very little idea about social media, spruiking things people definitely don’t need. While you were there schmoozing and feeling all ‘industry’, I was working.

Oh, you’re on Instagram? You must be an expert in selecting filters.

You cannot treat social media, or approach it, in the same way you do your traditional marketing plan or other forms of advertising. Sure, it’s got to correlate, but a carbon copy it is not.

Oh, you want a schedule of everything I’ll post for the next month? Sure, please provide me with a schedule of every event, current affair, issue, discount, special, promotion, offer and thought you’ll have in the next month, and I’ll be sure to jot it down.

My chow chow actually gets it more than you do … yes, that’s a dog.

You are paying me for a service. But doing so does not mean I will ask ‘HOW HIGH?’ when you request for me to jump. Do you ring your mobile provider every day, requesting service from them? Do you email your energy provider every day, reminding them you are paying for their services? You don’t? Well, I never…

Change your attitude. Arsehole is unbecoming on you.

If you think social media is easy, and that you can do it yourself, I suggest that you do.

Oh, you don’t like my tone? (Insert finger gesture here).

If there’s something that shits you about social media – working in it or dealing with it – I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

15 thoughts on “Social Media, We Seem To Have A Problem

    This has made my day. I’m so glad there are social media professionals out there who I can relate to. Sending me a link to a mashable article, questioning my every move, under-resourcing me, going behind my back, and second guessing me at every turn isn’t going to help us all achieve your common goals (and meet your KPIs so you get your nice bonus). It’s an exciting time to be working in such a new and evolving industry, but as with any growth industry you have to deal with people who have no idea and have just jumped on the bandwagon. Some days I spend more time rolling my eyes and hitting my head against the desk than I actually do working.

    1. I’m glad to have made your day Elise. And I’m so glad you get it, too. It’s such an exciting time to be working in the industry, but it’s also frustrating – dealing with people’s perceptions, attitudes and ignorance. I hear ya!

  2. Well put. A lot of the job ads I’m reading over here are from agencies who seem hell bent on generating Facebook likes and Twitter followers rather than actually generating genuine engagement with current and potential customers.

  3. Haha, love this article. All so true – I feel your pain. I have a few to add:

    ‘Everyone else is using facebook and twitter so we should too’ & ‘Quickly, set up a twitter account, we have stuff to tell people RIGHT NOW’.

    I’m going to share this with our internal Social Media specialist who I know has many of these frustrations. She’s regularly told how to do her job by people with a lot less experience.

  4. (More thought from my tweet earlier…) I respectfully disagree. We are a little like Jesus — (is it too hot headed if I say:) we turn yucky power-hungry, lame-brand water into social media wine all the time. Perhaps not wine… maybe, cough syrup. Or milky tea. Or… or or… But if the Facebook people don’t like cough syrup, well, (things I wish I could say to clients) you’re kind of SOL.

    At that point, you, of course, risk the chance that your client or manager or opposing teammates will reduce your hip social media job to nothing more than a Youtube video and an eCard. But if there is anything we social media peeps know how to do, it’s bite the bullet of criticism and risk and make it rain with buzz words like “innovation” and “social ambassadors.”

    Thanks heaps for the post. Thinking we might make for good friends.

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