Ekatra Kumar

10 things that keep social media managers up at night

Every job has its tensions that could leave you tossing and turning deep into the night. Here are some frustrations that could leave a social media manager grumpy in the morning.

As social media has become all-pervasive, marketers’ expectations from it have risen too. And why not? Social media is where a huge mass of Indians are.

According to Indian government data from February this year, WhatsApp has 53 crore users, followed by 45 crore for YouTube, 41 crore for Facebook, 21 crore for Instagram and less than 2 crore for Twitter.

Social media enables brands to stay in touch with all these consumers and other stakeholders; it can help drive traffic to the company website. It also generates leads and improves brand visibility.

The burden of these possibilities falls on the shoulders of the social media manager. What are her key challenges in fulfilling the boss’ hopes?

One of the great dangers in managing social media is that it is easy to confuse being busy with being effective. There is just so much to do: because social media does not sleep, it seems to demand action all the time. In this job there is a real danger of getting caught up in stuff that is urgent and overlooking that which is important.

It is this sense of constant urgency that could keep an SM manager wired – and sleepless – at night.

Let’s look at the 10 issues that could pop up in one’s dreams – or nightmares.

1. Lack of a clear goal: The starting point in any new assignment should be to agree on a sharply defined set of goals with the reporting manager or the client, as the case may be. The sharper the goals, the more effective will you be. Unfortunately, in many situations all a manager receives is a set of lofty targets but few specifics. This can keep the manager on the hop through the day – and late into the night.

2. Return on Investment (ROI): This is a tricky one, the factor that is most likely to keep a manager Sleepless in Surat. There has to be agreement on what constitutes success early on in the assignment.

Should performance be judged by ‘retweets’ and ‘likes’ or some other form of social engagement? Or should it, instead, be based on the number of unique visitors sent to the company website or additions to the email subscriber base perhaps? If the measures are vague, being shackled to a disgruntled client is inevitable.

3. Time management: Wouldn’t most SM managers wish they had a mentor who could help them beat the clock? As in any other job, all the usual rules of how to manage your time apply – starting early, planning in advance, prioritising your tasks, creating blocks of time for specific work, and all that.

Some of us are comfortable multi-tasking and many of us veer out of control while doing many jobs simultaneously. It is important to decide what works best for you and plan your day accordingly. While doing several things at the same time is inevitable as an SM manager, you can nevertheless try to control its extent. (Women are traditionally thought to be better at multi-tasking than men but not everyone agrees. Anyway, in all probability, this belief has less to do with brain chemistry and more to do with social conditioning.)

Getting the right social media management tools to manage tasks is critical. Any form of automation that leaves you free to do the more creative or ‘thinking’ stuff should be welcome.

Should performance be judged by ‘retweets’/‘likes’, social engagement, number of unique visitors sent to the company website, or additions to the email subscriber base?

4. Growing the audience: There was a time when brands thought nothing of splurging to ‘buy’ followers. It was a big ego trip and made the brand look good. Over time people discovered that these followers were disinterested and inert. They served no purpose at all except as a public boast.

Getting more social media followers organically is a slow and frustrating process if the brand is not well known (not everyone is an Apple, right?) or operates in a crowded, commoditised market. It involves following the right accounts, sharing valuable information and generally engaging with the audience. Most brands hit an invisible ceiling beyond which it is hard to grow.

5. Quantity vs Quality (Audience): Social media screams for scale. We all seek more and more fans or followers. But as the spread increases, the SM manager can face a dilemma. He realises that if he wants to keep growing the audience, he has to dumb down the brand messaging for those on the fringes who aren’t so involved. But this can upset brand loyalists who expect more intense or intelligent communication. Right audience or large audience? That is the question.

10 things that keep social media managers up at night

6. Quantity vs Quality (Content): With limited time available, a short-staffed manager could aim to put out as much content out there as possible and hope that something works. In which case, quality suffers. There is a lot of content but none of it standout. Should one aim, instead, for a few posts or tweets that are noticeable? How does one make the trade-off between quantity vs quality? It’s a tough call that will have to be taken depending on the nature of a business and the intensity of competition.

7. Tone by platform: Social media managers are routinely advised not to copy/paste the same content indiscriminately across platforms. While one can hardly argue against this sentiment how can the same executive sound different through the day from one social media platform to the next? (Possible solution: Use the most important platform as the starting point and adapt the rest.)

8. Adapting for platforms: There is a sea of content out there. To stand out, SM managers routinely use graphics, images and videos. But when you have to optimise each of these elements to different social media platforms through the day, that certainly complicates life. Each of them has different recommended specs. No wonder SM managers have nightmares of being chased down a dark alley by angry videos and graphics!

9. Staying on the ball: ‘Facebook breaks down its ad policy review process’; ‘Facebook introduces new tools for group admins and moderators’; ‘Facebook’s new business suite features’ – that’s only a handful of the many Facebook notifications from recent days!

Multiply that by half a dozen major social platforms. It can be perplexing to keep up with all the changes taking place. Not being on top of updates could lead to major embarrassment at work.

Getting the right social media management tools to manage tasks is critical. Any form of automation that leaves you free to do the more creative or ‘thinking’ stuff should be welcome.

10. Falling organic reach: Organic reach on social media platforms has been declining for years. According to one estimate, on Facebook, the biggest of them all, a post typically reaches only 5 per cent of the fans – that is, only one in 20. To reach the other 19, brands have to pay and increase their reach.

Not being able to reach your brand's organically acquired fans is frustrating. Even if paying the platforms in inevitable, managers can still do a lot to get better organic reach. Adopting the best practices on each platform gives content the required edge. Instead of losing sleep over it, concentrate on the platforms that work best for your brand.

The fact that some content can get astonishing reach is proof that even organic posts can break the shackles.

In conclusion: One of the greatest management thinkers of all time, Peter Drucker (1909-2005), once said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” He probably said it in the context of squeezing greater efficiency on the manufacturing floor, but it could apply equally to social media management.

The only way a manager can get better is by closely analysing her performance and working steadily on improving it. This involves breaking all the data down into its essentials and working back upwards, step by step.

Break a problem down to its smaller components – and you should be able to sleep soundlessly.

This piece is part of a series of articles that revisit basic issues of marketing communications. They have been enabled by afaqs! Marketplace.

Also Read: 19 Tips on How to Make Email Marketing Really Work For Your Brand