Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
As social media professionals, we’re on the front lines of the digital battlefield. We’re constantly bombarded with negativity, from angry trolls to heated political debates. Topics that might not have been the subject of heated political debate five years ago are today. And even when your brand isn’t the recipient of attacks, you may have to slog through negative social media content to stay on top of the day’s headlines and trends.
Continually bombarded by negativity online, 82% of social media managers experience mental health impacts from their work, according to research from West Virginia University. This toll worsens over time and for small teams lacking downtime. But hope exists!
As rhetoric ramps up in this election year, we can expect more and more pressure on our social media teams. We need self-care that’s more inclusive than just an evening off or a yoga class. Here are practical strategies for social media teams to protect your well-being in and out of the workplace, navigate hostility, and build resilience in a contentious social media climate in 2024.
Build Processes To Protect Your Teams
Protecting your social media team’s mental health is about prevention. Now’s the time to tackle those routine stressors that can exist in the social media space – before a crisis or an extended attack happens. Take the steps now to improve processes and remove daily stressors that can lay a foundation of wear and burnout.
- Work through your crisis communications plan and ensure you have processes for response mechanisms, for informing your social media team members of key messages and updates, and for internal after-hours communications for emergency situations, including security threats and media and legal outreach.
- Update your response protocols and messaging for major scenarios. Are there bad-faith conversations that aren’t worth engaging with? How will you handle generated misinformation? Are there pillars that you will stand on and back up with strong sources of information?
- Review your company’s processes and policies with HR, legal and security. A 2021 study found one in 5 Americans said they’d been harassed online because of their political views. And last year, two-thirds of Americans said social media has made political discussions less civil. How will your company handle complaints or threats against employees for personal postings or conflicts online? How will you escalate threats to your organization from a poster who may not agree with your brand’s position or services?
- Make sure your company’s digital expectations reflect real-world realities. If your billing department and customer service teams are only online 8-5, your social media team shouldn’t be expected to be responsive 24-7. Instead, build in auto-responders and workflows for common questions and concerns to alleviate workload and address common concerns.
- Rotate your social media on call and cross-train employees so your social media team can truly disconnect when they’re off work. And set team expectations on what factors elevate to an after-hours outreach to your social media team.
Set Healthy Boundaries In The Workspace
Set healthy boundaries for your team’s mental well-being. Whether you’re working in a crisis situation, handling daily exposure to negative content, or triaging everyday tasks, put processes in place to reduce daily stressors. Here are a few ways to get started:
- Manage expectations. Working in social media can often feel like a high-paced game of Tetris. If a priority project or a heavier-than-usual number of comments is weighing you down, let team members know how other projects may be impacted and work to find solutions. Discuss the pros and cons of posting and responding to potentially contentious issues.
- Dedicate time to routine tasks. Choose focused, specific times of day for social media engagement. Limit how frequently you check comments and activity in native apps. Use scheduling and social media listening tools to avoid the “always on” trap, and incorporate workflows where you’re able.
- Limit engaging with negative comments. Avoid responding to trolls or engaging in heated debates. Choose to walk away from negativity rather than fueling it.
- Set workflows for managing crisis situations. Flag key phrases in your listening tools and determine the frequency of notifications to your team.
- Focus on positive, impactful content. Prioritize creating and sharing positive, informative content that supports your brand’s mission and brings value.
- Seek support for your social media teams. When needed, connect with colleagues, friends, or a therapist to vent, share experiences, and receive valuable emotional support. Know and educate your team on your company’s mental health benefits and crisis support policies, and ensure your team takes their earned time off.
Remember, setting boundaries is not selfish, it’s essential.
By actively protecting your mental well-being, you’ll be better equipped to continue your crucial work in the sometimes-hostile world of social media.
Realizing we work in an at-times contentious environment, social media professionals need to take care of ourselves. Practice self-care strategies to stay calm and centered on the clock and off.
- Use technology wisely. Set your apps, listening tools, and other software to work for you. That may be setting sleep hours on your phone or Slack account, stopping meetings 5 minutes early on your Outlook calendar, or removing apps or disabling notifications on your phone. Use apps or built-in phone features to monitor your social media time and work to maintain or decrease daily consumption.
- Set personal boundaries. Let your team know your preferred methods and times for communication to avoid feeling constantly available. That may mean that you respond to a non-urgent text sent at 6 a.m. at 8:30 instead, or wait to approve a post submitted in the evening until the next morning.
- Curate your content responsibly. Unfollow or mute accounts and topics on your personal feed that trigger negativity or anxiety. Fill your feed with positive, inspiring content that aligns with your values. Or take a break from personal social media use or news consumption for a time.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Prioritize good sleep, exercise and healthy eating habits to strengthen your physical and mental health, making you more resistant to online stressors. Create personal spaces where digital devices are off-limits to foster present-moment awareness and relaxation.
It’s not our fault that people behind accounts can be cruel or have bad intentions online. But as social media professionals, we can control how we and our brands respond to their negativity. As we head into a hectic election cycle, let’s take the time to prepare our social media professionals and our company’s employees for what lies ahead.
Author: Robbie Schneider, SMS
Robbie Schneider, SMS, is a healthcare content marketing leader and social media strategist. She has more than 20 years’ experience using traditional and emerging media platforms to connect and engage consumer audiences in the healthcare space. Robbie leads the social media and blog content strategy for Franciscan Health and serves as a board chair with SocialMedia.org Health.
Robbie is passionate about people and their stories, and that includes their mental health. She was named a 2022 finalist for the UK-based Digital Women Carer of the Year Award, an international award recognizing women working in the digital space who also serve as caregivers. Robbie, who has written a book on managing stress while caregiving, continues her education in the mental health space, completing trainings in suicide prevention, mental health first aid and the Mental Health Ally program through Psych Hub.
Connect with Robbie on LinkedIn.