If you’re one of the unfortunate people out there feeling disenchanted and completely disappointed with the day-to-day activities of your social media job, you’re not alone.
The social media job shop is my way of describing a scenario where the social media specialist or team is simply told what to post by marketing, communications or other business area, to social media channels regardless of whether or not the content and approach are meaningful to the people on the receiving end: your customers or other important stakeholders.
I’m very lucky to manage social media for a company that really empowers me to build and execute strategically. But, even though I’m not on the wrong end of the order-filling process in the social media job shop, I had a few near misses earlier in my career. I’ve also heard dozens of stories (at least) from others who feel downright miserable and powerless to set their company’s or client’s approach to social media on the right path.
In social media job shops no real strategy for engagement exists and those responsible for content creation are far removed the social network. The only responsibility of the person tasked to handle social media is to post, publish, upload or tweet. They, in essence, pull the trigger or personally flip the switch on something that has been produced for a mass audience. This doesn’t exactly make for warm fuzzy online conversations (hint: the tools don’t humanize your business) and it certainly doesn’t lend itself to good measurement. Where’s the ROI on this approach? Good question.
How to Avoid Working in the Social Media Job Shop
- Set expectations early in your working relationship (preferably during the job interview) that you need to have input on what is being published to blogs and social profiles. Assert your expertise as knowing what is best for the channel, but remember to formalize that approach as much as possible and give it visibility with more people than just your boss (especially if you work in a large company). Remember to keep repeating these things — other people have lots on their plate: they think about you, they just don’t think about you all the time
- Take control of your channels (nicely) by meeting with teams early in the process to learn about their needs and put together a smaller strategic plan within your larger plan you feel will help them achieve their goals. Present it to them and ask for approval. If they’re not ready to approve, ask that they provide feedback – compromise a little if necessary and keep reworking the plan to find something that will achieve mutual goals – even if they’re only short-term. Repeat this process as much as possible.
- Make your own (better) processes. When you tell others that their existing processes suck, be ready to provide a better alternative that addresses all the things they will care about: how much work will this put on their plate, specifics on exactly what you need them to change, a schedule for re-evaluating your new process to make sure you’re creating a framework that others can actually snap to.
- Negotiate (always) and ruffle feathers (occasionally). When others hear “no” you’ll need to hear “not like this.” There’s a certain mentality that looks at layers of bureaucracy, regulation or other organizational structure like a puzzle that must be figured out in order to achieve one’s goals: figure out a way to adopt that. Don’t take things personally, don’t allow people to think what you do is silly, don’t back down from adopting best practices or taking a strategic approach, but DO pick your battles: you probably don’t want to fall on any sword over a single tweet unless it’s ridiculously inflammatory and your brand is very high-profile. Don’t make it about personalities – keep it about what’s best for everyone to achieve their goals.
Help! I Feel Like a Cog in the Social-Media-Job-Shop Wheel
This is the tricky part — once you’ve been relegated to the job shop as the person who simply posts the updates and uploads the videos it’s really tough to get out of that role until a consultant comes along and shakes things up. That could mean a lot of things to someone already in the job shop — it could mean being let go altogether, put into another department or given a new boss and a new team. These may not be bad things, but they each still leave you at the mercy of your professional circumstances.
If you really want a career that empowers you to manage social media communications, social business integration or any leadership position in digital marketing — you need to learn to take the reins and it will never get any easier.
You will need help, but to get help you need a plan. Work on your plan — even if you have to work on it at home during off-hours. When it’s perfect, get some time with the executive or leader you trust most. Present your case and ask them for their help in refining your case so that it will gain traction with all the other leaders in your organization.
If that doesn’t work, find something better. But, don’t quit until you try this: transforming a nascent job shop to a functional business area is how leaders are born. Really going through the process of improving your company’s approach to social media will also ensure that you squeeze every ounce of professional development out of an otherwise stagnant period in your career. You’ll be ready to soar in your next role and good leaders will recognize that.
Are You Punching a Clock or Building Something Sustainable?
Whenever you set out to build a new area of a business or assume a brand new role in an organization it helps to think like an entrepreneur rather than an employee. How do you avoid being relegated to job-shop status?
Photo Credit: Philo Nordlund