Social Media is Hard

What do you think of when you think of someone working in social media? An intern taking selfies in front of the brand's logo with two fingers up, signaling to her followers that she's cool enough to be an influencer. A starving artist positioning food just so in front of a camera before he posts it on Instagram. A young person wafting in and out of the office by day and going home to a studio apartment at night unless they're out buying drinks they can't afford. You probably don't think of someone glaring at a computer screen trying to think of a polite response to an angry customer or waking up in the middle of the night to reply to a message from the other side of the world. You probably don't think of a highly educated individual who is just as good and trained at graphic design as they are at coming up with natural-sounding, yet engaging and relevant creative copy.

It's pretty easy to see why this is the case. Social media is the realm of the young filled with millennials and younger who don't think about what they're doing and aren't expected to. You don't have to pass any kind of test to sign up for Facebook, and a quick glance at Twitter will tell you it doesn't take a lot of brains to be there. The idea that social media is something you don't have to devote a lot of resources to has led some misogynistic corporations to specifically target undervalued young women to run their accounts. The pay is pithy and the results tend to leave customers underwhelmed.

It's time to see the truth: Social media is hard. And just because you don't spend most of your time on it doesn't mean it's not valuable. Billions and billions of eyes are looking at Facebook and Twitter and Instagram every day, so if you're not devoting time and resources to it, then you are irrelevant.

To the people who live their lives on social media, it comes naturally. So any kind of brand presence on the same platforms has to feel just as natural. You can't get "natural" by copying and pasting your ad copy into the "What's on your mind?" field. You need to come up with something altogether different. And any denizen of the Internet will have your head on a pike if they sense that you're just trying to sell them something. They know you're a brand, they already know you have something to sell, so give them something to experience. Doesn't sound so easy anymore, does it?

It's not. The resources of entire marketing campaigns produced by professional ad agencies can go into a social media plan and it still wouldn't account for the daily hustle of keeping up with tech support questions, angry customers, trolls, suggestions, praise, and queries that come at all hours of the day from all parts of the world on all platforms. Entirely separate platforms have been created to receive and distribute these incoming messages to team members. Team Members! Not just one dull-headed intern, an entire team of dedicated professionals who can answer tough questions.

It's not hard to understand why most of this slips past people, but if you really care about your brand image, especially to millennials and younger, you need to think more about it and devote more resources to it. Social media is no longer just a passing fad. Facebook is well on its way to becoming a 100-year company. There doesn't seem to be any slowing it. Even recent scandals haven't deterred its growth. So take the time, invest in social media, learn what's needed, or hire someone who already knows and give them the resources to do a stellar job.

So social media is hard, but so is running a business. It's not impossible. If you're a business owner that has pulled yourself up by your bootstraps, just think of this as one more strap to pull. If you can figure it out on your own and work it into your life without compromising your business, then good on you! But if you want to compete on the world stage that is social media and can't get away from your business to do it, there are resources for you out there, too. Hire a full-time social media professional either in-house or freelance or from an agency. You'll be so glad you did. Why?

Here's why it's so hard: if all you did was post some pretty pictures and make announcements, then your profile is nothing more than a newsletter. People don't sign up for newsletters, especially not on social media. People follow your brand to be entertained while being informed, and they engage with your profile usually in the hopes of getting some kind of response. Social media is hard because it's social. And human beings can't divide their social nature between their thousands of followers and potential followers and still focus on getting work done. Why will you be glad if you get someone to do this for you? Because if each one of those followers feels like they're important to your brand, then you've just gained not just a customer, but a loyal customer.

I've said it before: social media is all about narcissism. The more you can get people to feel good about themselves, the more they'll like you. If they reach out to you and don't get a response until a week later, they're not going to like you. You have not gained loyalty points. So if you have someone on the other end of the keyboard who can respond immediately as if to the queen of the universe, well, then you've got something.

Don't let perception fool you. Social media is hard. But it can be done. Just don't feed the trolls.