Social Media, Covid19

Spare a thought for your social media team

Headshot of Alistair Cope

Alistair Cope, Digital Manager

31 July 2020

The last few months have been hard. Hard for families, business, employers and employees.

As many companies furloughed their staff, others found they had to rapidly increase their workforce in order to deal with demand. Many employees found they had to juggle working from home and homeschooling children while some ended up being isolated and many fell through the cracks in terms of support, financially, mentally and more.
My area of expertise is digital marketing, specifically social media. For many of us working in this area, our workload has been easily transferred to the home. A laptop, logins and an understanding and flexible employer have meant that many people working in this area have been able to continue.
Close up of a mobile phone with social media icons

A laptop, logins and an understanding and flexible employer have meant that many people working in this area have been able to continue.

The role of the social media team can be a strange one. Most of the time, the they are embedded within the wider company, usually in the communications department. They help hone the message and are involved in campaign strategy and execution. They are the mouthpiece of the company, the first line of defence and, ever increasingly, the first contact for customer service. Companies and businesses that don’t understand this, tend to use social media in the same way they would print marketing. They fire out a statement and forget about it, not having the understanding (or capacity) to nurture a community with their customers and clients online.

Companies make mistakes, things go wrong, we all want answers and in this modern world we want them fast. But as more and more people use social media to raise these issues, we must take care of our communications teams.

Lockdown has been hard for social media managers. An already demanding role that has to juggle clients and customers, brand guidelines and customer relationships. They, like most, have been working from home. Which means they aren’t in the office and they don’t have all the answers at their fingertips, but they are expected to and often they are expected to at all hours of the day, dealing with rapidly changing situations, government announcements and an increasingly frustrated public. 

Many LGAs have struggled with the sheer amount of customer service enquiries in the last few months and many people take to social media to ask them and or vent their frustrations. It is the social media team who bear the brunt of this and many in this line of work find the demands and, at times, abuse, too much.

A view top down onto a laptop with social media icon illustrations
Social media is a great tool for good, we need injustice and corruption to be highlighted openly and honestly. But there is an expectation that brands and companies should be able to respond rapidly and clearly to any and all issues that are raised with them. Just last month, various tea manufacturers in the UK were called out on social media for their historic associations with the slave trade. The big companies, with their large communications teams were able to swiftly issue statements and engage with their communities online. However, some of the smaller tea manufacturers whose workforce was perhaps furloughed, couldn’t. Their names trended on Twitter and calls to boycott them grew with no official defence able to be mounted. 
This is the crux of the problem, companies want to be accessible and open. They want and arguably need a social media presence to keep them connected to their communities. But the community see the social media account as ‘the brand’ not the person. When they tweet, or send messages, they aren’t thinking of the person who will be reading it, they’re thinking of ‘customer service,’ or they’re thinking of venting their frustration. They think because they can see an account, it is manned at all times. More often than not, it isn’t. How can it be?
Management need to be aware of this and make sure their social media and communications teams have the right resources, support and training in order to deal with these high pressured, front line and, at times, undervalued roles. Where possible, ‘opening hours’ should be laid out in the about sections of the channels. Clear parameters should be set here too, directing people to the right place to lodge a complaint or enquire about a specific issue. Social media teams are at the frontline of the company, but that doesn’t mean they should take all the fire.

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