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Protecting your mental health while working in social media

The Drum Social is a weekly column from The Drum’s reporter, and former social media executive, Amy Houston covering the latest social media trends, strategies and insights. Follow Amy @AmyCLHouston and join in the conversation #TheDrumSocial

Social media managers share tips on protecting their mental wellbeing

The Drum’s social media executive Amy Houston shares her tips and insights around protecting your mental health while working in social media.

This week I’d like to dive into a topic that is extremely close to my heart – taking care of your mental wellbeing as a social media manager. Mental health awareness week is well under way, but this personal and hugely important topic goes way beyond any hashtag.

Social media is a career path that will never be linear, which can feel exciting and daunting all at once. It’s a rapidly-changing environment that provides us with the opportunity to be creative, witty and engaging. With this, though, comes a lot of pressure and I’d love to share a few insider tips for navigating it.

A post on Twitter recently caught my attention – it said you shouldn’t work in social unless you are utterly obsessed with it. I agree you should feel passionate about your career path and always want to expand your knowledge and embrace originality, but obsessed? That sounds like an unhealthy attachment style to me. The possibility to have a fulfilling, interesting and innovative career in social is endless, but you don’t have to let it consume you.

Setting boundaries is a must, says Jellyfish Social’s internal communications lead Bryony Matthewman. “Do you need to have certain apps on your phone? Do you really need to check how your social post is doing at midnight? Should you be reading emails from overseas clients at 2am?” In short, turn your notifications off when you can.

Communication is also crucial. It’s no secret that a lot of social media teams can be small, so talking to a colleague or your line manager will lighten the mental load. “Simply paying attention to what your social team is saying is so important. One of the biggest stressors on social media managers is not being listened to when they are watching the social tide and can see something big on the horizon, and management are simply not taking them seriously,” says Matthewman.

There are so many wonderful communities of people working within this industry that want to uplift and support each other. One of my favorite accounts is ‘Work in Social They Said’ – a meme page that will resonate with a few of you, I’m sure.

“Working in social can paradoxically feel quite isolating, so finding communities who can relate is wonderful,” says Matthewman. She highlights The Social Media Geekout group, parody account TheIncumbentAgency and AdWeak as communities that our peers should follow.

Over the years a major learning curve for me has been to lean into the qualities that I possess, and not to berate myself for not being able to accomplish absolutely everything. If you feel passionate about a certain aspect of social media then make that known, embrace it and leverage it.

A top priority for many social media managers is forming lasting connections with their audience, answering questions and engaging in interesting conversations. While this brings many positives, it can also be difficult to disconnect and not take negative sentiments personally.

Matthewman agrees. “Being on the other side of a brand handle on social media means that you can often be on the receiving end of some pretty intense negativity. People sometimes don’t seem to realize that there is another human being on the other side of the screen absorbing all the things they are saying to a faceless brand.”

Something that’s been extremely useful in dealing with troll-like behavior or abusive language is having a plan of action that you can refer back to. It can sometimes be hard to predict how people will react to certain social media posts, but we can control how we respond to situations.

Working in social media, personally, has been such a positive experience. Like any career there have been ups and downs, but learning how to navigate it in a way that works for me has been key.

I asked The Drum’s social media community if they had any insights around this topic. Here’s what they had to say:

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