|Kristina Alexanderson: https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8142/7588800922_b7abff2da3_b.jpg|
by Steven S. Vrooman
We treat our social media professionals extremely poorly, as a whole. Underpaid, overworked, and often *just* under full time. I know a lot of people work under those conditions, not just social media folks, but I only know a BARE HANDFUL of people who work in social media who are fairly compensated.
We all pay the price for having our collective social media environment compiled by the angry, overworked and disrespected. Can you not feel it sometimes when you scroll? Do you think the inhuman spew of repeated and recycled content just shows up there because of strategy? Because Guy Kawasaki said to repeat things nine times? Or is it because we refuse to pay social media workers a living wage yet still demand the magic of increasing metrics?
Below is a Facebook post from a few days ago on this subject, with the names of people and businesses redacted. It struck quite a nerve. I hope it will strike a nerve with you. If it does, please share this. We need to shift this conversation and our expectations.
The ______ people should be ashamed of themselves! Read this job ad and tell me how you do all this as a part-time only position? And then you are gonna ask applicants to apply by revealing their current salary? These are the kinds of jobs my students and graduates want, so you know how low that number is working the school mailroom or at Sonic. I am appalled by how poorly social media workers are treated in this part of Texas.
As a department chair, I get calls all year from people who want a student to come do this for free. They actually pitch it to me as something like "They love social media, so this will be a fun environment for them." Yeah. Totes. Surrounded by old people who won't pay you and think what you do is crap, but, unfortunately, needed. Sounds super fun.
Here's a tip local employers: your social media person could very quickly have more work to do in a week than your manager. And for a smaller business, they are sometimes your entire communication/marketing/PR/advertising/customer service department. In other words, in many instances they are the hardest working and most important person in your company. But, yeah. Being stuck to your phone at 1am to up your Facebook response metric while you figure out how to meet your performance goals while not, once again, working too many hours this week, yep. That's the life, right there. It's great to know you work harder than everyone but get the least respect or compensation.
As Mr. Knightly says to Emma, "Badly done."
Here are a few of the responses I got to this, all within a half hour of posting:
“Finally, someone who isn't a millennial gets it.” ➖ Fernando Rover
“I have this conversation all the time with fellow marketing/comm/PR colleagues. We really think it's because people don't value creative work or see these types of jobs as actual work. It's the same reason people don't want to pay $5 to listen to a band or are under the impression design work is free. For some reason, everyone thinks they're creative or a writer. It's very frustrating.” ➖ Ashlie Ford
“This is all too familiar, all too close to home for me😐 And, this type of job is NOT a recent grad grunge job - as it clearly states, this person is responsible for the brand of the company, they are the front door of customer service and the creative marketer behind the company. They want genius for nothing, they want art for nothing, they want passion for nothing, they want experience for nothing, they want intuitive creativity for nothing. This ad is the epitome of how businesses large and small perceive online engagement - "we know we need to do it, but we think it's for chumps." And, fyi, most recent college grads have no concept of how to WORK in social media. A social media professional is needed to TEACH them how.” ➖ Michelle Johnson
"I'm so glad I'm not the only one who's as frustrated by stuff like this..." ➖ Haley Hannon
“This is terrible. Others have said it more eloquently than I, but yeah. This is stupid.” ➖ Connor Dillon
Connor followed up with: "The commonality of the problem? Enormous. I look at job boards almost every day, and quite a few places hire for the more creative roles as managers, put them on a part time salary (so they don't have to pay overtime) and call it good. It's a business tactic I've seen a lot.”
“This is spot on. Administrating a good and effective Facebook page is VERY time consuming and requires almost constant monitoring. Well said!” ➖ Mary Shahan
This comment got the following follow-up:
“Not including Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Messenger, and managing communities like Yelp, TripAdvisor...I could go on and on but what for.” ➖ Angelica Mata
And then there was this amazingly epic rant from an old friend who extended the issue to all sorts of people who do creative work online:
“You have no idea...being a professional artist is devastating...your friends and family and half the people on your social media think since you have a "fun" job you shouldn't be paid for it, because it's fun and you’re already good at it so why pay. Even worse I crossed over into graphics and media to find the perception is even worse, because they don't use "real tools and art type things so it's not like they have to do the work of a real artist."
Except the "real" artist like me doesn't have a "real" job because it's fun so I'm not really working because anyone can paint right?
It's just mind boggling because as the PR social media "Marketing Manager" you’re just playing on a computer like you would be at home anyhow...right, an intern should be doing this so they get practice...but you’re right that student will take over everything, bring up the sales, numbers exposure and get a following and then the boss usually thinks "Cool, we did you a favor and gave you a great portfolio piece" then they let you go because your job is "done" right...you got us what we needed so now Harry the new intern can take over your hard work and totally change the social media program for his portfolio....right? Making your work completely unusable for your portfolio and when you mention to the next company that you didn't get a salary for it...the problem then carries on to the next guy...
As a mural artist running my own business on my own for 15 years I was given a few responses while trying to even be considered for a "normal" job when the housing crash happened...my favorite most common response was " why do you want to work for us if you can paint like this?"
Apparently the roles reverse when you actually try to get the "real job" everyone tells you to grow up and get...
And yet I still continue to ask myself...how did the perspective not change over the years...how is it possible that artists of all kinds who are good at their craft are perceived as not worth paying for the skills they have sweated for and painfully learned over the years, but not qualify for being capable of learning to be a phone rep, a burger tosser or an inventory clerk for side money? Successful artists, especially musicians, don't even get paid what they should have, yet everyone thinks they are rich...
Now get to the millenials who are real good at social media, marketing and they call it socializing....yet it actually runs and becomes the core of their business....but they want a student to do it for free...
Seriously you get to where you just want to stab yourself or someone else in the eyes with a fork when this cycle starts...no wonder why many talented and skilled professionals have no desire to offer their services....” ➖ Amber Dawn, from Murals by Amber Dawn
I did have one person whose comment was like “Boo hoo, that first job out of college sucks.” But the people who commented above range in age from 22 to north of 65. This is not about college, really. This is about how we treat people with skills that are central to our business while we create the sense that bros with MBAs get sweet gigs in offices and immediately drive down productivity numbers.
The social media workers you string along think you, in your office, writing job ads like this one, asking for 5 years of experience on software that has only existed for 2 years, are exactly the source of data that the “average” office worker has only 45 minutes of productivity a day.
Does it bother you at all that the people who are the public face of your company hate you? Don’t you think we are careening toward an enormous downside?
One of the comments mentioned that if this company knew anything at all it would have contacted me to take down my rant. But no one noticed. So more bad PR . . .
. . . or did they? They still have posts going up on social media. The person who is leaving the job is still there, waiting out the last weeks before their better opportunity.
Did they look at my post and laugh? Did they, knowing the boss doesn’t know anything and wasn’t going to look, simply look at the comments and smile knowingly, leaving it alone, caveat emptor?
If we keep treating people like this, there will be consequences.