Social media can be damaging – there’s no doubt about that. Its relative infancy means it’s hard to reflect with clarity upon what it has done to our brains, societies and social skills; but we can probably agree that being ‘connected’ 24/7 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
As a person and a consumer, social media can be draining, distracting and frustratingly time consuming. How many times have you been in the middle of a conversation and been taken out of the moment by the ‘ping’ of a notification, or have sat down for a minute only to come-to half an hour later, eyes glazed over as you scroll through Instagram? For most of us, this will be (at least) a weekly occurrence.
But as a business, social media is absolutely essential. It provides an unobstructed route into the lives of target markets, and provides a unique opportunity for brands to engage with consumers and carve out an almost-human identity. If people are spending all of this time online, businesses need to too.
So when working in digital marketing or communications, how do you remove yourself from what can be a missed-blessing of an environment, in order to deliver engaging messages to the masses on behalf of clients? How do you go about settling the crisis of conscience that arises from resenting the power social media has to impact consumer behaviour, whilst acting as the expert puppet master? How (and when) do you unplug?
Go online with a plan
When it comes to cutting out the noise, going online with a plan is absolutely essential. If you’re looking for relevant posts to share and engage with, have an idea of what you’re looking for before you log in so that you don’t find yourself scrolling through an endless feed of irrelevant information. If you’re searching for some Instagram influencers to work with, have a clear idea of the size, engagement and content you’re after before you open the app, so that you don’t get stuck in a nicely filtered black hole.
Working strategically and with a plan will mean you work faster and more efficiently, as you’ll spend less time looking at the kind of fluffy content that is sure to distract you and result in social media fatigue.
If you’re spending lots of time on social for work, maybe it’s time to cut down on your Twitter time out of hours. Knowing what works well and keeping up with stories and trends is important, but if you’re spending time on multiple social media platforms during your working day, an awareness of what’s hot is almost a given.
Therefore, be disciplined about not reaching for your phone the second you sit down with nothing else to distract you. Enjoy the peace and quiet and give your eyes a rest! Spending lots of time online might be an occupational hazard, but you can still take steps to switch off on your own watch. Try turning off your notifications to avoid temptation when you’re out of the office, and check yourself whenever you open your apps. What are you there for? Are you looking for something specific or are you just bored? It’s not good for anyone to be looking at life through a filter for too many hours a day, so learn to spend a few hours scroll-free.
Follow the right people
If you’re finding it particularly hard to switch off from social in your own time, curate your personal feeds so that you’re only seeing the content you really want to engage with.
Purge your feed of anything that strikes a negative chord, and instead follow people that interest, inspire and inform you. Don’t fuel negative debates by engaging with them, don’t be afraid to unfollow accounts that trigger you, and don’t follow high profile people just because everybody else is if you’re not interested. Algorithms mean things you don’t want to see might pop up anyway – but you can still give yourself a head start. If you’re spending lots of time on social media at work, you owe it to yourself to fill your personal feeds (and by virtue your headspace) with positivity.
Be conscious about the content you’re creating
If you’re handling social media content for brands, you have the ability and responsibility to ensure that that content is meaningful – both for yourself and your client! It goes without saying that you must remain professional, stick to your brief and by no means use others’ social media accounts to push your own politics – however you can exercise the creative license you’ve been granted to ensure the content you’re creating isn’t perpetuating or provoking negative messages.
Being a force of good online who informs, educates and engages with followers in a meaningful way will have excellent repercussions not only for your own digital conscience, but also for your clients’ digital footprint. Be genuine and positive on their behalf, and this will show in the results.
Accept the reality of the digital age
We can guard ourselves against social media’s onslaught, but it’s important to recognise that it’s not going anywhere any time soon. These platforms help us communicate with one another, and help brands, celebrities and politicians communicate with us. Content will continue to be created, and brands will continue to leverage the platforms available to get in front of consumers. Why wouldn’t they?
Essentially then, it’s how we use and deal with the tools at our disposal that makes the crucial difference. Just as humans adapted during the agricultural and industrial revolutions, we’ll adapt to cope with the fresh psychological, social and occupational demands of the digital revolution. If social media is your vocation you have the power and responsibility to put meaningful content out there; crucially though, you also have the power to put your phone down once the working day is done.
By Amy Mace, Senior Account Executive, Crest Comms