World Mental Health Day is a timely reminder for organisations to examine the employee experience. Are employees happy, heard and valued? It’s widely understood that employees who feel fulfilled and personally connected to an organisation’s mission perform better – inspiring happier customers and driving positive business outcomes.

But how often do organisations stop and think about the employee experience of social media managers? Far from simply filling a seat in the marketing department, social media professionals are often more connected to customers’ needs than most others in an organisation. They have a real-time pulse on what’s happening in their customers’ worlds, yet, their voices are often not heard.

The reality is that social marketers feel overworked, overwhelmed and underappreciated. In Hootsuite’s recent research, two in five social marketers confessed that their work has negatively impacted their mental health. Today, over half (57%) of social marketers identify as having a mental health condition. So, what’s on the mind of the top social media talent?

The pros and cons of social media management

Hootsuite’s research examined several factors that have the potential to affect mental health. These included how much time social marketers spent working on social media each day; how much holiday they took; and the flexibility of their work hours and locations. The findings weren’t all that bad. Many social pros work at organisations that already provide some support:

  • 61% of social marketers have flexible work hours
  • More than two-thirds have hybrid or fully remote work arrangements
  • A third receive benefits that include mental health coverage

However, none of these factors moved the needle on mental health. It was the feeling of being underpaid and overworked that made all the difference:

  • 61% of social marketers strongly believe they’re not paid fairly
  • 48% of those who work 45 hours or more per week say their work has compromised their mental health

Nawal Mustafa, cognitive neuroscientist and psychological health educator, says that managing work hours is the best way to avoid burnout and safeguard mental health. She also underscores the importance of asking for help. Working in social media has its challenges, and it’s okay to ask for a little extra support from time to time.

Pay and prejudice

Being compensated fairly is vital to employee wellbeing, so social media marketers need to get comfortable with the idea of advocating for better pay – especially if they are women. This is because although women are the overwhelming majority (73%) in social media roles, they only earn three-quarters of the income of the men. Evidently, a gender pay gap still exists.

What’s more, over half of women in social media roles have never been promoted. It is then easy to understand why these employees would feel underappreciated. However, the report showed that three out of four social marketers who’ve asked for a raise got one. So, it’s also clear that good things come to those who ask!

Another reason why social marketers need to speak up is because the majority claim that their bosses don’t understand social media. It’s true – although social media experts are often the first touchpoint customers have with brands, many leaders don’t understand the huge influence social media has on brand reputation, customer service and revenue generation. It’s often the key to evaluating customer pain points, brand sentiment and competitors.

A brand’s marketing story is not told with just one channel. Social media is the new town square – it’s where brands can build relationships with people. There is immense value in helping senior marketing leaders understand the importance of those relationships with customers on social.

The guide to wellbeing in social marketing

There are multiple ways social marketers can advocate for themselves. The key is to know their worth – what is in their job descriptions and what is not; are they paid fairly or is it time to ask for that raise? Having a clear understanding of where the feelings of underappreciation stem from can help empower them to create change. 

There are also many steps social marketers can take to improve their state of mind. The ‘recipe for success’ differs depending on what someone prioritises for their wellbeing. For some, happiness is the guiding principle; others prioritise a good work-life balance; and then there are those who just want to enjoy each day as it comes!

Social media professionals who scored highly in terms of happiness shared some common attributes:

  • Spent over 90% of their day on (or make over 90% of their income from) social media
  • Work for companies with 1,000 employees
  • Work on social teams of four or more people
  • Work in the office five days a week
  • Felt (and were) fairly paid

While full-time office workers may be happier than those who work from home, it’s remote employees who are more satisfied with their work-life balance (72%, compared to 63% of office-only workers.) The report suggests that social media pros who love their jobs are more willing to sacrifice work-life balance. On the other hand, those who prioritise work-life balance are more open to compromising on their job satisfaction.

So, the question social marketers need to ask themselves: is what’s more important – job satisfaction or work-life balance? This choice can ultimately determine their happiness in their careers. If there is flexibility, social marketers should choose the location and manner of working that serves them the most. 

Go the extra mile for social media talent

If there is one thing HR, marketing and business leaders do this World Mental Health Day, it should be to give their social marketers a larger voice. Social media managers are key drivers of customer championship. They are at the tip of the spear in terms of customer trends, knowing who the customer is and what is happening in their world. Their insights, coupled with their work ethic, have transformational power. They certainly deserve a place at the decision-making table.

There must also be more support in place for them. After all, mental health should be an all-year-round conversation. It’s the responsibility of marketing leaders to recognise the signs that their people feel overwhelmed and underappreciated. They must continue to advocate for social teams at the leadership table, and help top talent overcome their challenges. 

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