This article is part of a cross-brand Digiday Media series that examines how the creator economy has evolved amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Explore the full series here.
When world events like the pandemic, racial justice movement and the attack on the U.S. Capital occurred, within months social media managers — the professionals who create a brand’s content on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — were tasked with crafting and sharing brands’ responses.
They also bore the brunt of hateful and toxic comments and endured always-on hours.
It took a toll. As Digiday’s Kimeko McCoy reported in January 2021, social media managers quit en masse from burnout. More than a year later we asked advertising and marketing agencies what they have done since, to protect these professionals from burnout.
“My biggest concern was how do we promote a positive workplace during a chaotic time,” said Elijah Schneider, CEO and founder of the ad agency Modifly.
At Modifly, that meant additional days off, care packages to show the company’s appreciation and a monthly health and wellness day that has included a gift card to a local spa or a team hike.
Social media marketers have benefited from the overall health and wellness measures put in place since the pandemic. It’s one way companies are trying to acknowledge the toll the last two years have taken on their entire workforces. It’s also become a hiring and retention tool, with employers trying to outdo competitors with the best benefits.
Reducing churn is important since social marketers have never been more integral to a brand’s messaging strategy. Social media is predicted to be the fastest-growing advertising channel between 2021 and 2024, with an average annual growth rate of 14.8%, according to the agency Zenith.
Last year Hootsuite, a social media management platform, held its first annual health and wellness week. The company closed for the week and everyone — from CEO to its most junior staffer — completely disconnected and were encouraged to focus on “filling their cup,” said Tara Ataya, Hootsuite’s chief people and diversity officer.
“Our business is social media so it’s connected to work and personal lives,” Ataya said. “There’s that urge to check in.”
But with everyone taking the same week off, there was no pressure to pop onto Slack or email. A big part of its success was also telling clients the company was closing for the week. This year’s wellness week will be in August.
“There was no roadmap for dealing with this,” Ataya said. “One thing we learned quickly on this mental health journey is we need to listen to employees so we can meet them where they’re at. You can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to mental health and well-being in the workplace.”
Hootsuite also expanded its mental health coverage so visits to a mental health professional are completely covered. Other benefits aimed at wellness include culturally appropriate trauma counseling, which leadership began offering after George Floyd was murdered in May 2020; gender affirmation medical care in North American offices (It’s paid out by the company; there is a line item in the budget since carriers don’t all cover the treatment) and benefits to cover fertility treatment.
The agency Mekanism has implemented several company-wide initiatives focused on mitigating burnout. They include one company-wide day off monthly; free access to Talkspace, an online therapy tool and a “deep work” company-wide calendar block of uninterrupted work time.
While the past two years have certainly been demanding, it’s also shined a light on the role social marketers play in setting brand strategy.
“Social is playing a larger strategic role,” said Brendan Gahan, a partner at Mekanism and chief social officer. “Social professionals are being seen as the strategists they trained to be and are having more high-level conversations with members of the C-suite.”
Meanwhile, tech companies see this as a business opportunity. Arwen is a recent start-up based in the U.K. that uses artificial intelligence and a variety of algorithms to spot toxic comments and remove them, leaving social media managers to focus on the strategy work.
Having the right tech in place will help relieve some of the burden on social media professionals, said Joel Bailey, Arwen’s product and service director. “Yoga, meditation, days off. Those are good short-term solutions. But if you’re looking for the long-term you need to look at technology solutions,” he added.