Will High-Stress Social Media Jobs Drive People Out of the Industry?

Over the last 18+ months since the pandemic began, social media teams have had a tough time.

I realize social media managers and specialists aren’t the only ones who have had a rough road. But, consider the following factors over the almost last 2 years:

  • Social media managers are dealing with negativity on social every single day. It’s almost like social media folks have been in crisis mode for 2 straight years. First, it was the immediate after-effects of COVID. Then, it was the aftermath of the George Floyd murder. Then, it was the election. And on and on and on it has went. With no end in sight.
  • Social media teams are always on. Now, I know this isn’t a new thing, but the “always-on, 24/7” nature of social media jobs is taking its toll. Very few other jobs in the creative field deal with this. PR folks typically deal with it in spots–when they’re managing a crisis. But those often have a beginning, and an eventual end. What social media teams are doing is 24/7 crisis-level management (at least recently).
  • Social media managers are often on an island. Or, at the very least, they have very small teams. Most folks would be surprised to hear that major, Fortune 500 companies have 2-3 person social media teams. That’s not uncommon. And, most midsized companies are lucky to have a single social media person. These folks are on an island. They have no official or unofficial support system. They have no people to turn to for help, or as sounding boards. They’re all alone. And that, coupled with #1 and #2 above is really starting to take effect on people.
  • Social media managers are stretched to capacity. And then some. Consider that most companies are trying to manage the following accounts: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube. Those are the staples. Most big or midsized companies are actively participating on most of those channels. Then you add in corporate blogs. A podcast here and there. Some companies now taking on TikTok. You can see where this is leading. These teams and people are stretched well beyond capacity. They often have no back-ups, making vacations tough, too.

So, clearly social media managers and teams are feeling the stress. And, I can’t help but wonder: Will this ongoing stress result in a mass exodus from the industry?

Think about the other factors at play here, too.

For starters, social media jobs have always had a ceiling. You can only make so much money and reach a certain point in the organization doing full-time social media work. I mean, how many VPs of social media are there? Not too many. The job is designed to cap out.

Then, consider the career path of someone who starts in social media marketing. They might begin as a social media marketing specialist. Get promoted to social media marketing manager. Maybe even become a director–with one of the few roles that exist at that level. But, at that point most people start looking outside social. Some look at digital marketing roles. Others look at comms roles. Yet others look at more traditional marketing roles. The point is: If you want to get to the VP (or higher) level, you need to broaden your horizons. Most folks understand this and are career pathing out of social anyway.

And then you have the younger people who are currently filling most of these roles. These Gen Z and Millennials just don’t seem to be as willing to work the crazy, stressful hours their Gen X and Boomer colleagues did years ago (and good for them! We weren’t very smart!). And now, add on the stress of these social jobs. I think a lot of people are understanding the social jobs are fun–but not quite as glamorous as they might have thought.

This all leads me back to my initial question: Do all these factors lead to more people exiting the social industry in the years ahead? And, will we have a tougher time recruiting new folks as a result?

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