“It’s a non-stop job,” Katy Gelhausen told me, referring to her role to manage social media for Tito’s Vodka. She’s the main point of engagement for fans of the 20-year-old challenger brand in the white spirits category and one of just three team members on the Tito’s content team, one of whom is a recent hire.
“We cut off social media responses around 10 p.m. every night,” she said. “We want you to go enjoy our product and after that, people have a little more to drink. So the kind of content they post isn’t really what we’re going to engage with.”
But Katy is up at 8 a.m., checking the feeds and responding to as much as she can as soon as she can.
The truth to a brand trying to manage social media channels is that it can be a time-consuming job. One brand I worked with (also in the spirits business) was a 12 p.m. until 12 a.m. coverage expectation. We wanted to engage with customers either about to or actually participating in consuming the product. When you’re a national or international consumer brand, that means availability across multiple time zones. So the to manage social media is to commit lots of time to the task.
“Sprout Social has been a huge help,” Katy explained, referring to the social media management tool Tito’s uses. “The deluge of inbound message are easier to manage and control with it’s Smart Inbox feature. The single stream has been a huge help for me. I feel like Im staying on top of it … being able to interact with our fans.”
For the record, I use Sprout Social personally and took advantage of their offer to connect me with Katy to chat about social media management, Tito’s and more. I don’t benefit from mentioning them at all, but they did connect me with the interview opportunity.
Katy is not alone in the world of solo social media management. Many consumer brands rely on one person, or even a part of one person’s day. Depending on the volume of interactions and your brand’s approach to responses, it doesn’t have to be an all-encompassing task, however.
Certainly, tools like Sprout Social help. Smart Inbox-type features essentially pull all mentions and interactions into a single stream, regardless of network. There, you can like, respond, comment and such.
But you can also manage a medium- to large-brand presence with some scheduling and planning. Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years that might help tackle the “always on” problem:
Instead of manning the networks non-stop, waiting for someone to post so you can respond, check in for 5-10 minutes each hour. When there’s not much going on, you can move on to other tasks and come back to check again next hour. Certainly spend the time you need to interact and route issues, etc., when you see them, but unless you’re a mega brand with hundreds of response-required Tweets or posts per hour, you won’t need to camp out on your social networks.
While one person can cover social networks throughout the day and night with not too much issue, depending on the volume of posts, make sure one or two people on your team can serve as back-ups. Schedule them to watch the channels for you during lunch, dinner and maybe for 2-3 nights a week, if you can. The more people you can work into coverage, the more you can take some down time and keep your sanity.
Establish Fan Expectations
One of the first pieces of advice I gave brands years ago with regard to their availability for social media interaction is to simply tell your fans what to expect. Using the About section or info on your social profile, tell them what your availability will be. “We check in every hour or so during the day but may need until the next morning to respond if you post at night,” is a perfectly reasonable expectation in most fan’s eyes. And if they know that’s how you handle it, they won’t be upset unless you don’t meet your own statement of expectation.
Nothing makes a social media manager’s job worse than his or her bosses dumping more work on them without understanding how much time and commitment they give to be present for the company in social. Make sure everyone from your immediate report to the CEO of the company knows your job is not 9-5, nor is it 40 hours a week. The more your team understands how many hours and off-hours time commitment you’re giving to do your job, the less likely they are to pile it on.
When you’ve been interacting with customers and fans all day, but the evening hours aren’t over yet, you start to tense up and tire. Take 10 minutes every couple hours to take a walk, splash some water on your face or even do some exercises. Even a 10 minute phone call to your spouse, parents or kids can break up the tension and give you a little more fuel for the day. But don’t skip the gym or Yoga class, drink lots of water and eat healthy foods, too. (I know … I need help there myself.) You need energy and stamina, neither of which come from sugary drinks or skipping your work out.
Managing social media doesn’t have to be an exhaustive thing, even for one person and an active social brand. But you do need to attack the way to manage social media with a mindful eye on the challenges the task presents.
But that’s just my take. For those of you who manage social media for brands, what do you recommend to help avoid the exhaustion and burnout? Drop your ideas in the comments.
I’ll cover a few more topics Katy and I covered in our call soon. If you’re interested, she’s @TitosKaty on Twitter. And as any good liquor brand staff member will tell you, ask for Tito’s at your local bar or liquor store!