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Internet Marketing and Web Development in Higher Education and other tidbits…

Social Media Fatigue Syndrome – Do you or your staff have it?

17 Jan 2013

written by Laura D’Amelio

Social Media Fatigue Syndrome - Do you or your staff have it?

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to stop saying how tired I am. “I’m exhausted” seems to be what I, or my colleagues, are saying all the time. Why are we so tired? Hectic lives maybe. Or perhaps just too much Tumblr.

Social Media Fatigue Syndrome is a title being batted about for the last couple of years that I’m starting to pay attention to. It may sound easy to scoff at – can updating Twitter really cause fatigue? – but more people are talking about it and it has started to turn up in research journals as well. And honestly, when I’m trying to keep up with the “next thing” on social media as well as keep up with what we already have, I get REALLY tired.

What Is Social Media Fatigue Syndrome?

Social Media Fatigue Syndrome is meant to describe the overwhelming pressure to keep up with multiple social media points and contacts. The result is often the urge to reduce your time, effort and interactivity on social media sites. For people who work on social media for a living, keeping up with personal contacts and balancing updates to multiple sites isn’t the cause of Social Media Fatigue. Social media staff are pros at answering many questions on different sites through all sorts of different technology – they have the job because they are good at that. But many can feel overwhelmed or fatigued with dealing with problems.

When your social media feeds solve problems, counsel students, and are the main point of interaction on emergency issues, the staff dealing with this type of communications may feel pressure, negativity and, yes, fatigue. The reaction to this fatigue, as a staff member, cannot be to reduce the amount of time spent on social media. Think about the volume of calls and complaints customer service representatives that work on phones or in person get, whether at an institution or at a company. Social media isn’t much different.

How To Deal With It

Many staff members Tweet from behind the name of their institution and can take the comments directed towards the institution personally. Whether your school had a course enrolment site go down, had an emergency on campus or is going through some bad press, the staff on your front lines dealing with the questions, comments and anger on social media need support. Here’s four ideas of how we can ease the fatigue for social media staff:

  1. Take note of the positive. When a great reaction or interaction happens on social media, screen grab the string and post it somewhere public in the office. Celebrate the service and joys of being on social media and the difference it can make communicating with students.
  2. Plan for the negative. As much as it might cause you to cringe, take the time to make a list of possible issues that may arise at your institution. Some may be typical issues with students (for example trouble registering in classes) while other items may have a larger impact like an emergency on campus. Speak with your communications or media relations unit and plan, in advance, some of the general messaging that would go out in these instances while specifics are being ascertained. Keep the list, and text, nearby so when a stressful situation hits, there’s something to quickly reference for support.
  3. Give yourself time. If you have more than one staff member working on social media, ask them to alternate handling the “troublesome cases”, whether it be an upset student, complicated question or tackling controversial issues. If it’s just you or just one staff member online, bring in other people in the office to discuss topics before you respond to get feedback and blow off some steam if needed. Communicating well with students is in everyone’s interests.
  4. Help students learn. The natural reaction of many social media workers is to be the “solver” for student’s problems, the ultimate resource. That is a lot of pressure for one or two staff members, no matter the size of your institution. Use your answers on social media to point students to their own solutions on your website or the right contact point in another department, instead of you picking up the phone. Students can act on direction they are given and learn to navigate the institution on their own. Don’t be their crutch and don’t put that pressure on yourself or your staff members.

Social Media Fatigue Syndrome might not seem like a “real” syndrome in your first introduction to it, but the frustrations and stresses of working on social media are very real for many staff members. As online communicators, it’s important to focus our messaging and tactics not only on what works for students and other stakeholders, but what helps our staff, and ourselves, function efficiently and successfully.

The content of this post is licensed: The post is released under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa 3.0 license


About the author

Laura D’Amelio

Laura D’Amelio is a content strategist for Canada’s third largest university. She manages web and print content targeted to an international audience in more than 13 languages. She can be reached at www.lauradamelio.com.

This post was written by Laura D’Amelio


  • http://twitter.com/andrewcareaga Andrew Careaga

    The thing that caused me the most angst as I began my personal journey into the world of social media was the issue you describe early on in your post: “trying to keep up with the ‘next thing’ on social media.” FOMO (fear of missing out) was a big challenge for me to overcome, especially when Twitter started gaining traction as a social media environment. There was so much information being shared ALL. THE. TIME. And I wasn’t able to be always on to capture it. What could I do?

    I eventually came to the point where I viewed Twitter as a never-ending river of information that I could visit from time to time for a refreshing sip, rather than a fire hose I had to try to constantly drink from.

    For all of us, we have to make peace with the idea that we are all only human, that we cannot possibly be “always on” or “always there,” and that sometimes we need to unplug. For those who do social media for a living, that can be tough. That’s why I think it’s important to have cross-trained staff who don’t focus entirely on social media, but incorporate it as a part of their other duties.

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