Social Media Never Sleeps, But I Do

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Why my part-time employment status poses a threat to my success in social media marketing

Few things matter more in social media marketing than timing. Compensating the marketer who manages a firm’s online presence is one of them, especially when the author of this article is the marketer whose compensation is in question.

I create content for a daily blog and engage in online conversations on behalf of a Canadian retailer.

A glance at my work by a recruiter would suggest a lack of urgency, unprofessionalism and a clear case of neglect. But, in my opinion, that’s far from the truth.

Most of my time is spent writing, responding to inquiries or complaints, and communicating with office and store staff to complete the formerly listed responsibilities effectively.

My workday begins at 8:30 a.m., and concludes at 4:30 p.m. I only work two or three days every week. I’d prefer full-time employment, but 24 hours per week is the most the company’s budget can support. The concern is that, on the days I am not at the office, comments, tweets and posts are seldom addressed by co-workers.

During the week, the brand’s response time – the time it takes to respond to a mention on social media – can, at worst, be 40 hours. On weekends, that number escalates to up to 54 hours. A quick calculation reveals that the brand’s social media platforms are not monitored for 144 hours each week. Automating tweets and posts is an option, but my dislike of robots and my never-ending to-do list prevent content from being drafted, edited and scheduled.

Alas, assigning a part-time employee to monitor a brand’s online community is problematic, for “twinterns” like me and for the brands we manage. A glance at my work by a recruiter would suggest a lack of urgency, unprofessionalism and a clear case of neglect. But, in my opinion, that’s far from the truth.

In the webinar, “The Science of Timing,” HubSpot’s Dan Zarrella found that the tweets with the highest click through rates were published later in the day and on the weekend. He says the best time to tweet is 5 p.m. Eastern Time, nearly 30 minutes after I leave the office. Given that meaningful engagement does occur outside normal business hours, I feel an obligation to respond to clients in spite of the fact that I’m neither remunerated nor commended for doing so.

I’m embarrassed at times that I blatantly ignore users that interact with the brand I represent, especially since “be timely” is one of the seven rules for responding to customers online. Perhaps our expectations for an instantaneous response are excessive and unreasonable, or perhaps companies ought to adapt to meet these expectations. But, I have to ask, what’s in it for me personally?

Despite a six-month stint as an unpaid intern and many more unrecorded hours at home for this retailer, I still feel a sense of shame that, these days, I only work when I’m on the clock. In a marketplace where free labour provided by students and recent graduates is not uncommon, this seems almost archaic and selfish. I’m not self-centred, but I believe my time is worth something. This is the internal conflict with which I often struggle.

Neglecting social media feeds such as Twitter and Facebook allows unfavourable sentiment with regards to the company, its employees and the brands it retails to spread without clarification. Furthermore, leads are not addressed with timeliness and users who do engage often feel unappreciated for doing so. But the part-time employee responsible for managing a brand’s online feeds will be setting themselves up to fail.

A part-time position in social media is valuable for the student looking to gain some exposure. But for someone whose performance will be monitored, measured and critiqued, spare yourself the guilt and countless uncompensated hours—unless you like that kind of stuff. If you must, ensure that inquiries will be attended to during normal business hours on the days you are not in the office at the very least.

But know that the comments, tweets and posts published in your absence are, nevertheless, a reflection of you and your work.

How do you think unpaid or part-time social media marketing professionals should handle their work?

Photo credit: Snooze by Farouq Ta on Flickr
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About the author

Christina Pellegrini has recently completed her BBA in marketing and organizational behaviour at the Schulich School of Business. She is studying for her Master's of Journalism at Ryerson University and looks forward to a career in business journalism. Follow her on Twitter at @chris_pelle.