The Secret to Social Media Fatigue

December 5, 2012
By Rhea Drysdale in Social Media

The secret to “social media fatigue” is that we need to stop calling it that! Seriously. We have “social media fear” or “social media disappointment,” but we are not fatigued.

Very few of us use social media to the point that we are so mentally and physically exhausted that we can’t go on. I get fatigued from pregnancy, because I’m growing a human being! I get fatigued from growing a business, because I have to provide for my team and my client’s teams. I get fatigued from exercise, because my frail ginger body only has so much strength.

We all have life events that leave us truly fatigued–social media isn’t one of them. Social media doesn’t cause fatigue, it causes an emotional block about how we prioritize our time and the success we are or aren’t having with it. At least that’s my non-expert, anecdotal opinion. After hours of calls, coffees, and emails exchanged with folks recounting their trouble with social media, that has to count for something.

Last week I spoke during an early morning roundtable with our local AMA chapter on “How to Avoid Social Media Fatigue.” When I arrived, Mary Darcy, of All Over Albany and Cathy Herman, who was coordinating the roundtable, greeted me and we spoke about how we were going to present. Here’s the thing–I didn’t know what the heck I was going to talk about! Mary didn’t either, so we went back and forth for a minute about who should speak first. When it came time for our introductions, we finally decided that I would go first and set the stage.

I started with an apology for being a couple minutes late, but noted that because of social media, the organizers knew I was not still in bed. I also apologized for being short of breath, I’ve found that being pregnant and speaking at length, with the speed I’m accustomed to, results in heavy panting. Then I said something that I realized later felt very profound and it’s the impetus for this post. What I said was just that:

social media fatigue is really about fear and disappointment.

I know, that doesn’t sound terribly profound, we’ve all probably felt this before, but let’s go deeper. We’re all given the same amount of time in our day and how we choose to spend our time is shaped by our experiences and drive. Unfortunately, there always seems to be someone who has more time, more focus, and more success. The attendees wanted validation (and you may as well) that we aren’t alone in feeling defeated by social media at times–defeated by someone with a bigger set of followers, a more compelling blog post, or a punchier tone that makes every regulated industry marketer jealous. This is why we attend breakfast roundtables, listen to webinars, take a class, or read blogs to learn how to be better at some aspect of this strange new channel.

Last Thursday, the roundtable attendees specifically wanted to learn how to avoid social media fatigue, because there are days when the last thing any of us wants to look at is Facebook. Maybe we even dream of deleting our account (good luck with that). For the enlightened marketer though, we recognize that if we slack off in our social media usage, the short attention spans of our followers might wain or be stolen by a new shiny object.

Having been an early adopter of Twitter and champion for social media, my use of the each social network has evolved and sometimes devolved. What I wanted the attendees (and now you) to get is that social media fatigue happens when we feel like we aren’t getting the results we want from our usage or perhaps we are, but we recognize how it’s sucking the life out of us. Remember, we only have so many hours, and I doubt any of us imagined ourselves glued to Instagram on the weekends or maniacally checking LinkedIn throughout the work day in fear that we might miss something vital to our future success in life.

Social Media Fear

Social media fatigue due to fear comes from the unknown. We fear what we think may or may not happen, so instead of doing, we lay dormant and hope no one notices us. If we do get noticed we can pretend like we were too busy being busy to care about something as silly as this new, innovative form of communication that others are taking advantage of in incredibly profitable ways. It’s easy to say, “yeah, I could do that, but I choose not to right now.”

Social Media Disappointment

Disappointment with social media comes from failure. We tried and we failed, which means we now have evidence to support our insecurities and we’re put back into the social media fear bucket. Rather than test a new method, recognize where we failed, or grow from the experience, we let an ugly, negative seed of self-doubt sit in our chests.

This is heavy stuff!

We’re just talking about social media, but it feels like we need to bring in a psychologist to discuss our family issues and feelings of self-worth. That’s what this is though. Social media is about putting yourself out “there” into the great unknown where anyone and everyone can see you. I should rephrase that as “see the version of you that you choose to share.”

It’s easy to pretend like we don’t care what others think of us and justify our fear and disappointment. The truth is, we do care. Maybe not about everyone, but we all have an audience who is important to us. They’re probably the motivation behind everything we do. I care most about what my family, my employees, my clients, and my mentors think of me. I don’t want to disappoint them or say anything stupid on social media that will make them question something about my character, work, or values. That’s why it’s so much easier to not even try. You can’t have negative consequences if you don’t act, so we let fear and disappointment produce “social media fatigue.”

Now, I don’t want to leave you feeling down, that’s not the point of this post. I want to give you mini cures to help prevent and overcome the silly emotional hangups about social media that each of us has at some point. These are taken from the advice both Mary and I shared during the AMA event, let me know what works or doesn’t work for you!

How to Combat Social Media Fear:

  1. Be clear about roles and expectationsLearning anxiety strikes when we feel unprepared for a new responsibility. Develop a clear, attainable plan for yourself or your team. What are the responsibilities of each team member? Be clear–ambiguity leads to uncertainty, doubt, and fear.
  2. Set reasonable goals. – Now that you have clear roles and responsibilities, set yourself or your team up for success through reasonable goal setting. There’s nothing more demoralizing than not hitting an arbitrary goal, so develop achievable goals that set the organization and your team up for success. Don’t borrow your competitor’s goals, they’re very rarely in the same position as you and their business model is likely very different as well.
  3. Have an editorial calendar. – Just like your blog, social media has different seasons, timezones, usage trends, etc. Observe, test, and develop a calendar that makes sense for you.
  4. Develop a pattern. – Your pattern may be very clear or more sporadic like mine. I like to say I’m “burst-y,” because I’m at the whim of end of month calls, clients, and the needs of my team. I’ll go days without much heavy social media usage and then have a burst of activity. You know what? People don’t disappear on me, you’re still here! With that said, look at your audience’s patterns and make sure you’re promoting your content or message when they’re available.
  5. Listen more than you broadcast. – Start by listening and then don’t stop. We feel like there’s nothing to say, because we’re so caught up in our own world that we haven’t taken a minute to see what’s going on in the real world. As soon as you step outside of your bubble, you’ll discover all sorts of inspiration. Over the weekend, I got inspired by watching Ira Glass talk about the elements of storytelling.
  6. Understand the value you bring. – More often than not, “fatigue” sets in because you don’t recognize you’re own value. You have value! Don’t make me get all psychologist again. Feel like you aren’t a “thought leader?” Listen and share more. Connect others. Answer questions. There are a lot of new SEOs popping up on my radar, because they do exactly that and as a boss, I’m paying attention, because I want to hire folks who aren’t scared to promote themselves (this means they can handle link building).
  7. Don’t spread yourself too thin. – Trying to manage too many channels at once will quickly lead to true social media fatigue. You don’t have to spend equal time on Quora, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, email, calls, and real life (whew!). If you do, you’re probably neglecting your family, friends, and health, or have a whole team helping you. Pick a couple networks and start there.

How to Combat Social Media Disappointment:

  1. Mix it up. – If you tried and failed in the past, change your approach! Try a new medium (photos or videos versus just status updates), try a new social media network, alter your messaging (length and tone), etc. In other words–test! We should always be testing to see what works best.
  2. Establish tracking. – Having accurate data will make it easier to demonstrate a return for your efforts, which motivates us to keep going. Check out Google Analytics social reports, event tracking,, and other tools to track performance metrics.
  3. Make sure you have something to say. – This speaks to several of the social media fear tips. Once you’ve got an editorial calendar, understand the value you bring, and spend time listening and reading as much as you promote, you’ll find it easy to meet your social media quota.
  4. Give yourself permission to have lulls. – Recently, Outspoken Media was off-the-radar while we took care of several major projects. We had no time to say anything, so we had to go silent, but we gave ourselves permission to do so and our community didn’t leave. You’re reading this now! Everyone has moments when we have to focus on other priorities, that’s ok, in fact it’s human. Involve your community in what you have happening and be clear about when you’ll be back.
  5. Reinforce realistic expectations. – I already brought this up in social media fear, but it’s vital that we reinforce realistic expectations. Some content doesn’t elicit a strong response, especially if all anyone might say is, “great post!” This doesn’t mean the content doesn’t add value, especially if it’s instructional. Base your performance metrics in goals that really matter–new business, not the number of shares or likes you get.
  6. Promote yourself. – This is by far my most uncomfortable area–self-promotion. It comes easy to some, but for the vast majority of us, we cringe at the thought of asking our next door neighbor if they’ll buy delicious Girl Scout cookies, much less share our recent blog post. No one is going to discover or share your content unless you make it happen though. We’re marketers–we can do this!
  7. Don’t do it all alone. – Do you feel like you’re the only person carrying the torch? As an independent consultant, there may be nothing to do about that, but for organizations with a large team, you shouldn’t be the only one. Spread the love and educate internal team members about the importance of active involvement. For me, it’s important that the Outspoken Media team use social media to help strengthen our knowledge, quality, and values. Without fail the team will often find amazing new tools, techniques, or messages that help everyone. Understand WHY you use social media and it’ll be easy to get buy-in from executives and your team.

That’s it! This post was originally much larger, but I wanted to not fatigue you too badly. Am I totally off-base with the tips and psychology of social media fatigue? Tell me what you think and I’ll add a revision and credit for any new tips you share.

Rick of eBizROI mentions below a few other tips:

  • Make sure your social interactions reflect your business’ core competencies.
  • Give more than you get.
  • Avoid engaging in posts on politics and religion.
  • Have fun and celebrate victories, those of your staff, clients and personal victories.
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