We are always connected, and social media marketing is a very important tool for businesses today. Close to half the world’s population (appx. 3.03 billion people) are on some type of social media. The average person spends about 20 minutes on Facebook. However, the fast-moving stream of attention and multiple platforms mean that attention spans have decreased to 8 seconds for most social media users, causing an increase in heart palpitations.
Social media fatigue is characterized by the tendency to withdraw from social media, a feeling of anxiety and being overwhelmed at the thought of interacting online. Techopedia defines it as “Social media fatigue refers to social media users’ tendency to pull back from social media when they become overwhelmed with too many social media sites, too many friends and followers and too much time spent online maintaining these connections. Boredom and concerns about online privacy are also linked to social media fatigue.”
From 100 SMEs that I asked via Facebook forums, 70% spent an hour on social media across all channels. The survey also showed that more than 55% of business owners surveyed were taking training courses in managing social media and trying to find information on how to improve their social media strategy, get more followers and engagement and drive more hits to their website and increase conversion rates. Only about 28% of these had a marketing manager and social media interns. The rest were doing all this by themselves, while also creating and designing new products and everything else that comes with running a small business. No wonder then that more than 80% reported feeling stressed and overwhelmed and panicking every day about their social media. The reasons given were “pressure to be perfect” and “everyone else is doing so much more”. These owners mentioned the pressure to be perfect on social media, especially the more visual ones such as Instagram, and the pressure to learn and keep up with the constantly evolving technology, connecting with influencers and bloggers, and the constant struggle to gain more followers.
Social media is rife with comparison, and psychological research has shown that such comparisons can lead to anxiety and acute stress. Clearly, the pressure of building a small business using social media is leading to social media fatigue amongst business owners. The idea of posting fills them up with dread. There is a lack of focus, irritability, and anxiety. The tendency to spend too much time scrolling and pretending to look busy is another manifestation of this fatigue. This directly translates in a number of cases in a disenchantment with their own business, something that they have built with passion. The loss of followers on social media and the lack of engagement due to changing Facebook and Instagram algorithms is often seen by the small business owners as a lack of engagement with their brand. More than 52% of small business owners confirmed that they were ‘feeling low about their business’ and 45% felt that ‘perhaps no one wants what I am offering’. They also agreed that rather than putting their time and energy into creating new products, they were caught up in social media marketing, and investing time, energy and resources into it.
If you are feeling like this, then social media networking is affecting your mental health and well-being. In this case, these five ways can help overcome the sense of dread and anxiety around social media marketing:
1. Step away
It is ok to take a break. The world doesn’t end, nor does the business go kaput. Step away, re-evaluate, and come back to it, maybe, if and only when you are happy with being back. Don’t think that you can’t disappear from social media. There are other ways of connecting with people who matter, your customers, and perhaps use this time to focus on the creative side of the business. People who like your work and want to connect would stay with you. People who leave weren’t that interested anyway.
2. Be selective
It is impossible to manage all the various channels and get informative and useful content out, at the right time, all the time. If you have a particular preference for a particular channel, why not focus on it for a while and try and make meaningful connections! There are bound to be people who have similar interests and want to connect. For instance, personally, I don’t mind twitter as much because of its more conversational style, and the fact that I am not obliged to post a picture. Focussing our energies on one or maybe two can ease off the pressure and reduce the feeling of dread and overwhelm.
3. Less is more
It is not important to post 3-4 times a day to beat the algorithm. Post when you have something to say. Posting many times a day could lead to undue pressure, but also a loss in the quality of content. I don’t know about you, but I struggle to find that much to say every day. Just reflecting on why I am posting, why I am choosing to share something with everyone out there, and why I am putting something out in the public domain is often quite useful to me. Again, for me, it is more useful to have a good solid network of 200 people rather than thousands and also having a small curated group of ‘friends’ would ensure that the feed is free of things that might cause envy, competitiveness, and depression, and you will only see things in your feed that gives pleasure every day.
4. Be creative
It is good to do things with your hands and step away from the phone, the computer or any other media device. Use a sketchbook, a diary, or join a pottery class! I rest and recuperate and give myself some digital detox, or I try and focus on creating, the basis of my business and where my true passion lies. If I am not online on social media, I am able to trust my instinct much more as I am not constantly doubting myself or comparing myself to others. It is so important to have that alone time to be creative.
5. Be authentic
This is what I struggle most with social media. It is a persona that people can adopt, and it is so easy to do so. I have to remind myself that the things we read and see online aren’t always true, it is merely a tiny glimpse into someone’s reality and not the sum total of it. This is also one of the reasons why I do not have a social media manager. If it is my social network, it is really crucial that I be myself, my true self. I think that losing sight of who we really are, is often the cause of anxiety. Try and believe in yourself, and that your brand is you, and a reflection of your values. When you post, interact and engage with social media, be yourself. Being genuine and true to ourselves can be so refreshing, and can ease off any pressures that we might be putting on ourselves.
YouTube’s co-founder and former CEO Chad Hurley recently said that “I feel like you’re more effective if you block a lot of that stuff out and try to ignore what everyone else is doing. Set your own path. Too many people are jumping onto bandwagons and different trends, trying to find the same solutions to [today’s] problems. There are so many opportunities, you don’t need to jump on those bandwagons.”
It is clear that this pressure on small businesses to use social media marketing is not a one- size- fits -all strategy. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate the business model that is putting social media right at the center of it all. Perhaps we need to not blindly follow the crowd but find a way forward that works just right for us.