I procrastinated writing this article. Not because I am a procrastinator (although, a good deadline never hurts my output), but because I wasn’t sure of what I was going to say.
Because sometimes, I still struggle with what I’m about to talk through. Sometimes I struggle with balancing my personal social media use with my work in the field each day.
My Social Media Story
Social media became a large part of my life toward the end of my collegiate career. Instagram had just launched, and with it came a whole new world of pretty faces and places.
As an advertising / PR major in search of a post-grad full-time job, personal branding was a critical component of my life. I became obsessed with my brand – changing my social media bios and profile photos over, and over, and over again.
On top of all of that, I also worked as a social media manager for the university I attended, where I managed a few social accounts that spoke to the student body as a whole.
My life began to revolve around branding and social media as I was lucky enough to gain social media internship after internship at marketing agencies and in-house gigs prior to graduating.
And this was all good and well. I was able to secure a job prior to graduation, I built my resume, and, to be honest, I became really good at what I do in the social media and branding space.
However, with these experiences came a lot of obsession.
With these experiences came a lot of me, as a young person figuring out my life path and who I was, putting more attention to the digital version of myself than the real one.
Suddenly, I was deciding my value based on my “likes,” my following, and my brand, rather than my life and the way I lived it away from the screen.
Why did this happen?
Because it was my work.
My work was about engagement, strategic posts, and branding for my clients. I forgot.
I forgot that my photos didn’t need to have increased month over month metrics. I forgot that my life wasn’t a business.
I simply forgot.
And, due to the addictive qualities of social media – that was what my life became about.
I was connected. I was strategic. I was, always, timely and attentive… for my clients, and for myself.
OK, OK, this is a little dramatic.
To say my life was purely social media would be a lie, but it was a large part of it.
I was constantly comparing myself to others because all I was doing was staring at others’ “perfect” lives on a screen. I was treating my social media – my life – as a brand with a strategy.
Things crossed my mind like, “I should go on a hike here, because that photo would really do well this week.”
It sounds crazy reading it back, but I’ve heard from many people, both social media managers and those outside of the marketing world, that this is a truth many of us face in today’s connected world.
We do things for our social media or digital selves, rather than for our real ones.
As a social media manager and marketer, this issue, at least for me, was amplified. And it was exhausting. It was exhausting to constantly be online, worried about missing the next thing, and on my game in the digital world.
And to be completely honest, sometimes it still is.
I don’t have all the answers and I still struggle every once and a while – but throughout my years of continuing to work in social media for clients and for my own personal reasons, I have learned that:
It is possible to have both worlds, it is possible to remove (most) exhaustion, it is possible to live a bit more free, and it is possible to still kill it for your clients and in your social media career.
But in order to do this, we have to work for it.
Strategies for Managing Social Media Use
Let’s take a look at a few strategies I’ve tried to accomplish this.
1. Schedule Designated (Personal) Social Media Times
I woke up one day realizing that I was living a lot of my life through a social media lens. I didn’t like it.
While I love doing social media both for my clients and for myself, I knew something needed to change. That’s when I introduced (personal) social media-free weekdays.
For a couple of months, I refrained from posting stories or thoughts on social media until the weekend when I could get in there and play. On Sunday night, I vowed to refrain from using them again.
My life got a whole lot more productive and a whole lot less driven by the comparison game during this time.
This was the shift I needed to remove myself a bit from these platforms – to remember that I am not “one with my social media platforms,” but that they are a helpful, additional tool for my clients and myself.
While I’m not currently practicing social media-free weekdays today, this is something I plan to come back to when I’m feeling a little too out of control with my relationship with this technology.
At work, I now block off half an hour each day where I can go on my platforms, research industry news, and get involved in conversations with other like-minded, brilliant digital marketing professionals.
Do I sometimes participate more than this half an hour when things come up?
But putting this on the calendar allows me to relax into my workday and get into the deep focus and “flow” required to accomplish larger projects and strategic social media tasks for my clients rather than worrying about what algorithm shift happened that day.
Another strategy I have implemented is setting up a Feedly account which monitors industry news in the marketing space as well as the industries of my clients. This helps me to monitor trends without feeling overwhelmed or like I am constantly missing something.
You can keep up with the trends without being immersed the entirety of your day.
2. Manage Your Accessibility
Now that we’ve covered important time constraints, let’s talk about physical ones.
Not everyone can implement all of these strategies, myself included.
However, below are a few things you can do to remove a little bit of distraction from your every day.
Remove Social Media Apps from Your Phone
A writer I follow introduced me to this one, as well as the next bullet point.
If you can, I’d highly suggest removing social media apps from your phone or device.
Do I have mine removed all the time? Of course not.
But every once and a while, I practice this to give myself a mini-detox.
Turn off Notifications
I have all notifications aside from receiving phone calls removed from my phone.
It took me years to realize that everything is probably going to be OK if you take 30 seconds longer to respond.
There are times of course when this isn’t possible, for example, during an event or important news release for a client, but for the most part, removing notifications has only made my life and career more productive.
Take Days off the Grid
You can thank Ron Swanson for this one.
I recently went to an island off of Rhode Island for a weekend. I decided to (gasp) put my phone in my bag and leave it at the house.
To be honest, I was a little uncomfortable in my own skin without it at first… “what do I do with my hands?!” However, within an hour or so, I realized how amazing life is without holding on to your device.
It’s important to take the time to remember that. So take a day or two, or even an hour each month, and put the phone away.
Another strategy I’ve seen as effective is taking social media sabbaticals or deactivating your accounts.
While I admittedly have never taken a break for an extended period of time, it is certainly on my radar as something to (eventually) try.
3. Take Control of the Content You Consume
I recently read the book “Digital Minimalism,” by Cal Newport. The bulk of the book provides the reader with actionable ways to take control of our digital lives.
I’ve put a few things into action since reading the book (OK, I listened to the audio version… the irony is not lost on me).
While a few of the things I’ve already mentioned such as time-blocking digital use were re-affirmed with me as I read the book, something else stood out as important: take control of the content you consume.
I had started practicing putting time and physical constraints on my personal social media use, but I hadn’t considered taking a mindful approach to what content I’m actually looking at.
After reading the book, I did two important things:
I ‘Unfollowed’ Accounts
I realized that after years of following different accounts across platforms, I was swimming in a sea of content every single day that didn’t necessarily serve me.
I took a long (and I mean long… this was not a short process), hard look at who I was following across platforms and I “unfollowed” accounts that weren’t bringing value to my life.
I’ve done this a few times since this first sweep as, just with material things, we seem to collect accounts we’re following very easily these days.
Doing this digital detox has helped me to control what and who I am seeing, and keep the content I am consuming educational, inspirational, and entertaining.
I Bookmarked Facebook Birthdays
This is another tip taken from Cal Newport’s book. Checking Facebook each morning to see who’s birthday it is something I have grown to treasure and rely on.
For whatever reason, it’s important to me to not miss a birthday, and if I happen to miss putting a birthday in my calendar, well then Facebook always has my back.
To avoid going down the rabbit hole of feed scrolling when logging into my personal Facebook each morning, I bookmarked the “birthdays” page of Facebook so that I can get the information I need and move on with my day.
The trick? Sticking to it!
4. Put Down the Strategy
As much as time and physical constraints will help you – you won’t be able to make these changes unless you work on shifting your mind.
Now I know, I know… to you digital marketers out there, “put down the strategy” sounds scary as the terms algorithm shifts, results, engagement, and performance run rampant through our minds 24/7.
There is certainly room for strategy within your personal social media use, particularly if you are trying to position yourself as a thought leader or gain connections in the industry – but it is also important to remember to play.
Social media started as a fun place for people to connect. A big reason I’ve been able to enjoy my social media use as the years have gone by is that I don’t forget to get creative with it.
In fact, using your personal social media is a great way to test out things for your clients.
Whether it’s increased GIF use or an aesthetic change – personal social media platforms, where the performance stakes are a bit lower, is actually an important place for social media managers to be!
On top of this, remembering to truly be my authentic self on my platforms, no matter the algorithm or potential engagement performance, allows me to balance my strategic mind with my creative mind – in the end creating a better mindset for myself and for my clients.
5. Be Willing to Evolve
As I mentioned earlier, my personal brand and social media took over my life for quite some time, and it is something I still deal with today.
While many clients and brands evolve over time and are more than willing to try new and creative things, we are also often confined to our clients’ brand as we create content and update social media profiles in our daily work.
It’s important to remember that while your personal brand is important and should be treated as such, it’s also a reflection of you – and you are a reflection of your evolvement over time.
As you continue to grow and change in your life – be willing to let your personal brand do the same.
I often got myself into funks where I told myself I had to post only black, white and pink photos or I had to become confined to one life path because that was what my social media bio said. This was, simply, not true.
In Brian Solis’ book “Lifescale,” he discusses the importance of continuing to create and evolve as we grow up and become locked into digital devices and platforms.
Something he writes has stuck with me, “reacquaint yourself with the artist you once were.”
You are not your Instagram bio. Your Instagram bio should be an ever-changing picture of you. Don’t be afraid to try new things and evolve your social media as you evolve as well.
Balancing my career in social media with my own personal use is a work in progress, and something I must check and be honest with myself about often.
My hope is that reading this offered you a few ideas to consider when managing your own relationship with social media and personal branding as you work in the field day-in and day-out.
Some of these strategies will work for you and some won’t. I won’t sit here and say I implement every single one of these all the time because I don’t. It is a process.
Much like your clients’ strategies, your social media, your personal brand, and you – this process is ever-evolving.
So, why do I go through these steps?
Why don’t I just give it up completely if it seems to take over from time to time?
The answer is that I love it.
Branding, social media, connecting with people, and getting clients in front of their target audiences is what I love to do – it’s what I’m good at.
It is possible to love social media and branding, while also loving your freedom and time away.
It is possible to be good at social media and branding, while also not becoming all-consumed.
I’ve learned overtime that implementing different ways to balance my connectivity is critical in preventing burnout and allowing me to continue to grow and be inspired in my career – for myself and for my clients.
I hope you do, too.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita