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9 Tips for Managing Social Media Burnout

October 22, 2009

Six months ago I came pretty close to complete social media burnout. I was running over 20 social networking profiles, logging in seven days a week, and at minimum pulling 60-hour work weeks. My brain was completely fried and those around me were getting pretty fed up with the fact that I was never present, only connected… online, all the time. Even when I wasn’t at home at my desk, I was on my iPhone updating Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. I have spent the last few months making some significant changes. I am now down to 7 profiles, 5 days a week, and a 45-50 hour work week.

My chosen profession requires complete dedication to social media and not everyone is as extreme as I was/am, but as social media continues to penetrate the nonprofit sector, more and more nonprofit staff and interns will experience social media burnout. Here’s a few tips on how to deal with it:

1. Pick a time to quit in the evening and stick to it.

I work from home and my office door closes at 6pm. I don’t go back in until the morning. What happens after 6pm can wait. If you work in an office, then when you leave for the day, leave the work in the office and don’t login to your organization’s profiles when you get home – unless of course there is important breaking news relevant to your nonprofit’s work.

2. Pick one social networking profile and keep it entirely for fun and your personal life.

This an important one. If social media is all work and no play, then you aren’t going to enjoy it as much and not in the same way that many of your friends, followers, and fans do. Justly recently I deleted over 200 Facebook “Friends” and decided that my personal profile on Facebook was going to be exactly that. Personal. I am only friends with people I know and a few work colleagues who have been filed under a list called “Work” friends. I only see their Status Updates when I want to. It’s the one profile where I can be myself… not a Nonprofit Tech 2.0 Blogger. I rant on politics, and rave on my friends and the milestones in their lives, and do not use it for work. I do use the Nonprofit Organizations Facebook Page for work.

Whether you want to use Facebook or another social networking site for fun, I strongly recommend keeping one profile where your personality can really come through. And yeah, de-friend your boss. Tell her or him that it’s for the sake of the organization. “Hiding” her or him is not enough. Subconsciously, you know they are still there reading your Status Updates.

3. Sometimes just leave the smartphone at home.

Smartphones and Apps are changing the way we use Internet. It’s 24/7 now and almost every occurrence and occasion can be spinned as real-time reporting for your organization. I do think this is the future for nonprofit communicators, so lay down some good habits now. If you’re going out with friends or loved ones, just leave the smartphone at home so you can be present and in the moment. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t break the news on Twitter or if you’re 4 hours behind on the Next Big Thing. And don’t you dare bring it with you on your vacation!

4. Take time for lunch.

This is true whether you work at an office or at home. Don’t work through lunch. Get away from your computer. Enjoy your lunch. Get more greens. People watch. Connect to the world around you.

5. Breathe, exercise, and treat yourself. Seriously.

Working intensely at a computer all day does not contribute to good deep breathing habits. Deep breathing helps you relax. Put a Post-It on your computer to remind yourself to take deep breaths during the work day. Talk a walk on your lunch break. If you can afford it, join a gym or take a yoga class. Massages are great for those of us constantly hunched over a computer, Tweeting and ReTweeting, uploading, updating, copying, pasting, etc., etc., etc. If you are low on cash, go to a local massage school. They usually give massages for $20 to $25.Treat your body well. Seriously. Or your going to have a hellish old age of aches and pains from coming of age in the Age of the Internet.

6. Make time to connect with friends… in person or over the phone!

It’s great to stay in touch with friends on social networking sites, but make sure you keep it old school and connect on the phone or in person. As human beings, we need that.

7. Ignore, block, and delete grumpy, mean people.

I have written about this before. Most people online, particularly in the nonprofit sector, are very friendly and supportive of your organization. But every once in awhile a mean, grumpy person comes along and tries to ruin your day. How to handle them? Disengage, delete, block, and move on. Not only does it save your time and energy for better things, but it feels good. Your mental health is essential to a successful social media strategy for your organization. I can not stress that enough. A good social media strategy is only as good as the human being behind it.

Of course, you will occasionally have people who engage with your organization online that may not agree with a program or statement made by your organization, but they are respectful in their comments. This is community building. What I am talking about is demanding, rude, competitive people that are emboldened by being able to be anonymous online. They are 1 in 1,000 and just looking for fight. Nothing you say will make them happy or keep them quiet. They always have to get the last word. Just ignore, delete, block, and move on.

8. Stay focused on the Good.

If you work at a nonprofit and run their social media campaigns,  then you are going to be bombarded with depressing content all day long from the nonprofit and social change sector. That’s the nature of our work and usually what fuels us to get into the nonprofit sector in the first place.From Tweets and Status Updates about Rape as a pre-existing condition to the slaughter of dolphins and whales to children dying from dirty drinking water, the injustice of it all is enough to drive most people into apathy and ignorant bliss.But you are different. You can take it, but you have to find a cause that is making progress and remind yourself that it is getting better. Making periodic small donations to nonprofits and causes you care about helps too.

9. Make sure your work is appreciated by the higher ups in your organization.

Your boss may not understand the important work you are doing for your organization on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. They may just think this a fad or that you’re the lucky one that gets to be on Facebook during work hours. In reality, you’re laying a foundation for what is to come… the Mobile Web. Social networking sites are going mobile, and so will your nonprofit in the near future, as well as your donors, your supporters, your volunteers, and your board. Not only that, your Website traffic has likely has increased significantly since you’ve started using social media, as well as e-newsletter subscriptions. Make sure you are tracking that data, and presenting it to staff at meetings. If your not getting this ROI, then you are not using the sites correctly and it’s time to get training.

Over the last three years, I have presented at almost 50 difference conferences and events about social media and given well-over 200 Webinars on the subject, and the number one issue/complaint/frustration from nonprofit social media practitioners is that their boss doesn’t get it, doesn’t appreciate it, and is more consumed with the worst-case scenario (that never happens) than actually supporting a comprehensive, strategic social media strategy. Make sure your boss understands why this is so important. Be strong. Spell it out. Give her or him the stats, and present to him or her the worst-case scenario which is that the Web is evolving quickly and not keeping up with 21st Century communications will be detrimental to the organization long-term. And while you’re at it, tell her or him to write a smartphone into next year’s budget. You’re going to need it. 🙂

44 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2009 12:17 pm

    Great advice. Thanks!!

  2. L.Baker permalink
    October 22, 2009 3:26 pm

    What statistics do you gather to make a compelling case for social media in the library? How long did it take for the stats to grow to “compelling” size?

  3. October 23, 2009 1:31 am

    EXCELLENT ADVICE! I had figured some of this out, but it’s great to have someone reinforce it with their own experience!!! 🙂

  4. October 23, 2009 4:27 am

    Awsome and informative.Thank you.

  5. melanie permalink
    October 24, 2009 12:28 pm

    Loved this.

  6. October 24, 2009 8:34 pm

    Interesting post and first time ever I saw a post about dealing with social media burnout. ^^ I agree mostly on taking a break and away, do something else to treat yourself well after all the hectic work. Social media is fun but can be a real time-sucker. Do something worthwhile it may give you a whole new spirit to deal with daily routines. It’s all about balance.

    Social/Blogging Tracker

  7. October 25, 2009 2:39 am

    It’s so hard not to get sucked into doing your social media 24/7! This is a great article that will help us all enforce a little self-protecting discipline into our routines, by working smarter and bearing in mind that overdoing it just makes us less efficient and ultimately miserable. I plan on including some of these in my next e-newsletter to my clients, with proper attribution of course. THANK YOU!

    Lisa Cole

  8. October 27, 2009 9:23 am

    Thanks for the pep talk, this is just what I needed this morning!!

  9. October 28, 2009 2:54 am

    Excellent advice, thank you! I will post this on Twitter.

  10. October 29, 2009 2:47 am

    Hi Heather, As a consultant who works intimately with social media, I am also struggling with work hours that are creeping into the 50+ hours a week. I think your comment about turning off social media at night and on the weekends is a high priority for one’s own sanity – but extremely difficult to do. I turn off the computer entirely one day per the weekend, and I find myself looking forward to that day every week!

    One modification I’ve made that has made a big difference is using the RSS reader very carefully – I eliminate those blogs that aren’t adding value, and am now reading less than 20 blogs a week. I try not to let twitter rule my social search, and instead focus on the blog RSS feeds.

    I think this is such a valuable post, I’m going to tweet it and will surely be passing it along to folks in the future. Thanks!

    Debra Askanase @askdebra

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      October 29, 2009 6:54 am

      Thanks Debra. Speaking of blogs, I just subscribed to yours! But I won’t be reading it after 6pm EDT or on the weekends. 🙂

  11. October 29, 2009 10:13 am

    Excellent piece full of excellent advice. Should be mandatory reading!

  12. October 29, 2009 4:16 pm

    Many of us suffer from screen overload, and it’s causing stress without necessarily making us more productive. 10 Tips is a good start.
    A great interview on KQED October 29, 2009 with John Freeman, author of The Tyranny of Email…
    Be careful what you wish for, and make sure communication is happening, not just “electronic fidgets”, as he calls them.

  13. October 31, 2009 11:04 am

    a not much “talked” about topic; however as a spiritual life coach that assist others to manage distress, i feel very needed.

    i especially liked what you said re: deleting certain people (grumpy old men)…

    whether IRL or Virtual life “negative” -“non life enhancing people” aka “downers” bring you down… has a way of creeping in on you.
    Keeping with the positive & that which inspires and motives i think is key as well.

    take time for lunch & not texting/tweeting/ on weekends if you are feeling “crunched upon” another good tip.

    thanks for your post

    michele 🙂

  14. November 2, 2009 11:03 am

    Great advice. It’s very easy to get caught up with maintaining your stream, especially those of us that are running sites for clients.

    Balance is important. I think scheduling is an important way of keeping a balance. Only certain times for social media monitoring and engagement. Otherwise you’ll drown in the flotsam and jetsam of the stream. It never stops.

  15. oelibrarian permalink
    November 9, 2009 12:18 pm

    A great post. I just posted about an article geared towards librarians that gives tips on dealing with information overload. I think we need to make very concious decisions about how we are going to engage with people, rather than being engaged by the social media tools.



  16. November 12, 2009 5:45 pm

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom Heather.

    Having worked in ecommerce for many years, I have found myself to be obsessive about the management of multitudes of websites and working extended hours as a result.

    As I now dive nose-first into the wild world of web 2.0, your experience is a great warning to keep it under control.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      November 13, 2009 4:33 am

      Thanks Michael… yesterday was one of those days when I should have taken my own advice, and didn’t. 🙂

  17. December 31, 2009 2:29 am

    nice blog..
    really appreciate your work!!

  18. February 9, 2010 4:54 am

    I just might need to print this out and post it near my computer. Funny how sometimes we need a gentle reminder to breathe, take care of ourselves, carve out a space for our own personalities, and remember social media is a useful tool only when its helping us further our mission – it isn’t the mission in itself. Great post. Will definitely be retweeting. Thank you.

  19. February 9, 2010 5:14 am

    Really enjoyed reading this. Some of the tips are self-explanatory but it’s always great when someone takes the time to write them down and re-inforce their importance. I work in social media and find myself doing a worse job because of getting too bogged down in it. Can anyone can recommend any articles on how to better organise your social media updates? My head is always bursting by the end of the day!


  20. nonprofitbanker permalink
    February 9, 2010 6:02 am

    Great post – a little bit of everything in this one. Considering I probably violate more than a few of your rules, I think I’ll start small, pick one and see how it goes. Here’s to wishful thinking…

    Thanks again,


  21. March 15, 2011 6:17 am

    What a healthy balance from the social media seminar I just attended – its easy to stray too far one direction or the other, when all we need is a little common sense! Thank you!

  22. August 3, 2011 5:01 am

    great article, very useful, thanks 😉

  23. August 3, 2011 10:29 am

    Heather, All of your articles are great…however, this one resonates the most with me and probably most people out there who are feeling the pressure of keeping up with social media. In fact, I’ve been having the same discussion with friends….that there is nothing more important than keeping in touch in “real time”….seeing friends in person and talking on the phone! And taking a break from the constant “noise” and always being “connected”. Yes, balance….and remembering to breathe….very important for our well being!

    Thanks for getting this so right and sharing with everyone!

  24. October 2, 2011 3:37 pm

    This was a fantastic list! I manage the social media for a large organization and I definitely know what it feels like to get burned out. I think another important thing for people to do to achieve work/life balance in general is to remove their work e-mails from their personal phones. I know it sounds CRAZY to some people, but it has helped me immensely. Now if only I could drag myself away from my computer during lunch…

    Thanks for the tips!


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