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  • Writer's pictureShay Pritulsky

How PR professionals can combat social media fatigue

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have become more dependent on social media for news, entertainment and commerce. According to polling data between January and June 2020, half of the adults in the U.S. report using social media more now than ever.

Graduate professor at NYU and Head of Marketing & Communications at Barnard College of Columbia University, Gabrielle Gambrell, describes social media in 2020, saying that "it's grown tremendously during the pandemic. It has revolutionized how people make money, and it's only going to continue to grow."

Even before 2020, social media was forcing the public relations industry to re-evaluate its standards for communication. In an interview with GrandPR, Christina Forrest of Cision recounts that "the PR process used to be surprisingly one-dimensional, but the future of PR is now a conglomeration, mainly focused on leveraging new innovations to communicate with the public."

However, if 2020 has shown anything, it's that social media use has real-world consequences. A dependence on 24/7 content to get people through a year of isolation has impacted everyone somehow.

One of these consequences is the recently identified term "social media fatigue."

Defined by Techopedia as the "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," social media fatigue is a growing issue for social media managers, content creators and consumers.

Symptoms of social media fatigue can include procrastination, lack of focus, irritability and anxiety.

Acknowledging the impact of social media fatigue that she has seen in herself, her colleagues and her students, Gambrell says, "it's too overwhelming that you do this 24/7 for your day job." With the amount of content available on social media to process, PR practitioners may struggle to dissociate their work from their lives outside of their phones.

So, how can the PR industry combat such a new issue?

Luckily, some in public relations are already finding answers to curbing social media fatigue for practitioners and students.

San Diego State University alumna and current intern at Bicker, Castillo & Fairbanks Public Affairs, Sofia Bert, stresses setting boundaries and making distinctions between working online and being online as a user. "I try to make distinctions. I only answer my emails on my computer. I don't answer them on my phone because I want my phone to be my own space, and the second I start answering emails on my phone, that's no longer going to be a fun area for me." To help isolate where PR practitioners work on social media, Bert recommends investing in sites like Hootsuite that provide ways to manage social media from other devices.

Another strategy, as outlined by Gambrell, is to take breaks: "A friend of mine... turns off her (personal) social media and just does her company's social media." Because public relations never slows down, curbing outside chatter from personal use can help social media become digestible. Bert says that one way of doing this is to set time limits on app usage for smartphones.

As an enterprise still in its infancy, there is a lot unknown about the effects social media can have on PR specialists. "There are going to be new platforms that are going to continue emerging," says Gambrell on the future of social media. Even so, both Bert and Gambrell express their beliefs on the positive potential that these platforms have to evolve and strengthen the relationships between consumers and organizations.

Increasing awareness of the numerous strategies that exist to integrate positive mental health habits and work can help current, and future PR practitioners embrace social media.

By Shay Pritulsky

Shay is a senior PR student from Phoenix, Arizona. She has experience in social media marketing and will be interning for a PR and Advertising firm in Scottsdale, AZ, over the summer. She is also the current Director of Internal Affairs for the SDSU Student Chapter of PRSSA. Post-graduation, she plans on finding a career in sports marketing and management.

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