Let’s Talk About Personal Social Media

For many social media professionals, the idea of maintaining or growing a personal social media presence is exhausting.

Today’s newsletter is all about how social media professionals feel about maintaining and growing their personal social media presence. But first...

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“social media professionals having terrible personal accounts is workers rights”. 

Back in June, the above tweet from Emily Patterson, Associate Director of Social Media and Merchandise at the ACLU, took off. It currently has over 2,000 likes. Since then I’ve noticed this theme in other tweets and memes, like the one below, posted on the popular account @workinsocialtheysaid. It’s clear that this idea of having a shitty personal presence, despite being a social media professional, resonates. When I spoke with Patterson about their viral tweet they said, “This had been sitting in my drafts for at least a year. I finally pushed it after having yet another amusing conversation with someone about the mistaken assumption that all social media professionals themselves have perfectly curated presences, are hyper-obsessed with our own online brands, or never miss a trend online. It was in my drafts for so long because I knew it would do well.” 

We’re living, for better or worse, in a time where in many industries it behooves you to have an active, public social media presence. I have spoken with actors who were told they need to grow their personal brand to get a job. Authors who need to reach a certain amount of followers before they get a book deal. You can now, alarmingly, apply to jobs through TikTok Resumes, a process that naturally gives preference to Very Online people over someone who might not be as familiar with the platform. I think this requirement, no matter the industry, to have an A+ social media presence is exhausting. But when you add in the public assumption that working in social media equals stellar personal social media and the fact that social managers spend their entire day on the platforms, the exhaustion feels heavier.

Last week I created a quick survey related to this topic and asked social media professionals to fill it out. Over 300 people responded, and the results support the memes. When asked “Do you feel a pressure to make your personal social media presence engaging?,” 57.7% of respondents said yes. When asked “Does the idea of maintaining and having a good personal social media presence exhaust you?,” 86.4% of people said yes. I then asked “As someone who works in social media, can you talk about your relationship with your personal social media? The good, bad, and ugly!” Here’s a sampling of what I heard:

“I am constantly at war between creating a brand for myself and staying lowkey and almost hermit-like in my personal social media.” 

“I find myself getting self-conscious about my own personal social presence, especially the number of followers. When I was dating, I would tell someone I was a social media manager and they would usually assume I was an influencer, and then they’d question/doubt my merits as a professional when I said I didn’t care about my own personal social following. (Men are mostly stupid.)”

“I’m so frustrated by brands that want to hire a social media manager that has a strong personal social presence. To me, that is the role of an influencer, and a different job entirely. I find it feeds into this misconception that social media managers can also be designers, content creators and brand ambassadors all under one umbrella. To me, those are 3 different jobs.”

“As a social media manager, there is NOTHING I want more than to delete every single one of my personal accounts. Ditching my phone and social media presence would bring me so much relief and alleviate stress. All I want is to disconnect but I can’t since so many corporate social platforms need to be connected to a personal account.”

“I’ve worked in social media for 10 years and it’s actually made me want to spend less time on my own social/be more private.”

“Because I have to abide by so many rules when it comes to posting on my brand accounts, I’ve found that I use my personal account to just do whatever I want. It’s taken a lot of the overthinking out of my own posting.” (ed. note: this is nice!)

“Do I know all the tips and tricks to hit 10k? Absolutely. Do I do any of them? Naw, I need a BREAK. Torn though because I know I could do more freelancing if I invested in my personal social. I just can’t be on social for 12+ hrs a day. 😵‍💫”

“There’s a big sense of ‘if you can’t maintain your personal socials to OUR standards, then how can you do it for our business?’, which just makes no sense to me. I’ve seen some jobs asking you to link your personal socials as part of the job screening process, as they want to see what it’s like—modern portfolio? But overall, feels very invasive, as I want to keep life and personal separate where and when I can.”

I also should note the idea of “throwing” one’s phone was referenced 9 times. And “deleting personal accounts” was referenced 20 times.

I wish I had some plan to wrap this newsletter up with a bow or throw out some helpful suggestions. To be candid, in my last job I was unhealthily worried about growing my personal following, and to this day I feel pressure to have a “marketable” personal social presence, especially as a freelancer. Ultimately, I feel like if you’re able to maintain your personal presence while working on various brands’ social, then good for you. But that shouldn’t be the requirement. Which is why if you are hiring a social media professional, don’t judge their ability to run your brand’s social media based on their personal accounts. Ask them to share the accounts they run, their favorite social project they’ve worked on, a post they are particularly proud of. Make that extra effort to view their work beyond what their personal account might look like. Because I promise you, I’d never post a slideshow with Christina Aguilera in assless chaps on your brand’s account. Well, unless you’d want me to.


Seemore Meats & Veggies is hiring a freelance social media manager—email tracy@eatseemore.com for details

Freelancers Union is hiring a Marketing Manager

The Farmer’s Dog is hiring a Social Media Manager

Lodge (makers of my favorite cast iron!) is hiring a Social Media Coordinator

DIG is looking for a Social Media & PR Manager

P.S. If you have any feedback about me including ads or partnerships in here, I’d love to hear it (good or bad)! You can respond directly to this email with thoughts.