20 years ago (holy cow, I wish I wouldn’t have said that out loud!), I had a job at a small advertising agency in St. Paul. I worked as a proofreader (and very part-time copywriter) at this agency. As a result, I interacted with the designers and art directors from time to time. They were wonderful people. In fact, a couple of them turned out to be pretty good friends. But, they faced one constantly brutal challenge:
Everyone had an opinion about their work.
I had seen this before, obviously, in previous jobs. But it hit me a little harder when I saw friends going through it first-hand. Everyone thought they knew better when it came to the design world.
And, in 2021, I’ve had a similar feeling recently–and I’m hearing it from a lot of friends in the business, too:
Everyone has an opinion when it comes to what to do about our company’s social media work.
It’s easy to see why, really. Most (if not all) of our colleagues across our companies are social media users. They have Facebook accounts. Instagram accounts. LinkedIn accounts. They use these platforms ranging from sporadically to frequently.
And, as a result, some of these colleagues have strong opinions on what the company should be doing on social media.
My design friends are nodding their heads. They’ve seen this movie before. Many, many, many times.
But, for us social media consultants, strategists and managers, it’s relatively new. Mostly because social media, itself, is still pretty new. I mean, social media didn’t even become a thing in corporate American until about 10 years ago. But, today, in 2021, it’s much more normalized. And, people have caught up to the early adopters. Many more people are on social media than there were 8-10 years ago. As a result, we have more opinions about our work now.
Because everyone is an expert.
It was bound to happen, wasn’t it? People see what the company is doing on Instagram. And since they spend a fair amount of time on Insta, they have an opinion, too.
After all, we’re living in the “hot take” era. So many hot takes.
So, this is a relatively new challenge for social media folks. How do we handle it?
The same way the designers have been.
Listen to, and acknowledge each person’s feedback. Most of them mean well. They just want to help. Listening and acknowledging go a long ways. Obviously, you don’t have to take every person’s advice (unless it’s the CMO or CEO, then you’re kinda stuck). But, you do have to listen. It’s our job.
Also: reset your expectations. Gone are the days when we can expect to operate autonomously. We’re going to get input and feedback on our work in 2021. Get used to it. And, be ready for it. That adjustment can make all the difference.
Finally: Kill ’em with kindness. Some people might come at you hard and fast. They might even get aggressive. Resist the urge to be defensive. It’s tough, but being defensive, I’ve found, is the worst route you can take. It just leads to bad outcomes. Instead, kill ’em with kindness. Listen and acknowledge, as I said above, and do it with a smile. You might be surprised how that can disarm someone. Pretty tough to get aggressive with someone when they’re listening and smiling!
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