The donut hole of social media

It’s Monday and my twitter stream is filing up with tweets from business people just getting into the office and tweeting out news and links that I’ve been seeing all weekend. These folks work for companies that shut down on Friday afternoon and come back into work on Monday. For most who are connected into twitter, these tweets are really, really, really old news.

Social media works 24/7/365. That means nights and weekends. And it is creating a donut hole for small to medium-sized business, making them seem out-of-touch instead of connected. Follow me on this.

For twitter to work well, someone has to be at the switch pretty much 24/7. The old adage, “A lie will make its way half way round the world before the truth even gets out of bed” is fairly accurate. Ask Dominos, Amazon, Target or any other brand that has suffered a twitterstorm (though less in vogue nowadays) if they wished they worked weekends. Amazon does, but their lawyers don’t, at least not for the normal day rate.

For one-man shows like most of the twitter and social media elite, social media is not an issue. They are on 24/7/365 anyway. The cost of their labor is cheap and they are able to monitor their brand whenever, wherever it is being discussed. They are also the ones quick to berate brands for not responding sooner, by not making their brand more human, etc, etc. For the very large brands who have money to staff up 24/7/365, the issue goes away just by making someone a Community Manager and staffing up a department.

But for small to medium-sized companies, we’re out here kinda screwed by the Social Media donut hole. Sure, you can hire someone to be “on call” and mandate they check the social media accounts regularly on evenings, weekends and early mornings and many will gladly do it, relishing their flexible work conditions. But, as anyone who has ever work “flexible hours” knows, it becomes apparent that the flex is all about the flexibility for the company, not the employee. If flex favored employees, then they would have the option of NOT being available to respond.

And resentment builds and somebody somewhere has enough of being taken advantage of and calls in a State labor board who has an entirely different view on what constitutes “working hours.” That flexible position that you created in response to the market need quickly becomes about the most expensive you’ve ever created with lawyer fees, labor board responses, unemployment hearing and eventual back taxes and overtime pay. What you see as flexibility, the State see as indentured servitude.

The current expectations of social media are unsustainable by small to medium-sized companies. In response, most just do nothing as the return is not worth even the labor investment. And labor laws are not flexible enough to make human 24/7/365 social media monitoring a viable option for many. Some resort to automated response which exacerbates the issue in the minds of the social media purists.

I’d love for some of our brands to be more real-time with social media, but until labor laws catches up with the real world realities of the modern workplace, those social media plans are on hold. Monday mornings will just very busy here.

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