'Hindi kami intern': Why social media managers should get way, way more respect

I've been part of the team behind Rappler's social media accounts for nearly 6 years now, and before that, I took care of social media for a few big brands in a digital ad agency. Like any job, social media management has its share of myths and misconceptions, but the one I want to dispel the most is that the job is super easy, or purely entry-level, or just intern fodder. 

In fact, the latter is what gets my goat the most: When a moderator makes a particularly clever or biting post or tweet, commenters assume it was done by an intern. "Ang galing naman ng intern ng Rappler!" (Rappler’s interns are so good!)

And while I have so much respect for our interns, who at Rappler are most certainly not coffee makers and gophers but are set out to do hands-on journalism themselves, it still frustrates me that many people still assume the job isn't something for learned, skilled professionals with actual years of experience.

The past few years of orchestrated, professional disinformation networks have also given people who work in social media a bad rap – and rightly so. I write this piece for all social media managers except for these people. I will never have respect for those who willingly shut off their conscience and play around with the nation's psyche as if it were a video game with no real-world consequences. They are trolls, and they have thrown their ethics and morals in the trash. 

Okay. Now that I've gotten that rant out of the way, allow me to list two big reasons why people who manage social media accounts should deserve way more of your respect:

The job takes a psychological toll, and only those with mental fortitude really prevail.

Social media management is not just a matter of posting something and then letting it be. It's a job that requires you to engage with a ton of people every day, and especially in the case of news outlets and some big brands, a lot of these people are angry, foul-mouthed, vindictive, illogical, and uncooperative. (READ: Why worry about Filipinos online being 'most ignorant?'

At this point, trolling news outlets, as I've touched upon earlier, has become par for the course. But regardless of how prevalent this has become, it will always be psychologically taxing to face such vitriol day in and day out, and in the case of Rappler, to sometimes face off with these naysayers with the right facts and data – showing our readers that we won't let misinformation slide, and energizing others to do the same. (Fortunately, in Rappler's case, the issue of our mental health is always a valid concern to our higher-ups, but I can't say the same for other news agencies.)

As for social media workers who manage brands, I think it's very important to understand that the person you're shouting at on Twitter over shoddy internet or the wrong delivery is not actually the one at fault. Yes, they are meant to represent the brand, and it is every bit your right to air your grievances about this brand's services or products through that account, but directly insulting the poor person managing this account is not going to fix anything. State your problem with as much detail as possible, and demand accountability and results, but don't call the moderator names just because their boss is a money-grubbing, heartless jerk. (Call the money-grubbing, heartless jerk those names instead.)

The job requires creativity, quick reflexes, adaptability, and plenty of knowledge.

From the Angkas moderator's hilarious clapbacks, to every news outlet moderator who finds clever ways to inform people about crucial issues, managing a social media account takes real skill.

You need to be the kind of person who is sharp to what makes people tick, and is smart enough to know how to parse a message to the right audience at the right time. In fact, a lot of moderators are essentially writers; they have a knack for language and tone, and are good at being consistent with a brand's or company's character. Crafting a social media post is exactly that: An exercise in technique, and it's one that not every person can do. Furthermore, you have to be able to write the right way while on your toes; social media is unforgivingly fast, and the best opportunities can just zip right past you.  

You also need to be an information machine. This is especially true for moderators in news outlets. You have to read and be familiar with all kinds of issues, both past and present, to ensure that the information you deliver is accurate, substantial, and given the proper context. There should be multiple tabs in your head filled with all sorts of stock knowledge: timelines of news events, geographical areas, names and positions of public officials, etc. You should know right away who used to do what with whom, and where, and why, and this applies to all kinds of topics, from the Supreme Court to the PBA to K-pop.

And finally, you need to be comfortable right away with how fast social media platforms spring up, evolve, and die. It's not a job for people who like routine. In just the past year, for instance, Facebook has gone through algorithm changes and released a whole slew of new ways to play around with posts and videos; Instagram has made its Stories feature far more interactive; and Twitter has enforced massive purges and rule changes. A social media manager can do things a certain way one day, and then have to have a completely new strategy the next day if they want to survive. Your mind is always racing, always making sure you're not getting stuck in a rut. (READ: Twitter announces action against politicians' rule-breaking tweets)

Hopefully, the above has given you a glimpse of the complex and challenging world most social media managers thrive in. Upon hearing the job title, it's easy to dismiss it as "pa-Facebook-Facebook lang" (just scrolling through Facebook), when in reality it is a respectable profession that requires intelligence, talent, and pluck.

Social media, an easy job? An intern can only dream. – Rappler.com 

Marguerite de Leon

Marguerite Alcazaren de Leon heads Rappler’s Opinion section, and is (happily) wrangled into voice over and hosting work. She has been with Rappler since 2013, and also served as its social media producer for 6 years. She is also a fictionist.