Resourcing out-of-hours social media

When I wrote about how charities are missing out on valuable conversations on Twitter that take place out of hours and that they need to be flexible when it comes to managing their social media accounts, what I didn’t address was how exactly charities should be doing this.

I didn’t address it because there are very few charities that actually have an out-of-hours policy in place. I spoke to a number of social media managers, and it’s evident that apart from a few of the larger charities such as the RNLI that have a dedicated out-of-hours policy where staff work rota shifts and claim TOIL, the majority undertake out-of-hours work without any kind of guidelines in place. However this is only one part of the problem. Many charities only have one person dedicated to managing their social media and sometimes this is part of an even wider communications role, so a rota type policy simply wouldn’t work for them.

Many said that they did out of hours because they understand that social media is not 9- to 5 and, being digital people, they do it almost out of a passion for their job. Whilst this is commendable, it’s not sustainable. Charities have a duty of care to their staff and as such they do need to address this issue. Sadly, some said that their managers still don’t see the value of social media and are actually unaware of the out-of-hours work involved.

This needs to change.

Facebook and Twitter have been around for over 10 years now, so it’s imperative to address this issue and stop burying our heads in the sand. If senior managers are unaware of the out-of-hours work and the value it adds, then it’s up to those responsible for social media to bring it to their attention and offer solutions.

Five ways charities can address out-of-hours social media work:

1.) Have it in job descriptions and pay accordingly. Just as many press roles have out-of-hours duties in their job descriptions, so too should social media roles. If this is a requirement of the role, then pay should be reflected accordingly and expectations of the role should be clear and transparent at the outset. Of course, this solution works best if there are at least two people in the social media team or who have social media as part of their role.

2.) TOIL (time off in lieu). Again, this only really works in practice if there is more than one social media person as any accrued TOIL is unlikely to be used. The problem with being under-resourced is that there is no one to cover when the social media person is off, so TOIL is rarely taken. Whilst this is an option, it’s not advisable.

3.) Paid out-of hours. Whilst it’s not the ideal scenario, this could work for those who are one-man social media bands as at least they would be paid for the out-of-hours work they are already doing. Of course, work/life balance and issues of burnout still need to be considered and addressed accordingly.

4.) Flexible working hours. To me, this is by far the best solution for managing out-of-hours work. Social media managers should have flexibility over the hours they work – just as social media is not 9 to 5, neither is their job. Any social media manager will tell you that engagement on social media during the week is at its peak early morning (as people commute to work) and between 7pm to 10pm and over weekends. One charity told me that they see more engagement on social media on a Sunday than any other day of the week. It makes sense, therefore, to let them manage their own hours accordingly and fit their seven hours a day around these peak times. Of course, this will also require a flexible attitude from the charity to allowing staff to work from home.

5.) Trained staff. Social media shouldn’t just be the remit of the digital/comms/social media team or person. Everyone who works for a charity should be trained in how to use it for their own personal brand, their professional development, and to help amplify the charity’s work through their personal social media accounts. Macmillan is a great example of this – all staff are encouraged to have personal, yet professional, Twitter accounts where they can increase the reach of the charity’s fundraising events, policy work and key messages by retweeting from the Macmillan account or posting their own tweets. The more staff that are trained in social media (or at least in moderating it) means that those directly responsible for it have more flexibility in order to take TOIL or work in an out-of-hours rota shift.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to resourcing out of hours social media, but you should find that one of these options applies to your charity, no matter how big or small your social media team is.