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Dealing With Unsolicited Social Ideas From Bosses and Coworkers
When you work in social media, everyone has “ideas” on how to do your job.
“Oooh interesting. Let me think it through!”
Every single person who works in social media has a version of this line. It’s what we respond with when someone at the company suggests an idea for a social post. The perfect response validates that you heard the idea, but keeps it loose enough that there’s no promise it’ll actually happen.
I really don’t know if any other department gets suggestions like a social team does. Because the role is so public facing and because every person consumes social media themselves, there’s a feeling that they too know what’s best. “We should do something with corn kid!”, “Can we post this photo on International Women's Day?”, “Let’s make a Reel with my dog and our product”. The list goes on. The intimation always being (or at least feeling like) “I could do what you do”.
To be clear, I think collaboration within social media is so important! But oftentimes these suggestions or ideas are fired off on Slack or drop-by desk conversations. They aren’t brought up in productive brainstorms or presented in a realistic, thoughtful way. It’s a tricky situation to navigate so I spoke with a few other social professionals (all will remain anonymous) to get their thoughts and put together a helpful step-by-step action plan for the next time this happens to you.
“Ask them to explain how this fits into organizational priorities and goals”, said one person. “I also just keep a list of best practices in my pocket all the time. It is EXHAUSTING.”
Another person has put a whole process in place for this. “I've often enacted a ‘mini-brief’ so even quick asks, 'ideas', and bandaid social are all put through a turnaround that works for you and the asks. I write out the 4-6 needs for the ‘idea’ that they then share via email. I've found that this process (even being a 10 min one) detracts from unnecessary wild west ‘ideas’ and impractical suggestions, and then keeps real-time opportunities moving!”
“First of all, I remind myself that they’re probably coming from a good place. People think the social manager at their office is a cool person with a cool job (they’re right), and want to get in on the action,” another social pro DMed me. “Second, I always lead with an affirmation. Sometimes that’s all their looking for—a nod that they’re in the know and have good ideas. ‘Wow, love this!’ or ‘Thanks for the tip, I hadn’t seen this,’ can do a lot to get someone off your back. If someone comes to you again about the same suggestion (eg: a boss), I try and find a way to compromise and offer to try it out, even if I know it’s going to flop. That way you’ve got data to show them that you can’t do that thing anymore. Saying ‘test and learn’ makes your boss’s brain buzz in a good way.”
Data is clearly important: “Always having data in your arsenal to prove your point or support theirs. Numbers don't lie. If they want to keep trying a content pillar and over and over it underperforms you can show them physical numbers.”
A more sneaky approach is this: “When I get direction I’m not into I always try to repackage the idea in some way I hate less. Only a really bad boss would say ‘no’ to an objectively better idea so I always just try to find one. Or I’ll offer an entirely different angle/approach to distract them from their idea and get them thinking we riffed toward it together!”
Another person uses IG Stories as a compromise, “When we get unsolicited ideas from our boss we say we will discuss with the team and see if it fits with our strategy—or if worst comes to worst, there’s always IG Stories.”
From both my personal experience and the above conversations, here’s an action plan for when a boss or coworker suggests a social idea:
Set up a process or series of questions that help the coworker or boss elaborate on their idea so it feels actionable. Some example questions: “What goal does this ladder up to?”, “When do you imagine this going live?”, “Are there additional resources?”, etc.
Once the suggestion or idea is more clear, take a beat to think through it on your own. During this time you can always tweak or reformulate the idea so it’s something you’d actually want to post.
If the idea is in a good place, pitch it back and move forward.
If you come to the conclusion that it’s not a good idea, don’t be afraid to explain why and be sure to use data to back it up. Sending an article or internal analytics always helps!
And when all else fails, create a group chat with your friends who work in social media so you can share some of the ridiculous suggestions you get. A quick vent is almost always necessary.
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