My Social Media Career Is Not a Side Hustle

Managing paid Facebook and social advertising is an entire job in itself

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I’ve worked in social media for five years, and I struggle with imposter syndrome in the job I do every day. I struggle to feel like I’m doing a real job that’s as important as other marketing jobs. Words matter.

Suggesting that my full-time job could be someone’s part-time gig only perpetuates this stereotype that social media isn’t a real career—that anyone with a smartphone and some spare time could make a brand go viral if they wanted to.

Let me say it again: Running a brand on social media and posting a hot take on your own profile are not the same thing.

Recently an article was published on the “best side hustles of 2021” that included becoming a social media manager, freelance writing and copywriting as options for additional income in the new year.

As pandemic hardships continue, it’s a reality that many people will have to turn to side hustles to help solve unexpected financial struggles. But listing these full-time careers as side hustles is a problematic precedent to set and may cause more harm than help.

Full-time expectations with part-time hours

Just because I can make a solid omelette for myself doesn’t mean I’m going to call myself a chef.

Because of the outward simplicity of social media, companies often undersell the value of social media management leaving social with few resources while expecting better and higher results. Companies like Wendy’s and Slim Jim are so good at social media because they have teams of people dedicated to making it good.

Continuing the narrative that companies should expect one person to do this work and do it in half the time is setting that person up to fail. These unrealistic scenarios lead to burnout and unhealthy work boundaries that can take years to recover from.

Undermining the commitment

In a single day, social media managers reply and troubleshoot customer inquiries, research daily trends to understand what’s happening in the world, pull and analyze metrics, design relevant imagery, write captions and long-form content and strategize on future content as it aligns with the overall marketing strategy. 

That’s if everything goes right.

If things go wrong, the job also includes crisis communications, mitigating negative comments and managing internal approvals.

This doesn’t include the paid social media jobs. Let’s be clear: Managing paid Facebook and social advertising is an entire job in itself. Knowing how to test creative, align budgets and optimize ad bids is a skill people take years to acquire.

Perpetuating the stereotype

Whenever something goes terribly wrong or incredibly well on social media, people often shame or applaud the social media intern. Honestly, we’re all exhausted by being called interns. It’s a deep blow to those of us who consider this a career.

As a young woman running social, I’m often stereotyped for the work I do. By making assumptions about me and the work I do, people imply I don’t have to be taken as seriously. Even when I was starting out in this field, people would note that I should consider specializing in a different form of marketing because social media was a fad and not a dependable marketing job.

Promoting full-time jobs like copywriters and social media managers as a way to make extra money on the side diminishes the work we continue to fight hard to be taken seriously for. Making it into a joke is gaslighting our entire industry.

We’re entrepreneurs, writers, designers, community builders, grown career professionals and future marketing leaders with realistic expectations of the jobs we do and the industry we’re building. We’re also well-versed in tuning out the trolls.