How to use social media for your side hustle without demolishing your self-esteem

If you are working on a side hustle that you’re passionate about, it can be difficult to separate your self-esteem from your project when you use social media. 

You may find yourself obsessed with checking your stats for new followers, likes and web traffic. 

You may hurt like hell whenever you put hours into something and it gets no attention. And the one post you’re convinced will go viral probably won’t.  

You may believe that everyone else is more successful than you are as you compare yourself to others.

You may create imaginary rivals and enemies from supposed ‘competitors’. You may even hate-stalk them, seething at their every post.

All of this hurts, and almost everyone goes through this. 

There’s no easy way around this.

The reason why social media is so habit-forming to begin with is because it exploits your primal need to be socially validated. 

So here’s how to use social media for a side hustle without it shredding your self-esteem.

Act like a professional

Taking a professional approach to social media can help to keep the focus off yourself. I’ve worked in digital marketing for over 8 years, and I never get worked up in the same way as I do when using social media for a personal project.

At work, you are focused on your goals and supporting your team: you create a strategy, create relevant content, research hashtags and engage with relevant accounts. You batch create and schedule posts and leave your work at your desk.

Instead of refreshing your account every time you post for likes, you assess the performance of your content once a week (not every hour). And the main reason you track your stats is to gain actionable insights that you can feed into your future strategy and content. You definitely don’t use it as a self-esteem mirror.

It also doesn’t make sense to use insights from stats until you’ve produced and published a certain amount of content. There’s no point redoing your social media content strategy on the performance of 12 posts. So don’t give up until you have reached important milestones (e.g. published 50 posts, updated Instagram 3 times a week for 4 months, created one video for YouTube a week for a year).

In a workplace, you’re also incentivised to shout about your successes. While you may feel low for hours after a post gets no attention, in a professional environment, a post that does not perform as well as you’d like matters far less than the post that does

So don’t dwell on posts that don’t perform well and learn from the posts that do.

Your so-called “competitors” are also not personally threatening in a work context. They can help to inspire your content or to find relevant people to follow. They may also not be competitors at all, but people you can work with.

Wouldn’t treating social media like a professional make me a fake?

You may argue that treating your social media side hustle as a professional sucks the joy out of it, and that it comes across as fake. You may think it means nurturing a bland personal brand that’s selfish and always out there to get something from others.

But creating emotional distance from your work is not the same as being fake. It’s about being conscious and intentional about why you are using social media in the first place.

Whether you want it to or not, your personality will shine through and make your work unique. You cannot escape being you – and that is a wonderful thing. Unlike polished marketing departments, you already have the advantage of being authentic. You don’t have to manufacture it according to 20-point branding guide.

But it doesn’t stop there. When you take a professional approach, you learn that knowing how to use social media is a skill that you develop over time. It requires a lot of time, patience, consistency, even when there aren’t direct pay-offs. When you use social media, instead of beating yourself up about posts not performing as well as you’d like, focus on the fact that you’re developing a skill. You also don’t spend longer than you need to pining over posts or passively scrolling through your feed.

You can also focus on the joy that comes from doing: you may love writing, taking photographs, reaching out to fellow inspiring people and accounts.

If you are using social media for a side hustle, you are hopefully doing it because you have something to say, you care about it a lot and you want to help others. You are creating something bigger than yourself – so put your focus on what you’re trying to heal in the world, instead of beating yourself up.

You can still be authentic, honest and personal.

But the moment that the post is out there, you cannot control how people will respond to it. So take a step back and create a sense of emotional distance.

So here are some tips to for using social media for your side hustle as a pro:

  • Know your objectives for using social media (e.g. raise awareness, develop your writing skills, get commissioned etc.)
  • Know your target audience (e.g. women in tech, political journalists, people who love fitness)
  • Be consistent
  • Engage with relevant organisations and people, and enjoy being part of a community
  • Focus on the quality of your interactions and followers instead of quantity
  • Know how you will measure success (e.g. boost in web relevant web traffic)
  • Learn from your successes, but don’t dwell on posts that don’t perform
  • Review your stats once a week max
  • After a year, assess whether you need to use the social media platform at all (if not, stop putting your energy and resources into it)

You don’t need to write an in-depth social media strategy, but it’s useful to have a one-pager you can refer back to whenever you find yourself losing focus or having a meltdown over a post that got 3 likes.

Using social media for side hustles or semi-professionally can be more liberating and rewarding than using it for personal updates.

But it’s also a long slog and a lot of work. So you’ve got to be able to disentangle yourself from the emotionally manipulative design tactics used to keep people coming back.

So while it’s important to be authentic, it’s just as important to zoom out and touch in with why you’re doing this in the first place. Taking a professional approach to social media can help to take the personal sting out of the comparative and competitive spaces we use to express ourselves.

If you find using social media a slog, instead of a pleasurable and rewarding way of making connections and being creative, what tactics do you use for protecting yourself from social comparison?

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