Why Working in Social Media Sucks

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An excellent post here by Brett and a feeling that resonates very deeply within me. Over the last twelve months, I have noticed a significant increase in the number of individuals referring to themselves as “Social Media Consultants” or “Socail Media Specialists”. Many people seem to think that rebranding themselves as a social media guru is a fast and easy to make a lot of money. It certainly is not.

Just because you manage your own social networking profiles, surely it is the same deal to manage the social profiles for a business isn’t it? It certainly is not.

Working professionally within social media, is by far one of the most demanding and stressful jobs in the world. What most social media consultants earn in relation for all the hours and effort they put in, is very small compared to many other professions. Brett presents a perfectly position 12 reasons why being a social media consultants sucks.

  1. The pace can be overwhelming. Your social media knowledge, your connections, and your published content all quickly become obsolete – and constantly need upgrading. If you get slightly unplugged for even a month or two, by accident or by choice, you’ll have missed out on some fairly major developments… and you’ll have to scramble to keep up.
  2. Social media friendships can be demanding. The larger you grow your network and the more online presence you have, the more well-meaning people will randomly request and demand things of you. You’re hit with more emails, more interview requests, more offers to get together pick your brain for the price of a coffee, more stories to vote on, more mindless chit chat to respond to – or else people will feel snubbed.
  3. Success is ephemeral. You can be rocking the socks off of the social media world and cranking out the content and new connections like an Uzi – but the second you take your finger off the mouse trigger, people will forget about you pretty quickly. They’re all after the new guy, the new site and the new trend.
  4. It’s very competitive and there’s no barrier to entry. Every man, woman, and child with a Facebook account is now a social media consultant. No matter how much time and effort you put into researching your technique, content and presentations – you will still be competing for gigs against the hot girl with 6 months experience or the “Senior Social Media Manager” at some big company with 39 friends. Even if you’re honest and straightforward about the extent of your knowledge (or lack thereof), you’ll still have to compete with sales hustlers and shameless self-promoters who might not be.
  5. It requires lots of unpaid overtime. Social media is really fun and glamorous when it’s just for kicks, but it can to feel a lot different when you’re “working it” on the other side of the bar. In addition to spending 30 to 40 hours a week on profit-producing business development and client contract tasks – I usually spend an additional 30 to 40 hours writing content, managing my blog and responding to comments, reading RSS feeds and commenting, building accounts, helping with my friends / connections, following links on Twitter. When you’re feeling it, it’s still fun, but when you’re not – it can feel like a grueling overtime burden that eats into your nights, weekends and your business workday.
  6. Some people expect you to know everything. No matter how intensely you study and practice your social media skills, clients will need help or guidance in areas that you just don’t know anything about. If you are honest about what you don’t know – some clients will think less of you, and will look for an full-service “agency” who claims to know about “everything.”
  7. Egotism is rampant. Independent social media consulting requires that you build up a strong “personal brand” – or professional superego. The emphasis on status, self-promotion and cult-of-personality brings out the ‘worst’ and most self-serving parts of some people. I’ve met some snobs, hob nobs, and megalomaniacs who would probably feel more at home at coke parties, socialite society balls, or on American Idol – had they not discovered social media.
  8. Social media is unpredictable. No matter how good of advice you give, or how much time you put into content or a campaign – sometimes it just doesn’t catch on. This can leave you biting your nails and leave the client doubting your skills. A designer can guarantee they will deliver 3 design proofs within 30 days – but a social media consultant CANNOT guarantee even the best content or ideas will be well received by the community. The volatile nature and fickleness of the community cause a lot of stress and pressure to work overtime when something doesn’t “catch on.”
  9. The pressure to “sell out” is intense. At the low end, there’s tons of cool companies and people who need help – with $500 budgets. But the ones willing to pay good money to consultants are usually huge corporations. Sometimes, but not always, they have uncool products and services that aren’t a natural fit for social media – but they’re hungry for a way to ‘leverage the new media trends for profit.’ Consultants need to get paid – and it can cause both parties to ‘fall in love’ based on incompatible needs – and end up in awkward, uncomfortable professional relationships.
  10. The pressure to “have no life” is relentless. Working non-stop through evenings, weekends, holidays and the wee twilight hours are all fair game – if you want to even try to keep up with the rockstars on Twitter and the digerati on Digg. If you are determined to keep your work contained within a normal workday or workweek – you may find yourself at a huge competitive disadvantage because many of your peers are willing work much, much more.
  11. Clients want results, not strategy. In theory, you can just offer people “consulting” or advice. But to keep clients paying each month, they usually have to see successful results. This often can’t be outsourced or whipped up – it often requires the client’s full, active participation and willingness to change their business culture. Many of them aren’t willing to actually follow the only strategy (involvement and active participation) that will likely provide them with the results they want. Catch-22.
  12. You can never stop hustling. No matter what level you make it too, you can never kick back and coast along – earning passive income as a consultant. If you’re not hustling and making enough noise that people don’t forget about you – you’re not getting paid and you’re sinking. If you’re a natural-born power networker this can be exciting – but it can quickly get fatiguing for some personality types.

Social Media Consulting is Hard, Hard Work

There are some incredibly hardworking, almost superhuman people who have made a good name for themselves and provide excellent value as social media consultants. Who have set things up so they make good money without being on a hamster wheel 24/7.

But for every one of them – there are dozens of people who will try, fail and get ground into dust by the intense pressures and unique challenges that new media presents. I think there are a lot of ways to make a living with your passion for social media – but the consulting model is one of the most demanding, least stable and least lucrative ways. It can be a lot less glamorous than it may seem from the outside – so go into it with open eyes. And make sure you really, really love the extra hustle that that social media adds to the networking and self-promotion demands that all types consultants face.

The Generation M Manifesto

(via Umair Haque)

Dear Old People Who Run the World,

My generation would like to break up with you.

Everyday, I see a widening gap in how you and we understand the world – and what we want from it. I think we have irreconcilable differences.

You wanted big, fat, lazy "business". We want small, responsive, micro-scale commerce.

You turned politics into a dirty word. We want authentic, deep democracy – everywhere.

You wanted financial fundamentalism. We want an economics that makes sense for people – not just banks.

You wanted shareholder value – built by tough-guy CEOs. We want real value, built by people with character, dignity, and courage.

You wanted an invisible hand – it became a digital hand. Today’s markets are those where the majority of trades are done literally robotically. We want a visible handshake: to trust and to be trusted.

You wanted growth – faster. We want to slow down – so we can become better.

You didn’t care which communities were capsized, or which lives were sunk. We want a rising tide that lifts all boats.

You wanted to biggie size life: McMansions, Hummers, and McFood. We want to humanize life.

You wanted exurbs, sprawl, and gated anti-communities. We want a society built on authentic community.

You wanted more money, credit, leverage – to consume ravenously. We want to be great at doing stuff that matters.

You sacrificed the meaningful for the material: you sold out the very things that made us great for trivial gewgaws, trinkets, and gadgets. We’re not for sale: we’re learning to once again do what is meaningful.

There’s a tectonic shift rocking the social, political, and economic landscape. The last two points above are what express it most concisely. I hate labels, but I’m going to employ a flawed, imperfect one: Generation "M".

What do the "M"s in Generation M stand for? The first is for a movement. It’s a little bit about age – but mostly about a growing number of people who are acting very differently. They are doing meaningful stuff that matters the most. Those are the second, third, and fourth "M"s.

Gen M is about passion, responsibility, authenticity, and challenging yesterday’s way of everything. Everywhere I look, I see an explosion of Gen M businesses, NGOs, open-source communities, local initiatives, government. Who’s Gen M? Obama, kind of. Larry and Sergey. The Threadless, Etsy, and Flickr guys. Ev, Biz and the Twitter kru. Tehran 2.0. The folks at Kiva, Talking Points Memo, and FindtheFarmer. Shigeru Miyamoto, Steve Jobs, Muhammad Yunus, and Jeff Sachs are like the grandpas of Gen M. There are tons where these innovators came from.

Gen M isn’t just kind of awesome – it’s vitally necessary. Why?

The crisis isn’t going away, changing, or "morphing". It’s the same old crisis – and it’s growing.

You’ve failed to recognize it for what it really is. It is, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, in our institutions: the rules by which our economy is organized.

But they’re your institutions, not ours. You made them – and they’re broken. Here’s what I mean:

"… For example, the auto industry has cut back production so far that inventories have begun to shrink–even in the face of historically weak demand for motor vehicles. As the economy stabilizes, just slowing the pace of this inventory shrinkage will boost gross domestic product, or GDP, which is the nation’s total output of goods and services."

Clearing the backlog of SUVs built on 30 year old technology is going to pump up GDP? So what? There couldn’t be a clearer example of why GDP is a totally flawed concept, an obsolete institution. We don’t need more land yachts clogging our roads: we need a 21st century auto industry.

I was (kind of) kidding about seceding before. Here’s what it looks like to me: every generation has a challenge, and this, I think, is ours. It’s Gen M’s job to foot the bill for your profligacy – and create, instead, an authentically, sustainably shared prosperity.