Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that the world of work has changed dramatically in recent years. No longer does the traditional model of graduation-to-retirement employment apply.
Rather than remaining with a single company for most or all of their careers, workers today are becoming increasingly mobile, systematically moving from one opportunity to the next. In fact, recent estimates hold that the average American worker today will change jobs 12 times over the course of their career.
It’s not just that the contemporary workforce has become more transitory — it has also become more autonomous. This professional independence can be attributed in no small measure to the rise of the gig economy, which allows workers to take control of their professional destiny. This includes carving out their own niche as freelancers, independent contractors, and entrepreneurs.
So popular is gig work that the Pew Research Center found that, in 2021, nearly 9% of American adults currently or recently participated in the gig economy. It is perhaps no coincidence that the rise of the gig economy has coincided with the ascendancy of social media.
But what role, exactly, does social media play in the gig economy?
Connecting entrepreneurs to opportunities
If you’re working in the gig economy, it’s all about the hustle. The success of your business depends on your ability to make connections with prospective employers, clients, and partners.
Fortunately, making connections is what social media is all about. With these platforms, freelancers and entrepreneurs literally have the world at their fingertips.
Online job boards like Indeed, Monster, and ZipRecruiter aren’t just for aspiring full-time employees. Giggers can also use these platforms to find temporary contract work. Not only that, but would-be employers are also increasingly turning to these sites to recruit talented temporary workers.
Similarly, prospective customers and clients can easily locate the professional of their dreams by turning to specialized sites like Fiverr, Task Rabbit, or Experteer. Of course, consumers who want to connect with artisans and crafters only need to turn to the illustrious Etsy or Shopify to find the goods and the makers with which the Big Box stores simply can’t compare.
In fact, social media is proving increasingly powerful as a branding tool for freelancers and entrepreneurs. By cultivating a strong social media presence, the gig worker can enjoy continuous access to potential employers and customers. With social media, in other words, the next gig may be just one post away.
Cultivating your professional persona
One of the most significant advantages of social media for gig workers is that it enables prospective customers and employers alike to truly understand who you are, what you’re about, and what you can offer.
For this reason, in fact, many recruiters report that they now routinely delve deeply into the social media of would-be employees in order to make more informed hiring decisions. A similar concept applies to prospective customers and clients: no matter what kind of gig work you do, you’re not going to be hired if prospects don’t find you competent and trustworthy.
Cultivating that sense of trust, though, can be difficult if you’re operating outside of the traditional workplace, such as the physical office or even a brick-and-mortar store. However, by maintaining a positive, active, and engaged social media presence, potential patrons can develop as strong a sense, if not stronger, of who you are as they would face-to-face with you.
Making it work
As important as social media may be in connecting freelancers to the gig economy, it’s not without its challenges, the most significant of which may well be cybersecurity. If you are a “platform” worker, relying on digital infrastructures not only to connect with clients, partners, and jobs, then your career is also inevitably vulnerable to deficiencies within the system.
Addressing these vulnerabilities takes both skill and commitment. For instance, if you’re building a digital presence to launch and maintain your freelance career, then you need to have a plan for ensuring rigorous levels of data security and privacy, not only for your business but also for visitors to and end-users of your online platforms.
For instance, you might utilize encryption software and two-factor authentication to ensure that your clients’ data are secure when using your sites.
It’s also critical that you engage in the kind of cybersecurity practices that any social media user should deploy, whether they’re using the platforms for business or for recreation. For example, you’ll want to ensure that you’re always using secure Wi-Fi and password-protected technology to safeguard your company and your clients.
This is particularly important if you’re using popular social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram, platforms that may not necessarily be secure or private. If you are using social media to market or to sell your products online, it’s important to remember that platforms like these often act like vampires of user data, putting the onus on you to protect your clients’ information or to clarify for them how their social media data may be collected and used.
The popularity of the gig economy shows no signs of slowing down and it may well be that the proliferation of social media is helping to support this trend. Through social media, freelancers or giggers can connect with prospective employers, clients, and jobs.
They can cultivate digital personas that build professional relationships and grow business. Nevertheless, it’s imperative that gig entrepreneurs engage with social media consciously and carefully, with a strong emphasis in particular on cybersecurity and data privacy.