A Response to: 'Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25'

AugieRay1
Augie Ray Director - Global Voice of Customer Strategy, Fortune 100 Financial Services Firm

Posted on July 23rd 2012

A Response to: 'Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25'

Over on NextGen Journal, a young woman named Cathryn Sloane has kicked up a lot of dialog with a blog post entitled, "Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25." In it, she complains about companies that post social media job openings "looking for five to ten years of direct experience" and asserts that "the candidates who are in fact best suited for the position actually aren’t old enough to have that much experience."

I was going to respond to Ms. Sloane but then I realized I already had. Three years ago. When she was a sophomore in college.

In July 2009, I wrote a blog post about a social media blunder caused by an intern, and I urged companies to consider the importance of social media and the need for mature, experienced leadership. I was going to edit my old blog post to update it just a bit, and then I realized I didn't need to do so. While the social media world has matured in the intervening years, the need for true leadership and not just social media familiarity (which Ms. Sloane fails to recognize are not mutually exclusive) has not changed. In fact, it has increased.

So here is my response to Ms. Sloane, written three years before she wrote her her own blog post:

Caveat Emptor: Do You Know Enough to Buy or Hire Social Media Expertise?

 
Caveat Emptor is Latin for "Let the buyer beware." It is a call for purchasers to become informed and use due diligence before completing a transaction. If you're a marketer, this is a call you should take very seriously before contracting with a Social Media agency or hiring a Social Media specialist. Care is required if you don't want your brand to end up in the headlines for the wrong reason, as has European furniture maker Habitat.

We've been through this before. A decade ago, with the power of search engines surging, the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) became evident to marketers everywhere--and they had no idea what to do about it. The Internet was still new and some were yet debating its importance, so the ways of managing a brand's searchability and findability were unfamiliar and strange to marketers accustomed to print ads and FSIs. They, of course, turned to "experts" (either external agencies or new hires), but many had no basis upon which to evaluate that expertise. Disasters ensued.

This brings me to one of my favorite stories of my Internet career. Many years ago, a client asked my agency for an SEO proposal. Their goals were lofty--they wanted the top spot for several very common search terms. We responded with an appropriate proposal based on the best practices of the day; it was not inexpensive, nor did we promise the top spot on Google.

We lost the contract to an "SEO agency" we'd never heard of that was cheaper and made promises to match the aggressive (and unrealistic) goals set by the client. You can probably guess the rest of the story--within months, the black hat tactics used by the other firm (such as hidden text and link farms) resulted in our client's site disappearing from top search engine databases.

This story returned to mind as I read about the trouble in which Habitat has found itself with Social Media spamming. As described on Mashable, the furniture maker was caught seeding Twitter's top trending terms as hashtags into tweets promoting a sweepstakes for those who would join Habitat's email list. If you are reading this post and didn't understand that last sentence, then this should be a very clear warning sign to proceed with caution when contracting for Social Media services or hiring a social media expert, because this action proved to be a PR disaster for Habitat.

With dozens of blogs with tens of thousands of readers complaining about Habitat's spamming of Twitter, Habitat was forced to apologize. The company's note to bloggers said, in part:

The top ten trending topics were pasted into hashtags without checking with us and apparently without verifying what all of the tags referred to. This was absolutely not authorised by Habitat. We were shocked when we discovered what happened and are very sorry for the offence that was caused. This is totally against our communications strategy. We never sought to abuse Twitter, have removed the content and will ensure this does not happen again.

In this case, the error in judgment was not made by a johnny-come-lately fly-by-night Social Media agency (although it could've been) but by an intern.

One of my biggest gripes nowadays is the mistaken belief that I have heard repeated time and again in a form similar to this: "Young adults are so clued into Social Media, so we're going to hire an intern to handle Social Media for our brand." Again, if you are reading this blog and have found yourself thinking an intern is the solution to close the Social Media gap in your organization, this is another warning sign to proceed with caution and seek expertise where you need expertise. Social Media is the most important change in human and marketing communications in a decade, and trusting your brand's presence and reputation to the maturity, expertise, knowledge, and judgment of a 22 year old is as dangerous as it sounds.

Habitat found this out the hard way. Not only did they leave an important marketing channel to an intern, they also completely failed to monitor this channel or their employee. It is evident no one was subscribed to and keeping tabs on the company's own Twitter feed, or if they were, they lacked the Social Media wisdom to recognize a truly horrible and painfully apparent Social Media mistake.

Habitat's reputation has been stung. There have been thousands of tweets and blog posts accusing them of being spammers and exploiting some of the most sensitive and timely situations in the world--including the Iranian elections--for their own gain. Tweets in just the last five minutes as I type this include, "We've seen your apology, but telling us who didn't post them doesn't tell us who did post them. Why did Habitat let this happen?" and "Are u kidding me? @HabitatUK gets an intern to work on the Twitter acc. with no clue and then get rid of him?"

Much like brands stung by improper SEO tactics in years past, the use and abuse of Social Media can result in the kind of disasters that cost money and harm brands. How can a marketing organization with little or no Social Media expertise prevent this from happening? The solution is actually very simple; it's just not necessarily cheap:

  • Get smart now: Social Media isn't hype and it's not going away. Social Media isn't just important to your business, it is your business. Just like today, when every employee and leader is expected to be conversant in the Internet, it will soon become required that every employee understand the best (and worst) practices of Social Media. The quicker you and your organization can get there, the better. This will require both a personal and professional commitment to learn for many marketing professionals.
  • Recognize what you do not know: Knowing what you and your organization do not know is the first, important step in determining how to address Social Media challenges and opportunities. Many organizations have embraced Social Media and are prepared to do it themselves or to apply their knowledge and experience to buy or hire the skills they need, but other organizations are still in the shallow end of the Social Media pool. If you find yourself thinking that the biggest need your organization has is to launch and participate in Twitter and Facebook, then you should take a step back and take time (or find assistance) to define your organization's need before jumping to vendor or candidate evaluation.
  • Recognize the importance of Social Media: A company that recognizes how important Social Media is today and will be in the future does not leave it to an intern or an agency that was founded six months ago and consists of three people. The significance of Social Media to your brand's future and the caliber of the strategy and support needed by your enterprise may become evident when the organization's leaders understand Social Media's growth and future potential.
  • Finally, hire what you really need: I mean no disrespect to the many young people who are active in Social Media both personally and professionally, but most brands wouldn't hire a young adult fresh out of school to manage their media strategy, their brand strategy, or digital strategy. The same should be no less true of Social Media strategy. Mistakes can be costly, and the way to avoid mistakes is to find professionals who not only understand Social Media but also have the appropriate seasoning to know the marketing, legal, PR, brand, internal, and competitive implications of their decisions and actions.

Mistakes are costly and unnecessary, so it is vital that marketers make smart decisions. Finding someone with the ability to tweet is easy; finding the right agency or employee to furnish insight, judgment, and experience in Social Media is not. Securing the maturity and experience your enterprise needs might be the difference between a Social Media presence that builds your brand's influence or destroys it.
 

AugieRay1

Augie Ray

Director - Global Voice of Customer Strategy, Fortune 100 Financial Services Firm

For six years, I have researched, analyzed and blogged about Customer Experience (CX), social media marketing, social business and the collaborative (or sharing) economy. I welcome your feedback on my posts here on Social Media Today or my blog at ExperienceTheBlog.com.

My background includes more than 20 years of experience in digital, brand, customer experience and social business. Currently, I am the Director of Global Voice of Customer at a Fortune 100 Financial Services firm. Prior to this:

  • I led social business at USAA, a firm recognized for its innovative use of communities and social customer care within the financial service industry.
  • Consulted and published analysis as a Forrester analyst covering digital marketing and social media in the Bay Area.
  • Led a diverse $9-million agency team with specialties in digital development, digital experiential marketing and community strategy.

I am passionate about monitoring current trends and understanding what they mean to marketing, product development, customer care and other corners of the enterprise. I continue to evaluate how new mobile and social behaviors and technologies are combining to change fundamental attitudes about the way we select, purchase, consume and share products and services. The future will bring a great deal of innovation that offers opportunities to organizations that are agile and willing to cannibalize their own business models (but it will severely challenge those organizations that cannot.)

See Full Profile >

Comments

wendyweb47
Posted on July 23rd 2012 at 4:56AM

Great feedback to the notion that only people under 25 can successfully manage social media. As someone whose been successfully active online since 1995 I would have to say that my experience gives me knowledge that a younger person doesn't have. That experience gives me more ideas and inspiration to draw upon when coming up with creative ideas.

I really think age shouldn't be a factor in making a decision about who to hire to do your social networking. Firstly, does the person "understand your brand" - do they understand what you're trying to convey and are they aware of your corporate culture? Secondly, what are their successes and their failures? Failures aren't always bad - they can be learned from - but if the person doesn't learn - that's a problem. Thirdly, does the person keep themselves educated about changes in social media so they are up to date? And...do you communicate well with them and like working with them.

As the old saying goes "age is just a number".

 

 

Samuel Junghenn
Posted on July 23rd 2012 at 5:01AM

I agree in principle with your article, age (young or old) should not have a direct impact or influence on the selection criteria for a social media position.  The decision should be made on relevant experience, proven understanding, results and education.

Finding someone with 10 years experience in Social Media these days just isn't possible, and appointing someone with brand experience to a social media role who has no social media experience would equally be as bad...

...At the end of the day, like all hiring decisions it's got to be a skill based equation

halilusman
Posted on July 23rd 2012 at 8:32AM

i have been in PR and communications for close to ten years now, but my knowledge of social media is still at its most basic. the truth is companies should hire people with communication experience and tech servy especially as it concerns SM. Blending the two will resolve the age limit issue.

AugieRay1
Posted on July 23rd 2012 at 10:15AM

Samuel, you don't think it's possible for people to have ten years' experience in social media?  That is, in part, the problem with people under 25 leading social media--they think social media means Facebook and Twitter and that social is somehow new.  Eighteen years ago I was a community manager on Prodigy. Sixteen years ago I was active on Usenet boards. Ten years ago my agency team launched an online social game where people could share their scores and challenge their friends (via email) to beat their scores.  Eight years ago that same agency team launched its first online community for a client. Social isn't new, and the fact most 25 year olds think so is part of the problem. 

That said, you are correct--the issue is not, cannot and should not be about age.  It should be about experience getting things done within corporate structures. Experience winning over the trust of senior execs and board members who are in their 60s and more interested in advoiding risk than embracing it. Experience overcoming the challenges of gaining support in highly siloed organizations. Experience leading not with ideas but with risk mitigation and structure. Experience with compliance, labor and legal issues. Experience overseeing seven- or eight-figure P&Ls. Experience leading teams, inspiring and motivating others. 

The issue isn't about age. It's about the knowledge, skills and experience--and all of that comes with years, I'm afraid.

Let me ask you this: Who makes the best mentor for someone fresh out of school?  Someone who's 25 or some who has decades of experience working and succeeding in the corporate world? I rest my case.

 

 

AugieRay1
Posted on July 23rd 2012 at 10:18AM

Great points, Wendy.  You say age shouldn't be a factor, and it probably is worth noting that age cannot legally be a factor (at least in certain age groups) since that violates the law.   All of this is about the things you list--experience, not age!

Alex Woodward
Posted on July 23rd 2012 at 11:25AM

Totally agree with you Augie - especially about social media not being all about facebook and twitter. I started in 'buzz marketing' as we called it then, over 10 years ago, well before facebook and twitter were around, using news groups, forums etc.

Often where social media efforts go wrong is where they don't apply basic principles of marketing (or business in general) because they are under the impression that just becuase it's relatively new everyone behaves completely differently. The same sort of falicy was around when the internet bubble grew. However, maturity often shows you how to approach any new challenge where as youth just gives you energy!

A good response to a silly article.

AugieRay1
Posted on July 24th 2012 at 10:39AM

Thanks, Alex. Obviously, I agree.  It's the "business in general" part that I particularly think people fresh out of school won't yet know.  My concern isn't just that young people need time to learn marketing but that they need time to learn about legal concerns, brand issues, how to get things done inside a corporation, how to justify larger budgets, how to measure success--you know, all that sloppy stuff that takes years to understand.  

Kent Lewis
Posted on July 23rd 2012 at 11:29AM

I appreciate taking the proactive stance and responding to Cathryn's short-sighted article. I completely agree with your position and have taken my own approach to addressing concerns in your article (and in the comments) regarding balancing social media management and leadership experience in these articles:

Why You Should Fire Your Social Media Marketing Manager
http://blogs.imediaconnection.com/blog/2012/02/08/fire-your-social-media...

Social Media (Marketing) Evangelist Job Description
http://blogs.imediaconnection.com/blog/2012/03/10/social-media-marketing...

AugieRay1
Posted on July 24th 2012 at 10:40AM

Thanks for sharing the links, Kent.  It's rewarding when you can asnwer someone's silly post today with things you've written in the past!

Kent Lewis
Posted on July 23rd 2012 at 11:30AM

I appreciate taking the proactive stance and responding to Cathryn's short-sighted article. I completely agree with your position and have taken my own approach to addressing concerns in your article (and in the comments) regarding balancing social media management and leadership experience in these articles:

Why You Should Fire Your Social Media Marketing Manager
http://blogs.imediaconnection.com/blog/2012/02/08/fire-your-social-media...

Social Media (Marketing) Evangelist Job Description
http://blogs.imediaconnection.com/blog/2012/03/10/social-media-marketing...

ChrisSyme
Posted on July 23rd 2012 at 1:50PM

Only people with the right experience can navigate social media for a brand.Anybody can navigate their own personal social media, but that doesn't equate to managing a community. Using that same logic, I guess I could manage a groucery store because I know my way around my local Albertsons and could help another customer find an item. Yikes--expertise doesn't know age. Thanks for the thoughts. Young people need to work their way up the ladder just like the rest of us did. Technology is not age-specific either. 

BilalJaffery
Posted on July 23rd 2012 at 3:32PM

Well said. I've been preaching this for a while. What you need are the folks focusing on 'web/digital' during the pre-social era and actually observed the disruption startegically. They are the ones who realize that every fad has lots of snake oil sellers chasing it and those who can truly distinguish the difference betwen fluff and the real thing are worth $$$.

Tools/Platforms die day in and day out. Your intern might be familiar with public-free tools around social but they will not be able to connect the dots into actual 'business'. Social is fun but when it's your job, it's not so much. ;)

You don't let an intern deal with analyts or do 'actual' corporate communications, why do you insist that it will be done by your cheapest resource in the company?

It just tells me your organization really doesn't understand digital strategy (which encompasses everything in my humble opinion).

Regards,

Bilal Jaffery

http://earnedweb.com

 

AugieRay1
Posted on July 24th 2012 at 10:49AM

Thanks for all the smart dialog in this thread. You're right--technical skills are the easiest to teach.  But there is no susbstitute for experience when it comes to earning trust, developing judgment, learning from mistakes and building relationships. 

Ray Bryant
Posted on July 23rd 2012 at 3:47PM

Augie,

Great post.  

I find it interesting that people believe "technical" skills (e.g. FB, Twitter, etc) are the most important attribute of a SM Manager.

Most people can pretty quickly learn how to use tools, but the experience necessary to understand how to apply those skills in an appropriate way that best serves the business can only come with age and experience.

We could liken this to a surgeon.  Straight out of medschool, a surgeon has all the tools necessary to perform surgery.  However, what he/she does not have is the experience of surgeries going bad.  What do I do in this case?  How do I handle this particular problem?  What is the best way to manage the nurses when this goes sideways?  Etc.  Which person do you want operating on you?

In many cases, I contend that organizations would be better off hiring someone with robust business experience and limited SM skills.  The technical chops can be developed pretty quickly.  Hard-won experience takes a lot longer.

 

BilalJaffery
Posted on July 24th 2012 at 9:31AM

And let's be frank here, twitter isn't a technical tool. We aren't asking for SysOps BBS management skills these days.

 

 

AugieRay1
Posted on July 24th 2012 at 10:47AM

Thanks Ray.  Funny you mention the surgeon analogy. I just replied to someone else using a "younger and less experienced" doctor as an example, and then I read your reply.  Great minds think alike.  :)

kimrandall
Posted on July 23rd 2012 at 3:51PM

I think that this could be two-fold to be honest. If you have all of the knowledge and experience working Online, but aren't creative and embracing of new technologies popping up then your company may be better going with a younger, less experienced however more hungry under 25 year old. We all started somewhere, somehow. I am neither under 25 nor just getting started Online, but I do see many people that are experienced both in marketing and the Internet that I would never let near my own company due to the lack of creativity and hunger. 

Perhaps someone younger and less experienced MIGHT be good for your company if you can find the perfect fit. w

BilalJaffery
Posted on July 24th 2012 at 9:33AM

A right fit is a right fit, no matter the age. I would definitely not hire a 'comms/pr' new graduate for this though. That's why I have an issue with schools teaching social media (hint: how to use wordpress/twitter) vs. actual social science behind communities and how it has always related to the actual business.

 

AugieRay1
Posted on July 24th 2012 at 10:46AM

Kim, when you go to the doctor, do you want someone "younger and less experienced"?  And if you were hiring someone to represent your brand in an important new medium--a person who you are staking YOUR career on--would you really go with "younger and less experienced"?  If so, good luck with that!

I'm afraid experience matters in anything important, and for companies, getting social media right is important.  When I hire--and I do!--I don't want someone who merely grew up with the medium. I want someone who can demonstrate they can get things done, understand metrics and have a proven record of success. 

Mallamibro
Posted on July 23rd 2012 at 11:59PM
I quite agree with the writer! Being a techie is only one part of the game! Matured knowledge of the organization's ethical standards, business policies, target audience etc are equally, if not more important for effective management of an organizational Social Media account. Though i wouldn't like to take it solely from the angle of age, i'd better say maturity and adequate knowledge of what tool to use, how to use it, are very important! Being a Social media freak who lives and wakes on the pages of some tweet or post simply isn't enough qualification to be assigned an important task as projecting an organization to the wider world!
AugieRay1
Posted on July 24th 2012 at 10:57AM

Good points.  To every corporate leader who would hire a young person to run social media "because they grew up with and are so engaged with it," I'd ask them if they would also hire a 21 year old to run their mobile strategy with the same logic?  (Answer: No.)

socialmarvels
Posted on July 24th 2012 at 10:46AM

Hello. I've been working in Social Media, SEO, SEM, Web Development, and display advertising for six years now. I started at 19. I'm 25.

 

First - I think this girl just wanted a job or justification for one. Her entire article just reads like a blog post should - an opinion. She thinks social media is current and young people are on top of trending information. She is right, but that is like declaring that people with cars go faster than people on bikes. Its irrelevant and common knowledge and misses a bigger picture.

Second - By writing the article she started a little debockle. Good for her! She made social media work for her. Seems like she might know what she is doing, but whats her next move? What is the point? If you can't figure it out then the article to me is more or less a rant. I can't honestly figure out the cause of writing it if not prospecting for a job, asserting themselves as another expert or guru (which personally I think clouds the space and ruins the authority of others), or just lighting a fire.

Third - You mentioned an example where an intern made a mistake. With age comes experience. No argument there. I've learned from many people and am thankful for all my experiences. 

But if you don't let them learn and make mistakes how will they advance and grow? By bringing that mistake up you're inadvertantly stating that young people are more prone to screw things up. If someone thought that about me I would've never gotten a fair deal.

I wouldn't have made SocialMarvels.com or work at multiple agencies. I would've been scared of people like you and intimidated that the space is owned by more experienced professionals. I would've thought there was no room for people like me.

In the beginning I thought like you - I thought her piece was unnessecary and pointless. But after reading your article I think I understand a bit better. That article is a shield protecting her from judgment. 

Judgment I'm definitely guilty of - as are all of us.

 

AugieRay1
Posted on July 24th 2012 at 10:53AM

I think you misinterpret.  She didn't say that people under 25 should be allowed to work in social media. They absolutely should, and I have worked with many bright and capable young adults.  What she said is that EVERY social media MANAGER should be under 25, and there I think it is easy to disagree. 

I'm glad you gained experience and recognize the value of it. If you are a better professional today than six years ago, just imagine how much more capable you'll be in six years. And six years after that.  And six years...

The point of my article wasn't that companies should not hire those under 25, but that companies need maturity, experience and judgment when it comes to hiring a social media leader to manage the corporate strategy and presence in social media. 

cblauer
Posted on July 24th 2012 at 10:51AM

A couple thoughts here:

Traditional agencies struggling to make the transition to digital don't place the 'value' of social media within the context of experience - they look at cost. I have worked with numerous agencies who simply do not know how to price/monitize the service. Therefore, they hire interns. They're going for volume and 24/7 action.

Digital tends to be the domain of a younger demographic, and this is a young medium, working with established clients. Bridging the gap takes experience. Learning the hard way doesn't do either party any good. Someone always gets hurt if you shoot from the hip.

carizoch
Posted on July 25th 2012 at 10:22AM

 I agree that someone on the social media team should probably be "in touch" with the millenials and therefore fairly young, but to run a social media department takes much more marketing knowledge than just social media skills. Someone can tweet all day long and never accomplish anything without some strategy behind it. I'm a firm believer that social media is part of the larger marketing initiative and should be seen as a piece of the puzzle, not a stand alone element. Is that 25 year old going to understand how to generate demand from social media in addition to building relationships? Will they be able to get a true ROI? Will they even know how to measure success? Possibly, but in a large organization where millions of dollars are on the line, I'd be hesitant to put my entire social media strategy in the hands of a recent college grad.

Michal Lusk
Posted on July 25th 2012 at 1:43PM

Excellent, thought-provoking article, and many pertinent responses. I think it boils down to wisdom vs. tech-savvy. Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge, and is gained through experience and time. Tech-savvy can be gained relatively quickly through intensive study. With some effort, one can become proficient at using tools without possessing the wisdom to know what to do with them. I prefer to do my social interacting face-to-face and don't really like Twitter. But I can quickly learn to use Twitter as a tool. Then I need to filter the tool-use knowledge through wisdom and experience to figure out how to use it to best advantage and add value to my community.

AugieRay1
Posted on July 27th 2012 at 12:16PM

 

"Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge, and is gained through experience and time."

Great comment, Michal.  The irony of all this is that I just wrote a new blog post on the ways people can get fired using social media.  After I was done, I realized that all the examples I cited (and I think I have around 18 of them in the blog post) were from people under 25.  Yes, they are social natives, but that comes not just with a level of comfort with the technology but also an inability to recognize the ramifications as this new medium comes crashing into the world of traditional communications, laws, compliance, brand risks, and corporate structure.  In the end, I wondered if my latest blog post didn't make the case against the "under 25" social media manager as much as this one did!

Here's the link, if you're interested: 

http://www.experiencetheblog.com/2012/07/from-olympians-to-interns-7-ways-to.html

MightyCaseyMedia
Posted on July 26th 2012 at 5:58PM

Social media is communication.

If you find someone who is 25 years old, and a highly effective communicator, then by all means add them to your social team. Leading that team, however, will call for a level of discernment and (dare I say it?) maturity that means you've got to be at least 30-something.

Until you've blown something up, you don't know what the cost is. Taking an entire enterprise's brand equity down the rabbit hole with an poorly thought out tweet-flight is the very definition of immaturity. Just ask Habitat ...

Although even at my advanced age of [redacted], I know 50-somethings who haven't learned that lesson yet.

AugieRay1
Posted on July 27th 2012 at 12:12PM

"Until you've blown something up, you don't know what the cost is."  Amen!

It's funny, none of us really likes to talk about our mistakes, but it is the lessons we learned when we failed that help us to succeed when we're older.  That's what experience is all about.  I appreciate your comment!

chasl
Posted on July 26th 2012 at 6:29PM

Augie-

I think you hit the nail on the head with your original post as well as your response to the comments of the individuals with dissenting opinions.  The truth is that the Social Web has been evolving for decades now, and there is value in having someone with depth and breadth of experience with not only Social Media, but Marketing, Communications, and PR as well.  

I know some folks under 30 who have some relevant experience accross the board, just as I know some individuals who are over 40 who I wouldn't hire.  I think Sloane was fishing for work, or is simply venting from some recent rejection.  Although that is just speculation on my part. Thanks for the post.  I think you echo the sentiment that is pervasive across the industry today a number of organization rushed to hire 20 something hipsters a few years ago when they thought "New Media" was actually new, when in actuality it's simply version 8.8. 

@ChasL

 

AugieRay1
Posted on July 27th 2012 at 12:10PM

ChasL,

I'm sure Cathryn was like fishing for work, and you know what--I hope she's successful!  I still wouldn't hire her to be a social media manager on the corporate side (at least based only on what I know from this blog post), but I'm sure an agency would be happy to hire a young woman who knows how to create that much dialog in social media!

 

Thanks for the input!

dean guadagni
Posted on July 26th 2012 at 6:38PM

Augie,

You nailed it- great post! I think this young woman was influenced by her ambition to write an article that would be controversial enough to provide her some recognition. I also believe that today's job market is so bleak for many people, iincluding graduating college students, that she may have been influenced by fear.

The bottom line is that today's Millennials see examples, daily, of very young entrepreneurs creating success and wealth at a very early age. Their success (Zuckerberg etc.) may often create a unrealistic set of expectations for those watching from a distance. Her biggest mistake may have been her idea that 25 yr olds should entitled to these position simply because of their age- reverse age discrimination?

In our Boomer generation, you had to pay your dues within a corporation. Your education and experience were the factors that helped you advance. Without the internet, entreprenurial opportunities were not nearly as abundant. At the same time, the job market for Boomers (back in our day) was much better than today.

The truth is whether you are 17 or 77 if you are the best person for a job then you will, and should, be chosen for that position on your individual merit- not the number of years you spent on the planet.

AugieRay1
Posted on July 27th 2012 at 12:08PM

Dean,

 

I recall the feeling of 13 years ago and seeing some of my contemporaries making a great deal of money in the dot-com boom, so I can sympathize with Cathryn looking at someone like Mark Zuckerberg and thinking every 25-year-old can do the same thing. The problem is, they cannot. Not everyone in my generation is Jeff Bezos, and not everyone in the generation before me is Bill Gates!

In the end, I agree with you--age should not matter.  Except, like it or not, it still does within most corporations. Social is at at a critical stage when budgets are multiplying and senior execs need to know they have a leader that can handle the risks, budgets, personnel issues and peer networking that is required to succeed. I'm sure a lot of SMBs will be willing (and should be willing) to put their trust in younger people with energy, ideas and untested skills, but very few Fortune 500s will and should be willing to do the same.  Sometimes, gray hair matters--not because age is important but because experience is. 

Thanks for the comment. 

MrsSaraSweeney
Posted on July 26th 2012 at 6:45PM

Well, maybe she didn't read your blog because the title "Caveat Emptor" is above the average American 8th grade reading level...and I'm sure you know that web content should never exceed an 8th grade reading level, right? Well, what do I know, I'm just a 26 year old social media coordinator who is still in school, right?

Just giving you a hard time, I do see your point, but I also see her point. Excluding a person for a job by age is usually not a good idea, what if your company hired a seasoned, experienced and educated person with no ingenuity and creativity for the web? That could be just as dangerous to your brand. A person may be a quick learner with a good head on their shoulders, adept to take on social media no matter their age or formal education. I do think age brings with it wisdom and care, but a simple sit down and social media voice-chart can iron out concerns easily. 

AugieRay1
Posted on July 27th 2012 at 11:59AM

Sara,

First of all, Carpe Diem!   :)

Second, I don't think anyone was suggesting that companies hire unqualified but older individuals. That certainly wasn't what I wrote in my blog post.  

The issue here is not that age matters but that experience does. I probably have more tweets and a higher Klout score than the vast majority of 25 years olds, and so what?  That shouldn't qualify me for a job unless someone wants to hire a person who knows how to post 140-character messages. (That is not a very unique qualification, nowadays.)

What does matter are things like this:  Does the candidate have experience deploying and measuring programs?  How do measurements different for different social media programs with different goals?  Has the candidate managed people before, and how have they handled difficult personnel situations?  Has the candidate had experience earning trust from the C-suite?  Has the candidate managed a seven- or eight-figure budget before?

Those are the questions that matter, and there are very few people under 25 who can bring a lot of experience to their answers.  The ones that can, should definitely be considered for the job.  And older people who cannot, should be excluded.  It's as simple as that (but I know which age demographics will tend to have more people who can provide the right answer to those questions, and it is not those under 25.) 

TerraSpero
Posted on July 26th 2012 at 8:02PM

Or...maybe it could easily be responded to with a post about the "entitlement generation" - yes, of course, you are a recent college grad, under the age of 25, since you have used this platform to talk about your drunken college nights - and high school slumber parties - I should absolutely trust you to handle my organizations social media.  Great idea!

AugieRay1
Posted on July 27th 2012 at 11:52AM

I do think this generation gets plastered with the "entitlement" label too easily.  After all, we all thought we knew the score and could do a better job than everyone with 30 years more experience back when we were in our 20s.  The fact is, with age comes some wisdom--and I don't think Cathryn showed much of that in her post. 

Filip Galetic
Posted on July 27th 2012 at 4:46AM

This debate really belongs in the category of "which religion is better" or "is my political view more valid than mine?". Younger people typically lack the understanding of the scope a misplaced post can have for an organisation. Not every company is Generation Y, tell-it-like-it-is and that can be hard to grasp for a young energetic person who had been thaught "being yourself" is gold.

AugieRay1
Posted on July 27th 2012 at 11:50AM

Filip,


First of all, my political view IS more valid than yours!  (That's a joke.)

I actually don't think this debate is as subjective as what you're suggesting. I would never suggest that a 25 year old is never the right person to lead a social media team--that depends on the company, the audience, the demands of the job and the qualifications of the 25 year old.  However, I think it's very hard to argue that experience matters in every other field except this one. That's a pretty objective way of thinking about it that, I believe, raises this the subjective topics like politics and religion.

Thanks for the comment!

tuusensational
Posted on July 29th 2012 at 10:51AM

This is a very important article for several reasons. First of all we can all see the ads for social media "certificates", degree programs etc. on the web. Social media will advance so quickly that a degree cannot keep up with it. Being in the trenches, personal study and research and a high degree of maturity (emotional and social) are more important than most requirements employers usually list.

 

Second, hiring in digital media cannot be based on a set of criteria that are unrealistic in a digitally-changing environment. What can be expected as a standard of performance in most fields is inapplicable in digital communications. For once thing, skill and the ability to use words, images and reaching a desired audience and a peripheral one as well, are exactly that: skills. Not everyone knows how to communicate, do it within ethical and intellectual parameters, and be effective for the client. Yes, there are 25 year olds and 15 year olds who can do this. However, this is not a given within the population.

I am 66, by most reported standards I do not use social media, I am too set in my ways, too crusty and resistant to change (at least that's what some reports say). But I'm writing this and someone is reading it online.I'm also a social media manager for a nonprofit as well. You never really know who will be the best online communicator. Social media effectiveness requires a knowledge of the subject matter, its intended audience and the word skills to attract their attention. It is not a 9-5 job. It is ongoing, constant and requires a vast amount of humility and diligence to learn, re-learn and persist in trying to perfect the messenging process. You can be 5, 15, 25 or 65 and succeed if your temperament and self discipline are good enough to learn and keep learning.

I do not spend all day on Facebook,  Tweeting or telling everyone my deepest thoughts or what I had for lunch. But in some environments that's what works. In mine, it doesn't. Know your audience, where do they get their information, how do they talk/write/communicate. When do they login and on what. Do they watch or read. What will keep them coming back and what will get them to share your site. These are the requirements for being an effective social media manager, not an arbitrary one like age, degrees or coming from a particular university journalism or marketing program.

eberger
Posted on July 27th 2012 at 11:28AM

In 2005, I would have agreed with Cathryn. Now that social media MARKETING has come into wider play in response to more demographic segments embracing and using social media, it is a moot question. To get good results, managers have to come up with answers to the right questions, "Who am I trying to reach" "What is my (measurable) goal?" "How does Social tie into the rest of my plan?” "What platforms do I use?" and most importantly "How do I approach shaping my content to best engage my target audience in context with accomplishing my goals?” That is just smart marketing. Anybody, no matter what age, who can answer those questions and translate that into an action plan, is a capable social manager. In one sense, Cathryn has a point. "Under 25's" drove social initially, and as tech continues to transform social into mobile, and tie platforms together through apps and HTML5 (check out the iPhone “Twist” app that ties your calendar, your phone’s GPS and texting together) there are always certain folks who will be at the forefront of innovation. However, I would call those people “heavy users” “innovators” and “smart marketers” – and in that sense, age is not a determinant of competency, in social marketing, or anything else. 

AugieRay1
Posted on July 27th 2012 at 11:46AM

eberger,

 

Thanks for the comment. In the end, I agree it isn't about age, but I think experience always matters.  And, even in 2005, I still think companies needed to think about the questions you noted--goals, metrics, etc.  

BTW, you said that "under 25s" drove social initially, but that isn't uniformly true.  On Twitter, middle age people tended to adopt it more quicky while younger people took a bit longer to warm to it.

In the end, as you say, it's not about age--it's about experience!

eberger
Posted on July 27th 2012 at 12:11PM

Your column was the best I've read on this subject, neglected to mention that.  On driving social, I framed that notion within more of a MySpace/Facebook-centric context.  In the early, formative years, I was skeptical on "social" in the face of all the hype.  It seemed the whole thing was about "hooking up," which I completely understand (and remember) was "subject numero uno" back in my teens & twenties.  Part of that is a sharing of self and projection of identity, values, tastes (music) etc. which in those user environments shared easily as common denominators. If you look at the entire specturm of social back then, the exponential growth and virality was a reflection of that mindset.  As you correctly point out, Twitter was not initially an under-25 thing, and neither is LinkedIn, even now.  (Pinterest...still moms/housewives?) As someone who just does not "get" FourSquare, I would defer to "experts" to give me some examples of how that's been successfully deployed, and how it might function well withing the framework of a plan.  I'd guess most of that opinon would come from, let's be more generous...the "Under Thirty" crowd!

Carrie Robinson
Posted on July 27th 2012 at 2:13PM

Really enjoyed this blog and the comments. Young people are smart and saavy but do lack some critical thinking that comes with experience. My son and I have worked together on social media projects and our combination of experience and thinking makes for great teamwork -- we cover all angles on projects. We have learned a lot from one another and we are a win-win combo. Thanks for a great read.

Holly Kolman
Posted on July 28th 2012 at 8:54PM

Thank you for this important perspective, Augie. I am a firm believer that interns and junior people have a lot to offer on the social media front. They have great ideas (an intern came up with "Thank You Thursdays" in a networking group I frequent), and they bring an energy that can ignite a social media campaign.

The problem, in my opinion and yours, is that they have less life experience and are less likely to do things like check with legal before making outrageous claims, or possibly starting contests without approval, or making jokes that seem innocent but can trigger a backlash.

In all fairness, many older business owners do the same thing if they don't have experience in this area.

One tactic that might solve the problem is to use a scheduler such as Hootsuite that has an approval function built in. The intern/junior person gets a separate login as a member of the team, and the login is different than the main social media logins (i.e. the Facebook Page or Twitter account). This process creates a safety net to ensure a more senior manager can catch potential mishaps before they happen.

This system only works if the overseeing manager is responsive and doesn't let the posts pile up. 

Have you tried this? How did it work for you?

AugieRay1
Posted on July 30th 2012 at 12:40PM

Holly,

 

At USAA we did a version of what you're suggesting--posts and tweets were discussed and scheduled so that we had more than one set of eyes on them. That said, there still is no process that is more important than judgment and experience.  Also, while an approval and collaboration process is great for pre-planned posts, that tends to fall apart when it comes to real-time replies and comments.  We all know social media demands real-time interaction, and we can't slow everything down for layers of approvals. 

ConnieUrway
Posted on August 13th 2012 at 1:54PM

A blog post I actually read from start to finish with anticpation, because I'm a seasoned job seeker with dual talents and education in Organizational Development and Social media and Word Press blogging.  

Your dead on truths and perceptions clearly spoke to me.  I've have personally applied to Social Media jobs and wondered if my experienced profile defines my age instead of talents.  Here's my solution on this great topic of hiring too young or too old:  Balance of nature.

 For example, my 18 yr. old daughter and friends do not feel  or wish to tweet on Twitter.  Personally, she feels Twitter is for older people and Facebook meets their needs for social engagement----for now.  However, she and a friend created a music blog and with the occassional tweet they use Twitter.

Again, thank you for writing this post. You verified and confirmed my skills in O/D with blog creation skills and knowing my way around digital space, would more than benefit an organization, plus knowing what I know from my teenager and friends, companies are out of touch and somewhat discriminatory, evetnually causing a wind funnel to nowhere in Social Media space.