A few days ago, a young woman by the name of Cathryn Sloan created a bit of controversy with her post on NextGen Journal entitled, “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25.” In her post, Cathryn points out the she and her peers were in high school when Facebook and Twitter became hugely popular, which allowed them to grasp an understanding of how these networks operated.
The truth is that I am not much older than Cathryn at 30. In fact, we’re both Gen Ys. However, we greatly disagree on who is best suited to manage social media.
We were around long enough to see how life worked without it but had it thrown upon us at an age where the ways to make the best/correct use of it came most naturally to us. No one else will ever be able to have as clear an understanding of these services, no matter how much they may think they do.
Oh really Cathryn? While many young Gen Y’s are super-users of sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, the fact is that it is not normally 40-somethings that post pictures of themselves dancing on tables with margaritas in their hands as profile pictures when they claim they are on social media for business purposes.
Knowing how to use a tool and understanding how to “strategically” leverage that tool are two different things. Managing social media is not strictly about knowing what buttons to push or even how to engage other users. It also includes understanding how to respond to trolls, upset employees/customers and crisis control. Those are skills developed through experience; something most 25 year olds lack. At 25, most of us were smart, but not nearly as smart as we thought that we were.
You might ask yourself, “What do I have to lose by hiring a young 20-something?” Great question. Just ask Red Cross’ Gloria Huang who in 2011 accidentally tweeted, “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer…. when we drink we do it right #gettingslizzerd.” Luckily, Red Cross quickly discovered the error and issued a humorous apology.
For another perspective, check out Augie Ray of SocialMediaToday’s post, “A Response to: ‘Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25′”
The rules of engagement online are exactly the same as offline. Users build relationships on social networks the same way that they would in the real world–over time and with follow-up; by caring about contacts; by sharing information and adding value.
At the end of the day, being a young twenty-something should not exclude anyone from the opportunity to manage social media. However, it is only fair to point out that a 25 year old will have limited real world experience, much less than a Gen X (whose generation INVENTED social media) or even a Baby Boomer.