The Wrong Fight: Social Media Management Is Not About Age

From what I can tell, the dust-up over the proper age for a social media manager started in July, with an article on NextGen Journal by recent University of Iowa graduate Cathryn Sloane.  Her article, “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25,” asserted that, since people her age have grown up with social media, they should be the ones who are in charge of that function professionally as well.

The response to the article was overwhelming – to the point that the title was referred to as “link bait.”  If so, it worked. (Just Google “Cathryn Sloane” to see for yourself.)

Most of the comments criticized the author’s “arrogance” and “sense of entitlement,” quoting statements such as this one:  “To many people in the generations above us, Facebook and Twitter are just the latest ways of getting messages out there to the public, that also happen to be the best. . . .The specificity of the ways in which the method should be used is usually beyond them, however.”  And this one:  “Yet, every time I see a job posting for a Social Media Manager/Associate/etc. and find the employer is looking for five to ten years of direct experience, I wonder why they don’t realize the candidates who are in fact best suited for the position actually aren’t old enough to have that much experience.”

The War of the Ages was on!  Inc.com published an article by Hollis Thomases, president of a digital marketing and advertising service company, that presented an entirely different point-of-view.  Entitled “11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media,” it seemed to challenge Ms. Sloane’s position directly:  “Just because you don’t understand social media doesn’t mean you should forfeit all common sense and hire your niece, nephew, or any other recent college grad (say, your best friend’s sister-in-law’s kid) because ‘they’re really good on Facebook,'”  Ms. Thomases says and goes on to enumerate the reasons why she thinks this is not a good idea.

Her post also generated lots of criticism, as well as a response by Lauren Rothering, PR and social media coordinator for a Wisconsin PR agency.  In “Why millennials should handle your social media,” published in PR Daily, Ms. Rothering asserts that millennials are creative, trustworthy, individualistic, more familiar with social media and more mature than Ms. Thomases gives them credit for.

Stop, please!  My head is hurting!  The main thing about social media is not the method, or even how it is used.  It’s whether or not it fits into a company’s overall public relations/marketing strategy.  Each social media platform is a tactic for reaching and motivating a particular audience – one that is important to the success of a business or nonprofit organization.  Like any tactic, it should be used as part of an overall strategic plan to advance the goals of an organization.

Now that can be done by someone in their 20s or even 60s, but whoever that person is should have the overall communication strategy as the driving force behind their activities.  They also should have some experience in crisis communication, since social media can be a double-edged sword, with negative comments or postings traveling the globe in a matter of hours.

Take Ms. Sloane.  As numerous others have noted, she never responded to any of the criticisms of her article, as is usually done in this type of post and as others writing about her have done with critics of their posts.  She has “virtually” gone into hiding.  She had an opportunity to start an interesting “social media” conversation, but chose instead to essentially strike and run – not a good move for anyone wanting a job in social media, where monitoring of comments and reputation management are essential.

Maybe she will do so in a future article.  She should; that her article caused such a long-lasting stir shows she has a flair for writing that gets read.

Posted by Margot Dimond

 

 

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