Okay, yes it does. Just like every marketing and advertising strategy, you need to know where your audience is. You need to know where you’re targeting and what age groups are where. Given a recent study from the Pew Research Center, it’s safe to assume that if you’re targeting millenials, you’re going to find them on social media (83% of social media users fall in the 18-29 age range).
So when it comes to social media, you need to know your market. However, when it comes to who is crafting your strategy, there have been a flurry of ageist attack blogs and articles in the social media community from both ends of the spectrum, a particularly vicious one coming from Cathryn Sloane who argued that every Social Media Manager should be under the age of 25 in July of last year. Other articles argue that you shouldn’t hand your social media strategy to a 23-year-old, citing their inexperience and immature ways.
Look, I get it. Some out of college are inexperienced and immature. But conversely, some experienced professionals are out-of-touch and stubborn in their ways. Guess what? I wouldn’t hire either of them. I’d look at their accomplishments or fully listen to their ideas and choose from there. I think it’s so incredibly foolish to patently say, “You shouldn’t hire someone under or over x age, because their age group doesn’t know what it’s all about.”
I’m going to break down an article from Inc. written by Hollis Thomases that argues against hiring a 23-year-old as their social media manager, as well as Ms. Sloane’s article, picking out certain points and showing you why they just don’t hold up by using age as their argument.
1. “[A 23-year-old] may be focused on their own social-media activity. Because of the above, if you hire a young person to manage your social media, you may also need to need to worry about how he or she is actually spending his or her time. Will you need to be monitoring the person?” – Hollis Thomases
I’m sorry, this is a truly bizarre argument to base solely on age. Time management is an issue that knows no age limits. Certainly, your time management skills can get better with age, but there are plenty of people who never develop them. In my former job, I had 40-some year old coworkers watching ESPN at their desk, but I never heard HR say, “Oh, we can’t hire a 42 year old. They may be focused on the Sixers all day.” You know why? Because that’s a ridiculous argument.
Yes, 2o-somethings are active on social media. Yes, they’re more likely to focus on their presence. But the transitive property doesn’t apply here. Just because a 20-something is active on social media does not mean they are going to throw the rest of their work out the window so they can build up their presence. Besides, if you’re hiring a Social Media Manager for the right reasons, shouldn’t you want them to have an ear to the ground if they’re also getting their work done?
Employers worrying about their employees time management skills is always a concern among all employees. Not just their 20-something potential social media managers.
2. “After all, it is called social media; the seemingly obvious importance of incorporating comforting social aspects into professional usage seems to go over several companies’ heads. 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.” – Cathryn Sloane
Ugh. This made me cringe. Yes, there are a fair amount of companies out there who don’t totally “get” social media. Too many companies out there rely on “Like this if you like [insert something that everyone in the world likes, like puppies]!” to increase engagement. However, there are a lot of companies out there with brilliant social media strategies, and you can bet there are people “in the generations above us” who are either crafting or advising on those campaigns. Yes, sometimes really outstanding social media ideas and campaigns come from a twenty-something, or a group of twenty-somethings. But a lot of times, they also come from people older than 30. Or a mixed bag of ages.
3. “Communication skills are critical. Communication is critical to solid social-media execution. Before you let a young hire take over your company blog posts, take stock of his or her writing skills. Also: Many young people have not yet learned the “art” of communicating. Make sure they know how to read between the lines, rather than taking things too literally.” – Hollis Thomases
Please tell me that you wouldn’t let some 41 year old you hired just write and publish things willy-nilly before taking stock of his or her writing skills, simply because they’re over the age of 30. This is ridiculous. Yes, you should check what a 23-year-old writes before publishing it. You should also check anyone else’s writing. You should even have your writing checked. It’s called good publishing practices.
4. “You might argue that everyone, regardless of age, was along for the ride, or at least everyone under the age of 30. I’m not saying they weren’t, but we spent our adolescence growing up with 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.” – Cathryn Sloane
That’s like saying that because everyone in the ’90s grew up with computers that no one older could ever learn how to use them well. I guess their old, decrepit brains just can’t handle the speedy technology.
5. “Social-media savvy is not the same as technical savvy. Good social media requires a combination of both. Successful social-media management involves production requirements, tools, analytics, and other aspects of work.” – Hollis Thomases
Yes. This is absolutely true. And it has nothing to do with your age. Couldn’t you see this short-sighted point being in both this article AND Cathryn Sloane’s?
6. “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.” – Cathryn Sloane
Okay. I get the frustration here. I think there are a lot of people out there who are being unfairly disqualified because of ageist beliefs. However, to Ms. Sloane, I’d argue that she needs to find a reason to wow those employers with her own social media presence or her innovative social media ideas. If the employer is the kind of person you want to be working for, they won’t look at age as the determining factor for hiring. I also take issue with the fact that she thinks the candidates best suited for being Social Media Managers are those in their twenties. Yes, some of them are but not because they’re in their twenties. It’s because they have amazing ideas and incredible drive. And those 30-somethings who are kicking ass in those positions possess those same qualities.
Don’t hand over your strategy to a twenty-something OR a thirty-something OR a forty-something if they don’t have the results, character, and ideas to back it up. Do recognize good ideas and drive. If you wouldn’t hire that person to do your regular marketing strategy, don’t hire them for your social media strategy, either. Sometimes aging does grow a more valuable and experienced professional, but it’s not required for some people. Don’t miss out on a great candidate because they’re “too young” or, alternatively, because they’re “too old”.
And, on behalf of all twenty-something social media professionals out there, I’m really sorry about Cathryn Sloane.