You Don't Have to be 25 to Work in Social Media

Aug 2012

I have to politely disagree with Cathryn Sloane’s article, “How Every Social Media Manager Should be Under 25”.

As a member of the 2012 college graduating class, I certainly can relate to the early beginnings of social media.  Every generation has its defining factors, and social media has definitely defined mine.  Facebook came out when I was a teenager and Twitter followed shortly after when I was in college. I clearly remember their inceptions and can appreciate how far they have come today.

I agree with Sloane on her argument that older generations are not social media veterans; Yes, we—the Millennials, Digital Natives, Generation Y or however you want to title us— have been using social media longer, but it does not necessarily mean we are better at it in a business setting.  Yes, it’s called “social” for a reason, but using social media in a professional setting—to market your business, establish credibility and engage your audience—takes an entirely different set of strategy and skills.

For example, I’ve used social media in personal capacities, and I also work in the Social Media industry.  As a Content Editor, I can say that what I’ve learned from using social media for personal recreation is not relevant at all to what I do for my clients.  “Liking” a friend’s status or commenting on a picture lends no skill of value when I am strategically creating content for my clients and working to build their communities and audience.

One advantage that we 22 year olds do have over the older generation, though it’s not a very sustainable one, is our dexterity with social media; We understand the layouts, know where the buttons are and how they function.  For example, if I am asked to highlight a post on Facebook, I wouldn’t have to Google how to do it, nor would I have to ask my co-workers how to create an event and invite people.  Social media is second nature to us, and this familiarity increases our productivity because we simply just know the technicalities of every platform.

But the older generations aren’t handicapped—they can easily learn all of this, albeit it might take a little more time.  It can take someone as little as a week to learn how Facebook works.  And sometimes, starting from a fresh beginning has its advantages (versus someone like me trying to change previous habits!).

Like a good business person, a strong social media manager possesses three basic characteristics: Experience, credibility and work ethic. And the fact of the matter is, the Generation X and the Boomers will trump any of us Millennium babies when it comes to work experience and credibility. They have just been doing it longer and have more credibility.

If I were a small business looking for a social media manager, I would seek out an agency with experience and a track record.  I would want to deal with a professional company who shows up to a meeting in business attire and not in jeans and an oxford.  I am looking for someone with sharp business acumen, who can explain his or her strategy, and who can give me an answer other than, “Well, that’s just how social media works.”

Sloane argues in her article that because our generation “grew up with technology”, it automatically positions us as better social media managers.  But I think that a successful Social Media Manager can’t just be boiled down to his or her age. Because  really, my 17 year old cousin has used Facebook his entire life, but he wouldn’t survive one day at my job.

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