A spirited debate is brewing online this summer, focused on a single question: What is the proper age and experience level for a social media manager?
The position– increasingly popular in the digital age– mixes content production, customer service, and public relations.
Some current college students and young alumni view the job as their birthright– saying it requires a knowledge base and skill set as familiar to Millennials as texting. Other “older” professionals with a digital bent are fighting back, claiming the position’s high visibility and snap decision-making make it dangerous for a company to leave in the hands of an individual who is inexperienced or immature.
A Facebook Inc. social media logo and a “like” symbol stand on display during a news conference at the Armani Hotel to announce the opening of a Facebook office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
A new piece for Time.com, headlined “11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media,” adopts the latter position.
Hollis Thomases, a digital marketing services company CEO, argues young people lack the basic netiquette, business savvy, communication skills, personal sophistication, and crisis management know-how to make them “capable of managing a business’s social media responsibilities.”
As he advises older employers, “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 . . . because ‘they’re really good on Facebook.’”
The viewpoint stirred incomparable levels of rancor and commenting. NextGen founder and editor-in-chief Connor Toohill says it is the most controversial post appearing on the site since its inception in fall 2010.
In the piece, fresh University of Iowa graduate Cathryn Sloane contends social media is a phenomenon embedded most intricately within the DNA of teens and young twentysomethings.
Their innate knowledge of its ins-and-outs, according to Sloane, makes them “the ones who can best predict, execute, and utilize the finest developments to come,” including in the workplace.
As she writes, “I do commend the way companies . . . have jumped on the social media bandwagon and recognized that it is the best way to connect with people nowadays. 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.”
From her perspective, individuals middle-aged and older do not fully understand what they’re doing on social media.
In her words, “No one else will ever be able to have as clear an understanding of these services [as younger people], no matter how much they may think they do. . . . 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.”
Soon after the piece appeared online, readers began fighting back. More than 600 comments (and thousands of replies and ‘likes’ for those comments) have been posted– many written by adults belying the perceived naïveté or inaccuracy of Sloane’s assessment.
As one woman tells her, “By my calculations, Catherine, you have about four years to establish yourself in a social media career, if that’s what you want, before winking out into insignificance (by your own admission). But, strangely enough, you just alienated every hiring manager you’re likely to encounter by calling them old and out-of-touch. . . . And, to top it off, you’ve either ignored or never experienced a corporate HR seminar that deals with ageism in the workplace, so rather than looking qualified and hireable, you look like a big, fat, walking liability. My goodness. How will you make it through the 40 years of career you’ll need to plow through after 25?”
In a follow-up post acknowledging the piece’s virality and controversy, Toohill confirms it even divided NextGen’s editorial board. But he reasons it is still a sentiment shared by many young people and deserves to be considered.
As he writes, “In conversations across college campuses and with young professionals, these ideas often come up: that young people naturally grasp social media more effectively, that members of our generation are best suited to fill positions in the rapidly expanding social media profession, and that employers too often value prior work experience above all else.”
A separate rebuttal from social media guru and University of Maryland professor Mark Story lays out several points he feels Sloane glossed over or left out.
Among them, as he explains to Sloane directly, “[Y]ou confused familiarity with using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter with the ability to turn that into offering actionable, solid communications advice for internal or external clients. There is a BIG difference between posting Facebook Timeline updates and telling General Motors what to do with their own social media presence in the midst of a crisis.”
The debate continues.
What do you think? Are students more innately gifted or out of touch when it comes to professional social media responsibilities?
Powered by Facebook Comments