Too old or too young to run your brand’s social media?

Well, I guess someone had to say it. Check out this post:

11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media. 

I’m not sure what’s more amusing – the audacity of the post itself or the tirade of self-righteous protests it elicited from its intended targets – which ironically serves to prove the author’s point.

Let’s remind ourselves that this is not an unprovoked assault. This is the inevitable response to the gauntlet that had already been thrown down by the NextGen-ers here:

Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25

Let’s remind ourselves that the context for this debate is that the employment market is on its arse. Youngsters and oldies alike are vying for a piece of the same woefully inadequate supply of positions out there, each as frustrated as the other that employers are either valuing brand strategists over facebook enthusiasts or vice versa, depending on which side of the fence you are on. So now apparently, the gloves are off.

Does it really matter how old the person doing the job is as long as they have the required skills? Surely the onus is on the employer to determine what skill-set the role requires, then make sure they hire the most suitable available candidate to wear that hat, be they 24, 44 or 64 years old – and while we’re at it, male, female, black, white or green.

It seems reasonable also that the brand’s target audience has everything to do with who the best person for the job is. You probably don’t want a 55-year-old trying to disco-dance with your teeny-bopper fan-base any more than you want a 23 -year-old college grad selling stair-lifts to geriatrics who don’t know their shift-key from their car-key…OMG LMAO 😉

Arguably it is safe to remove technical ability from the equation as a meaningful qualifying criterion for selection on the basis that:

1) let’s face it, it’s all piss easy to learn and use (unless you have been living in a cave – which presumably could be the case whether you are 22 or 72), and;

2) it changes so fast that whatever your technical knowledge is today it’s redundant tomorrow – so all that really matters in terms of technical ability is your aptitude to stay current (see point number 1).

A pertinent point that is overlooked in this debate is that your brand’s social media strategy is (or probably should be) merely a single component of your broader marketing communications strategy. This point relates to the degree of judgement that is required by the social media manager. For example, if your brand’s messaging, tone of voice and content plan are developed by senior marketing professionals at a higher level of your organisation as part of your overall communications planning strategy, then it is left to your social media manager simply to follow guidelines. This doesn’t seem beyond the capacity of a responsible and mature twenty-something. However, if you are asking someone with two year’s professional experience to manage your entire brand’s voice without a set of guidelines and grown-up supervision, then it is probable that you need a head examination. Nor is that very fair to the person in the role if they are hoping to learn and develop on the job.

The young Gen Y-ers claim that ‘old’ people just don’t get social media, is worthy of exploration. They believe that too often the crusties view it as a platform to blast out crude sales messages instead of engaging in meaningful and credible dialogue with brand followers. This can be true sometimes, particularly of non-marketing oriented senior managers (to whom the social media folk often report) whose expectations are out-of whack with conventional wisdom. However, you are about as likely to encounter a seasoned marketing pro (let’s say 35+) these days who doesn’t understand this concept as you are to get hit by a chocolate lightning bolt. Not a very compelling case really.

I lamented just last week that too often ‘Internet Marketers’ fail to appreciate that the second word in that title is the one that really matters. We’re all handy with the Internet Mush – even my Gran writes a blog and tweets about extreme-knitting. But can you sell stuff to profitable ends? Social, digital, traditional – all parts of the same tapestry, underpinned by common principles about brand building and woven together for one holy purpose – improving the bottom line. If you don’t have a grasp of the importance of brand attributes and the interconnectedness of your various media platforms in a business context, then how can you manage any one of them, social or otherwise? It is unfortunate to observe that nowhere in the rants and cries of the NextGen-ers is this depth of understanding evident. Yet by stark contrast, this principle underpins 8 of the 11 points made in Thomases’ article, who reinforces the truth that there is a world of difference between engaging in lightweight puffs of dialogue and ‘running a brand’. I know who I’d employ.

To underscore this point, nextGen-er, Ms Sloane, while reasoning that all social media managers should be under 25, explains:

“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.”

I’ve got a fair command of the English language. Hell, I’ve written speeches for Heads of State. But I’m not sure if this sentence even makes sense. ‘Incorporating comforting social aspects’? Does this refer to using a friendly tone of voice? ‘Professional usage’? Does she mean business communications? Nay matter. The point is that pish like this is not the kind of communication you want your brand to be associated with, on social media or anywhere else in public view. That’s why you hire a grown up (let’s say, 25+). Ur social media ain’t gonna work if the ppl doing the tlking can’t communic8 professionally.

Whilst it is a cliche that youth is no substitute for experience, unfortunately there is little evidence in these two articles to suggest that things are any different in the social media world than they are everywhere else. The following conclusions are my take-aways:

1) neither the Internet or social media are the exclusive preserve of under-25’s (76% of social network users are over 25-years-old with the largest category (25%) being in 35-44 years-old (the ones with all the spending money) age range – source)

2) social media management is more about communications than technology – hire the communications expert, not the technology expert. The technology bit is easy. The communications bit not so much.

3) hire the right person for the job, regardless of age


Antisocial media

This links to an interesting post about managers who don’t use social media:

I found the account of the CFO fascinating – the one protesting that he couldn’t use social media professionally because of the ‘risk’. Financial people – you’ve got to love them. I used to work with a mid-level manager who wouldn’t touch social. She was quite proud of it too. Above it perhaps? Let’s see if she’s above being employed in 5 years.

So should we or shouldn’t we use social media as professionals?

We’ll deal with the downsides to start with.

First of all, people know your business. My parents’ generation and generations prior to that guarded their personal business fiercely. Knowledge was power so you kept it to yourself. Besides, everybody was out to get you. Everybody! Trust no one.  If it’s not the communists it’s the capitalists. George Orwell warned us that Big Brother was watching. Patrick McGoohan would not be “pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered”. More traditional institutions (banks) still implement military grade security around their customer service portals – passwords to access passwords that allow you to log in with a password…and time you out 6 seconds later. Safe, yes. Intolerable for customers.

I am of the inbetweener generation. We are not our parents, but we also remember a world before t’Internet. And so a little of that skepticism of the oldies rubbed off. If you’d pitched facebook to me 10 years ago, I am a little ashamed to say that I would have poo-pooed the idea in a heartbeat. What sane minded individual would willingly share personal information, family photos, and private opinions in a public forum for crooks, authorities and the unwashed masses to scrutinize, exploit, judge and refute? Poppycock! Ironically, today I’m a veritable social butterfly, as are the vast majority of my contemporaries. Over a quarter of facebook users are 35 years old plus.  Go olds.

The second big issue about using social media is that you might say something stupid that could jeopardize your career. Who hasn’t heard those woeful tales of employees getting the heave-ho because they were caught bad-mouthing bosses or partying like Keith Richards on facebook? Joshua Waldman warns us in his post that the FTC approved social media content as a legal basis for rejection of job candidates in 2011. Another daunting fact to spook the accountant types. Boo! But for anyone who relies on the creation and expression of fresh ideas to make a living (creatives, entrepreneurs), then yes, we are in danger of saying something that could come back to bite us on the arse. And that’s OK, because challenging convention and being bold is the fuel of progress. The alternative is never to do anything that moves your organisation forward and grows your business. That might work if you’re a financial controller, lawyer or civil servant, but if your job requires you to be enterprising then you will have to stick your neck out on occasion, take a leap or ruffle feathers, otherwise nothing positive ever happens. And every now and then you’ll have to take the consequences on the chin, so it helps if you have one.

Now the upsides of using social media as your soap box.

First of all, people know your business. Today we live in a society that embraces the sharing of personal information, online communities and self-publicity. Technology changes but human nature doesn’t. Just as before, those that succeed tend to be those that make the most noise (yes, I know that sucks). Only the platform has changed. These days the noisy ones can make more noise than ever before. Social media empowers us to become self-professed industry leaders and build huge networks of relevant contacts. This means that if you’re not banging your drum and blowing your horn online you’re more likely to be overlooked. That’s the first bloody nose for your career.

The second bloody nose for your career (or more of a concussion blow to the head) will come when you realise (or worse still, your employer realises first) that you can no longer communicate and function in your work environment. It won’t be long before social media is standard MO for the internal and external communications of all organisations. It’s inevitable. It’s as intuitive for today’s school leavers as sending a fax was for us. Email will go the way of the fax. Certain professions (finance?) and senior managers may still frown upon the use of social media in business today, but this antiquated attitude will be swept aside by a new generation of leaders that know no other way. This is inevitable, given the potential of social media to enhance the flow of knowledge and speed of communication in business, making companies leaner and more competitive (see my earlier post on social media at work).

So, the question of whether or not you should be using social media comes down to whether you think it’s better to be visible or invisible in your career . How would you like to come across in a management meeting or a job interview? How would you like your clients or potential employers to view you? If being seen scares you then maybe you should become a secret agent…or an accountant. As Joshua Waldman points out in his post, if an employer is considering you as a potential candidate ‘you will be googled.’ Probably best to be in when they come a calling.

unpaid work

Interesting article on youth unemployment and working for free to gain experience.

The morality of this is worth questioning, but if the employee receives genuinely valuable experience then there is a case (albeit on the lame side) that the arrangement is mutually beneficial.

So, should this just apply to young people? The economy is on its arse the world over. It’s not just college grads that are out of work. Grown ups with bills to pay and families to support are suffering similar circumstances in their droves. Is unpaid work a solution for them too? I don’t see why it couldn’t be in many cases.

What I do find interesting is that, in today’s business landscape where it is virtually impossible to pioneer an original idea, a cursory search for an online recruitment service that matches candidates with unpaid jobs, doesn’t seem to exist. Please let me know if I’m wrong. Surely there is an opportunity here – potentially a massive one. It may not be ideal, but the fact is that it would appeal to unemployed people looking to gain experience, keep busy and widen their networks, and it would appeal to employers because, well, they don’t have to pony up.





how many times?

You spend eons crafting and formatting your resume. Then virtually every recruitment site you sign up to requires you to reenter it all again. This probably stings me more than I should because I have a pathological distaste for wasteful and inefficient businesses practices, especially ones that burden users. Make it simple, quick and easy for the user. If that doesn’t suit your internal systems, adapt them. Keep it about the user always.