Foreword: I am a social media professional, although my title is technically “coordinator.” In many ways, I am a manager of social media, and I am an administrator on several outlets. I’m writing this as an expanded version of a comment I left on this NexGen post, “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25.” As a social media coordinator that IS under 25, I disagree with this. I wish no ill will to the writer, and I hope that the backlash is a good learning experience for her to grow from. Some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned have been learned the hard way, and while it’s never fun, I also understand that some things need to get shaky and fall apart, for me to become more solid and resolved on the other side.
My name is Kelly. I graduated in June ’12 with an Interactive Media degree from a liberal arts college that most of you have never heard of. I’m living the dream, working as a Social Media coordinator for the ad agency of my dreams.
However, when presented with the idea that social media managers should only be under 25, I disagree. Whole-heartedly.
Familiarity with tools is NOT everything. Growing up in the age of the social media evolution is NOT everything. When you manage social media outlets, you are “the face” of that organization, that company, that brand, or community. You are the first line of PR that the general public has and you are responsible for managing those outlets accordingly. You have to know how to integrate yourself into that brand’s culture, you have to understand the values, goals, and challenges that have built that culture. You have to be able to react on a moment’s notice, make judgement calls on community policy, and have an instinct for what may not be acceptable interactions on your social venues.
It isn’t a matter of sitting down on Facebook and sharing a status. It isn’t just sending out a tweet to placate the masses now and then.
When I consider the way that my age-peers use Facebook, I don’t generally think, “Yes, I would hand that person the keys to an entire brand’s online social presence!” In fact, there are many days I see what people my age post online and I just shake my head. There aren’t always words, and oftentimes if there are words, they are not ones I’d openly type on the Internet.
On the flip-side, there are seasoned professionals, experienced public relations or advertising folks, who have no business managing social media outlets. Let’s be serious here: the job should be given to the best candidate, regardless of age. Some personalities are not made for social media, and some skill sets cannot be adapted to social media. It’s a case-by-case situation. There is no one right answer on age or experience or exposure; there’s just the right people for the task, and they come in all shapes, sizes, ages, colours, and backgrounds.
I’ve been lucky; I got an early break in social marketing as an 18-year-old kid, in an internship that I didn’t even understand at the time. On-the-job learning, learning about brand culture and company value and return on investment, has been monumental. Yet, I’m still a babe in the woods, so to speak. The tools and approaches have changed but I am still a young’un in the world of public relations. And, as an administrator of several online communities and social media outlets, my primary job is public relations.
My degree covers a lot of these digital tools; my professors also stressed the fact that technologies change so fast that it isn’t the age that matters, it’s the ability to adapt to those changes. (That’s just one of many reasons I will probably never get a masters in digital communications; it changes too quickly.) A forward-thinking 60-year-old will often be just as effective (or even moreso) in their use of digital social channels than a 21-year-old who has only had to communicate in a casual social setting.
What makes it okay for a person (such as myself) under 25 to be a social media manager? Humility. Modesty. An ability to ask questions, and learn from those above us. AdFarm took a gamble, hiring a fresh college grad for a position that directly impacts the public perception of not only their own agency, but also clients. Knowing that they have that faith in me, however, makes me work that much harder. It makes me care that much more. I don’t sit here, taking for granted that fact that I’m a 20-something so I deserve a job in a field that I may or may not have had exposure to through my adolescence. (One could say that anyone who grew up in the VCR era then qualifies to be a filmmaker.)
They didn’t necessarily hire me because of my familiarity with Facebook, Twitter, and other channels (although it helped); they hired me because of my thirst to learn and grow. They hired me because, between an internship and freelance work, I spent a year proving my desire to learn and grow and really acclimate myself to the company and brand cultures I was representing. I accept that I am only a child in a world of professional giants. And I use that knowledge as my greatest tool to continue growing. I jump at EVERY, and I mean EVERY opportunity to surround myself with those smarter and wiser than myself, even at the risk of burning myself out on it.
THAT is why I’m a 22-year-old social media manager. And that’s why companies should think long and hard before hiring someone for a task based entirely upon age discrimination.
If you want to learn more about what industry folks have to say about this, check out the Transcript of a recent #cmgrhangout (Community Manager Hangout chat on Twitter) about internships and young professionals in Social Media/Community Management, here. You can watch the Google+ Hangout that directed the Twitter chat and read the blog post about it here.