Why Younger Isn’t Always Better in Social Media Management

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.

We were raised in an age where passive-aggressive status updates are a socially acceptable way to deal with confrontation.

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.

Raise your hand if you even know what this means.

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.


20 thoughts on “Why Younger Isn’t Always Better in Social Media Management

  1. Great post! As an under-25 person myself I completely agree with you. I loved your comment, “What makes it okay for a person (such as myself) under 25 to be a social media manager? Humility. Modesty.” I’m a social media community manager for Lightspan Digital and I know that I am where I am today because of my openness to LEARN from those who are older than me. We need to harness business and marketing skills in order to be able to apply these to social media. It’s not age that matters, it’s experience.

    We did a collaboration post about this on Friday that’s very similar: http://lightspandigital.com/why-age-doesnt-necessarily-make-you-better-at-social-media/

    • Jessica, thanks so much for reading and responding. It’s always great to connect with other young professionals! I’m glad I’m not the only 20-something that came to the defense of mentorship in the business place. Your video on the LightSpan piece was fantastic; you have a great way with words and you wrapped up the topic beautifully! Thanks so much for reading, and responding.

    • Thank you, Ray. I can sincerely and honestly say that many of the relationships and experiences that got me here, were as a result of your encouragement and introductions. I’m glad to call you a friend, collaborator, and mentor.

    • Thanks, Ramon! I don’t always succeed, but I try to address as many of the comments I receive on this blog as possible. To be fair, my hobby blog (which doesn’t get strategically promoted and doesn’t necessarily reach a large number of people on a normal day) very rarely receives the intimidating negative feedback that the NexGen post did. I also get significantly fewer comments overall. I’m going to try and give Cathryn the benefit of the doubt and hope that she can revisit the topic later with a clearer head and a new perspective.

      Thanks so much for reading and responding! I appreciate it. And I feel like my blog has a new sparkle due to the #RamonWOW factor!

  2. Humility and modesty. I love it – awesome post Kelly. I too am at a company where they really appreciate and encourage my thirst for knowledge and in turn it truly motivates me that much more. Very relatable post, thanks for sharing!

    • It’s great to work for a company that is so concerned with the personal and professional growth of its employees; I’m glad you enjoy that privilege as well! Thank you so much for reading and responding, and for sharing it on Twitter! I GREATLY appreciate it!

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  4. Fabulous post,Kelly!! i have been involved with social media for several years now and obviously am well over 25. I feel that I bring just as much enthusiasm and understanding of the social aspect of social media to the table as anyone in their 20s, plus I am old enough that I have made some big pr mistakes in my life that I kind of know how to avoid them now. Cathryn Sloane sounded like a snot nosed little twit and I am so proud that you represent professionals in their 20s in such a positive way.

    • Thanks, Danielle. You’ve always approached social media (since I’ve known you) with a fantastic enthusiasm. I’m just glad I have the clarity to understand the value of mentors and life experience. I’ve been graced with some fantastic role models from an early age, and I think that’s been my “secret weapon” thus far in my career. I’m still giving Cathryn the benefit of the doubt…hopefully this is a good learning experience for her. Thanks so much for the kind words! Stay fabulous.

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  6. Yes. Yes. Yes. Working in the same social media industry as you, you should know this story became the topic of many office conversations! Sigh. My opinion is that social media is an ever-growing organic community that cannot be understood by age alone, but takes a certain ability to understand the ebbs and flows and severe headaches of wishing, sometimes, it could be a little more concrete.

    Great post, Kelly.

    • Amen, Brooke. The fluidity of it all can be both a source of exhilaration, and a source of frustration. I don’t think it’s an age group that dictates whether you “get” social media or not, it’s a mindset and a collection of skills and in many ways a personality type. Life experiences and outlook matter so much more than age!

      Thanks so much for reading and responding, Brooke. It always makes my day to interact with you!

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