Age Doesn’t Mean Jack in Social Media

Aged © by tonyhall

We like to think that we (sometimes) know it all. In this age of gurus, jedis, and ninjas, it is easy to have a sense of social entitlement. I’m sure you are thinking about a time you thought you were BMOC (Big Man on Campus). Maybe a blog post blew up; maybe you had a tweet shared by a celebrity.

On Friday, Cathryn Sloane had an article posted on NextGen Journal, titled, “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25.” Sloane, a recent graduate of the University of Iowa, writes.

You might argue that everyone, regardless of age, was along for the ride, or at least everyone under the age of 30.  I’m not saying they weren’t, but we spent our adolescence growing up with social media.  We were around long enough to see how life worked without it but had it thrown upon us at an age where the ways to make the best/correct use of it came most naturally to us.  No one else will ever be able to have as clear an understanding of these services, no matter how much they may think they do.”

Ah, to be youthful, ambitious, and cocky. One of the knocks on 20-somethings are that they act entitled. They expect everything to be handed to them and think they can do anything. Now, I don’t necessarily agree with the entitlement label because I’ve seen a ton of great, young and talented folks. They’ve busted their tails to be the best they can be and they take nothing for granted.

Ms. Sloane’s statement that no one older than 25 will ever be able to have as clear an understanding of social media, no matter how much they may think they do is about as wrong as you could be. Just because you grew up with Facebook doesn’t mean you know how to engage, listen and analyze it.

I’m a community manager for several social media profiles and over 35 years old. Am I unqualified? I don’t believe so. Experience is key today, especially in crisis situations.

Last Friday, we awoke to the horrific news of the theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado. A dozen people (as of this writing) were killed at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” the last in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. To show that we still need qualified people at the helm of social profiles and as community managers, two brands made serious mistakes on Friday.

The American Rifleman Twitter account said, “Good morning Shooters! Happy Friday. Weekend plans?” It was posted at 9:20 a.m. Major, major scheduled tweet error. Later in the day the Twitter account for Celeb Boutique posted: “#Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress 😉 Shop:” Celeb Boutique faced an incredible tweet backlash, which you can easily see by doing a Google search for Celeb Boutique. They offered an apology, saying their PR is not bases in the U.S. and, therefore, unaware of what Aurora meant.

Both of these examples show that, regardless of age, you need to be smart, not cocky, in being a community manager (and PR pro).

One last point on Ms. Sloane, I took the liberty of viewing her Twitter page, just to see if I was off base. Knowing the criticism her post made, I thought she would at least address some of those that tweeted at her. She didn’t. If you are going to turn on the grill, you better be able to take the heat.

That’s the mature and professional thing to do.

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  • Anonymous

    Nicely written, Jason! As a mid-20-something, I was appalled by that post. It’s not an issue of being 25 or 65, it’s a matter of business experience and maturity, as you rightly pointed out. Just because someone grew up using Facebook to “chat” with their friends doesn’t make them an expert on how to use social media strategically for a business.

    • Thanks Jessica! I think Cathryn’s post can be something to learn from. However, if she expects to get another job in the future, she needs to understand what is important in a job. That’s experience.

  • We discussed this article on a friends’ timeline on Friday, and many communication managers were very heated. However, I feel the author was smart. The article’s headline was a unique way to attract attention! The article in itself wasn’t that opinionated. I was happy to read that the author wrote, “The truth is, regardless of age, some people have a better handle on social media than others.” It takes a particular personality to be able to use social media for business.” This is a shared agreement amongst all social media managers. I didn’t start working with SM until I was 30, and I don’t feel like I’m unique in this. Cheers to all social media managers, regardless of age, race or creed!

    • Angela,
      Cheers, indeed. I’m in the same boat as you. I didn’t want to blast Ms. Sloane totally, but I felt that a little more understanding towards the “vets” could have been warranted.

  • Great view points Jason. The message and the medium are equally important as the strategy. Strategic insights takes time, experience and the wisdom of making a few mistakes along the way to develop and to know better. Maybe Ms. Sloane’s post can be counted as the latter?

  • In the original post, Sloane suggests that generations older than hers look at Facebook and Twitter as merely another way to reach their audience, but they don’t really understand it the way her generation does. I guess that works if your audience is under 25, but by her standard if your target audience is older they won’t understand your message because they don’t know how to use the medium. Social media IS just another communication tool, and marketers ignore the others at their peril.

    • Hi Jamie,

      I think those older understand social media. But, I think it is naive to believe they don’t. It seems Ms. Sloane’s story waves the hand and those older, thinking they don’t “Get it.” It’s a shame she feels that way.

    • Well, I disagree that it is JUST another communication tool. That statement is underselling the importance of social media. It would be like saying the phone is just another communication tool back in the day. Of course, that all remains to be seen…

  • Great article. Anytime I read the heading, I impulsively replace Jack with the 4 letter word beginning with S. Can’t help it and I wish I can say this to the speaker who caused all these flurry of blogposts.

  • Well written as usual Jason. I’m glad that you took your time with this. There has been a lot of criticism of the article and others like it. Its nice to see some thought and poised communication.

    • JR,

      Thanks for your kind words. I didn’t want to be a “flame thrower” with this. However, I did want to stress how important it is for people to realize that her line of thinking is plain wrong.

  • Hi Jason,

    Yes – I do agree. Some of the teens in school have more experience and knowledge
    when it comes to Social Media than many CEO’s and MD’s of today have. The key in Social
    media marketing is having experience and knowledge – and being able to show it
    by means of analysis. Social Media is a game played by so many but truly understood
    by so few, especially when using social media for business.

    • Anton,

      Fabulous reply. You hit a home run with this. I can only say THANKS! 🙂


  • Brad MacMaster

    Respecting the experience-based capabilities of the under-25 with media and its penchant for change, please acknowledge the experience-based capabilities of those over-40 with being social, some favourable attributes of which might be persistently stable.

  • That’s absurd to think that age has anything to do with social media know how. Sure, those that are in their 20’s may have “grown up” with social media, but for what? To stalk their friends and their favorite celebrities. Using it for business is a completely different animal. What you need is marketing smarts, something that those under 25 probably don’t have yet.

    • Solid points, Nick! Thanks for sharing your opinion.

  • Age means very little. Experience and skills are all that matter. Oh and humility gets people farther than arrogance.

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