Should a 23-year-old run your social media?

Late last week, Hollis Thomases wrote an inflammatory post on Inc. titled “11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media.” The post, obviously, outlines specific reasons why the youth of today are ill-equipped to handle valuable online communities and messaging.

I might be a bit sensitive because, you know, I am one of these youngsters who (apparently) has no idea how the internet works. However, in speaking with marketers and social media professionals, it’s clear that it isn’t just young people who are offended. Imagine, if you will, that I took to Wired and wrote a post called “12 Reasons a 42-Year-Old Shouldn’t be Allowed to Use Computers in the Office.

But it’s not just the far-reaching title of the post that is bothersome – it’s the horrible, outdated, and generalized tips within.

Let’s look at number four – “ You can’t control their friends.” Thomases illustrates how friends posting on company social media accounts might create “inappropriate content.” Thomases may have 10,000+ Twitter followers, but it appears she has absolutely no idea how sharing and post visibility settings work on a number of social media sites. How do I know this? I manage (currently) communities with over 100,000 followers, likes, and +’es.

Tip number two also shows an outdated, old-fashioned approach to workplace conduct. The tip reads “They may be focused on their own social-media activity,” and warns employers that (gasp!) employees may spend time on that Facebook thing. Tsk-tsk, Hollis. Twitter ad account managers regularly spend time on Facebook looking at ads competitors place, testing how well targeting works, and finding content that engages audiences. How do I know? My uninformed, uncontrollable, unfocused 21-year-old self was just at the Twitter offices talking about this with people who work at Twitter. 

The rest of the tips don’t seem to be focused on the age of social media and online community managers, instead, they seem to be basics for managers of folks who have access to an organization’s social media outlets.  Anyone who looks at these tips and thinks “Wow! What original insight about managing and hiring employees with access to social media,” shouldn’t be hiring or involved in social media branding. Period.

At best, this article is a misinformed attack on the wrong demographic. Worst case scenario? We’re looking at a marketer who is fighting to find legitimacy in a world where young people can do her job naturally, faster, more efficiently, with less formal training, and at a better price. In essence, Hollis is bashing her competition in an attempt to elevate her fading old-school business model to online marketing.

Mike Gore is an opinionated college student at Western Washington University studying Public Relations.  He manages Facebook, Twitter, and Google + accounts for a number of businesses both locally and internationally. On Twitter, he’s @mikegore

Image via Homeschool Family Life

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Alyssa VandeLeest says:

    Wow, as a 23-year-old who runs my own (successful) PR and social media firm, the Inc. article leaves a bad taste in my mouth too. Community management is about the maturity, professionalism, creativity and work ethic of the community manager, not his or or her age.

  • Completely agree. Reality is, we love working with super experienced talent here at Outsource Marketing. Sometimes, that “super experienced talent” happens to be the youngest person in the room. 

    The key here is hiring the right people, providing the appropriate training and management. It also means learning when to trust your people and stay out of their way. 

  • Mallie Hart says:

    It all depends on the individual. We’ve all met incredibly savvy young twenty-somethings and we’ve also met less than with it people in their middle years. That doesn’t mean there aren’t immature just out of college applicants, nor does it mean we’re all washed up after 40. We look to the individual and their actions and try to gauge expertise and value on an individual basis. And we refrain from making ridiculous blanket statements. 

  • Marie A says:

    It’s pretty obvious that age bias is short-sighted. As someone who is, um, shall we say a wee bit older than 23, I grow weary of what seems to be the near-constant drumbeat that *only* 23 year olds can handle social media. I had my undies in an uproar just this past week over a broadcast message I received from a woman of my own age chirping about wanting a 20-something to help her with her social media.

    The larger issue is that many businesses are looking for some magic bullet, pre-packaged, guaranteed for success social media presence, and that ain’t the way the world works. I meet owners of companies who just think having a page on Facebook, a “Tweeter” account and that “Pin Thing” isn’t a strategy of any kind.

    Let’s take age out of the equation entirely and have more discussion of the broader issues, including educating the business community more about how to develop a long-term social media plan.

  • dbarefoot says:

    Wow, that was laughable, ignorant link bait from Hollis Thomases (whose name, by the way, suggests that you’re describing a room full of men named Thomas). It was best ignored.

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