Why Every Social Media Manager Should be Over 25*

Loathe as I am to do it, I’m going to jump on the dogpile over University of Iowa student Cathryn Sloane’s misguided (and fact-bereft) post “Why Every Social Media Manager Should be Under 25.”

In it, Sloane argues that growing up with the nascent technologies lends young people a preternatural understanding of them that older people cannot grasp (as they are moored in old ways of thinking that cannot give transcendent insight).  As someone who just edged out of the 25-34 age group, the essay stung a bit.

It’s down on all fours with arguing that growing up with the Blu-ray video format means Hollywood should only hire directors under 25.

I’ll readily concede that age can sometimes hinder people from grasping new ways to use new technologies.  However, the idea that young people have a monopoly on creativity or tech-savvy is completely disputed by the facts.

First, take search.  Being able to query the web for information is perhaps the single most important skill for any digital professional.  People under 25 are wretched at it.

Several studies, including one at the College of Charleston and one at Northwestern demonstrated that young people are generally incapable of vetting the quality of search results – having been trained like rats in a lab to go straight for the top results in Google (even if they’ve been changed) and to pay no attention to the authors of the content.

In this case, their youth actually works AGAINST them because they weren’t around for the wild and woolly days when search engines were relatively agnostic about factual veracity and quality and one had to carefully pore over every claim and citation.

Second, just because a technology was developed in one’s lifetime doesn’t in any way guarantee that one will have experience with that technology.

A 2012 study by the Economic and Social Research Council found as much:

 “The diverse ways that young people use technology today shows the argument is too simplistic and that a new single generation, often called the ‘net generation’, with high skill levels in technology does not exist.”
– Dr Christopher Jones

Twitter Users by Age in 2009
Twitter Users by Age in 2009

Twitter is a great example – when it was first developed its adoption among the young lagged for years and has only recently picked up.  The likely reason? – Young people were more interested in using an old technology developed before even I was born: instant messaging.

Despite being job-seekers, the under 25 set is still lagging in adoption of Linkedin (yet another platform that was developed in their lifetime).  Speaking of Linkedin, I noticed that Sloane has no experience as a social media manager on her resume and appears not to be working as a social media manager (or a writer) currently.

Third, being a Social Media Manager is only partially about knowing the technology (and a much smaller part than most people assume).  A great deal more of it is having solid communication skills, patience, relationship-building, and other abilities that have been around as long as human beings have walked upright.

The reality is anyone of any age can be an expert social media manager; it’s not something young people have cornered the market on.  In Sloane’s defense, I will readily concede that the longer someone uses a medium and the more diverse their use of that medium is – the better they will be at identifying innovative uses for that medium.

Regardless of age.

*The title is a parody – I don’t think age necessarily has anything to do with one’s fitness to be a social media manager.

2 thoughts on “Why Every Social Media Manager Should be Over 25*

  1. Kristi Sparks says:

    I shared this with some co-workers today, Derek. Thanks for sharing because I probably wouldn’t have stumbled on it during a busy week. Hilarious and sobering at the same time.

    Education, training, and skills are crucial. I’m no HR manager, but, I would dare say that the life experiences and resulting character attributes are just as, if not more, important that these. When someone is sharpened by circumstances that prompt change and growth, it makes or breaks. The people who are both knowledgeable AND empathetic (clearly Sloane is not yet) are the ones I want on my team…


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