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Aug 13, 2012

Your 23 Year-Old Social Media Manager Replies to Inc.com

On August 10, 2012, Inc.com posted an article entitled “11 Reasons a 23-Year-old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media.” (Because they might start sentences with numerals... was not one of the reasons.)  Author Hollis Thomases questions their maturity with your brand and their grace under fire, among other things.  This got one of our student body very hot and bothered.  She also happens to be a social media manager under-30.

Contributing Author, Natalie Keener 

Hire a 23-year-old to manage your social media, because no one else will do it.

I rarely defend Millennials. If we were to generalize, as Hollis Thomases did, we could say most Millennials are over educated and under qualified, with helicopter parents and a clingy yet apathetic nature that is just…annoying. 

I get that. There are few times I will go up to bat for my generation.

 But social media is one area that some (not all) of us twenty-somethings are capable of, if not completely proficient in. I can’t help but laugh at the term “proficient” here because I firmly believe there is nothing difficult about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, etc. People can be “proficient” in Hebrew or calculus. Facebook? It’s like standing in a room full of strangers and not having a nervous breakdown.

If you’re able to engage even one other human in conversation with the slightest bit of charm or wit, your Facebook friends will thank you, and better yet, your consumers/clients/funders will learn to love you.
Here are a few reasons why you should hire a 23-year-old to manage your social media presence, if you happen to stumble across one and are too afraid to ford the proverbial Facebook river alone:
1.       They know other 23-year-olds
Depending on your strategy and goals, you may or may not need a swarm of young people. But is a crowd ever a bad thing? 

2.       They speak the language
When I was first asked to direct a social media campaign, the higher ups wanted to have a talk about “the plan.” This session involved questions like “how often will you tweet?” “who will you follow?” “what will you say?” I’m all about goals and objectives, but 23-year-olds don’t think to themselves Now is a good time to update my Facebook status! Our lives are no longer offline/online/off Facebook/on Facebook. It is a constant, mostly mindless activity. And for this reason, yes, you will need to direct/supervise your social media manager. But would that change if the person were 40? I would hope you’re directing your brand’s reputation on every platform, not just social media. Twenty three year olds grew up on Facebook. We were in high school when it expanded beyond college-only users. We were on Myspace in middle school and Livejournal in elementary school. Yep, we were blogging as 4th graders. Get used to it.  

3.       They’re teachable
If  you’re strategizing and directing your messaging, you’re teaching your staff how to talk about the people/customers/clients you serve and what you do for them. If not, then a 23-year-old social media manager can’t help or hurt your brand because it’s a mess to begin with. To continue generalizing, Millennials need leadership and structure. And feedback. They are the generation who got rewards for just showing up. So imagine the positive feedback required when they actually do something right. But they’re eager to please and grateful to work. Just give them a chance. 

4.       They might have to steward your brand’s future
Like it or not, you’re going to retire/die/move on someday. You and the other 60-year-olds. And these young whippersnappers are going to start becoming old whippersnappers and the next generation of apathetic, shallow youngsters with overbearing parents will come along. And the Millennials will have to guide and teach and move up into big, scary roles. What then? Did you take the time to mentor them, to instill in them the resolve to steward your brand’s messaging and reputation? What kind of online legacy are you planning to leave? 

5.       They know more than you’d expect
When I was asked to be a social media manager, I was 23. I was a few months out of grad school. I did it because I never said no to anything and I knew it wouldn’t be hard. As time went on, people started asking me questions about it. My boss asked me something about effective social media strategies, and I cited a study I’d read. Then I cited a study I’d conducted and published. I hadn’t flaunted that at my interview or even my first few months of work, because it was pretty irrelevant until that point in time. But I studied mass communications, and social media was a big part of it. Anyone who studied public relations, marketing, advertising, mass media, English, creative writing, social sciences, humanities, etc., after 2008 knows about social media and its impact on the [fill in the blank] industry.

Social media is not an art, but it is a language. And odds are, if you're 23, you speak the language.  Not every conversation is carefully crafted with Marketing 101 in mind, but at least 23-year-olds are HAVING the conversation. We're not afraid, we're not intimidated, and we're not inhibited by different formats and media. We grew up speaking this language. Just give us a chance.

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