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Age Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number

Let’s make a pact. You and me, here and now.

Let’s decide right now that we’re going to stop writing and reading these silly articles about how old (or young) you need to be to run social media for a company.

It all started with Cathryn Sloan’s piece for Next Gen Journal (“Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25“) and took on a life of its own. Since then there have been responses from older social media managers lambasting the younger generation for being entitled. From younger employees calling out Sloan for making them look bad. From older employees pointing out that they are most suited to lead social media accounts because of their extensive experience in the working world and pointing out that they have experience using etiquette in the work force that many younger employees haven’t needed yet.

It sadly came to a head when the Aurora movie theater tragedy occurred and a UK-based company unfortunately tweeted without checking to see why a topic was trending worldwide.

The number of people that I saw on twitter throwing down the age gauntlet and claiming that the @Celebboutique tweet was reason enough to never allow a young person to run a social strategy was disheartening.

But the problem is that the argument didn’t end there.

It seems like every day now I see a new story. First there was “A Response to: ‘Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25.'” Then there was “11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media.” Followed by “11 Reasons Why You’re Wrong About the 23-Year-Olds Who You Say Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media.” Followed by “5 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Should Run Your Social Media.”

The list is never ending. I’ll even admit that when the first article appeared I even debated writing my own response since I’m 25 years old and Sloan thought that I was “too old” to do the things I do at my company – her argument that people under the age of 25 are the ones that “can remember the the perfect combination of confusion and excitement” felt when signing up for Facebook as a teenager in high school became immediately invalid when you point out that 25 and 26 year olds were the first to be using Facebook due to college email address restrictions.

But this is an age old argument that is never going to end. New graduates are always eager to take on new projects in the work force and they will always feel that the skills and experience they have using certain tools is a great advantage to doing those projects well. And employees who have been in the work force longer always look at those new, young employees and realize that they have so much to learn about the ins and outs of businesses. There are politics everywhere and the only way to successfully navigate them is to live in their world for a while.

Does that mean that anyone older than 25 cannot successfully perform in a social media management role? And on the opposite end of a spectrum does it mean that any employee under 25 years old will automatically succeed as a social media manager?

Of course not!

Word Cloud Social Media Age

It doesn’t matter what age you are. It doesn’t matter whether you “grew up” using Facebook and Twitter and consider it a part of your daily existence or you began using it past the age of 25. It doesn’t matter that these technologies only came into existence in the last few years.

It’s true that a lot of younger employees are more open to using social media in their jobs in general. But that doesn’t mean that they are the only ones that can.

There are a lot of young people that post really stupid things on social media. They tweet without thinking. They forget that everything they post can be found by almost anyone. And sometimes they just don’t care and think their freedom of speech should allow them to say really, really dumb things.

But you know what? There are a lot of people over the age of 25 that do those things too.

Being a social media manager is not about knowing the ins and outs of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Google+ and Pinterest. It’s about knowing your audience and interacting with your audience in appropriate and preferred ways.

If my company had a job opening for a social media manager and someone of any age came in and said, “I’d be great at this job because I’ve been on Facebook for seven years, Twitter for four, Google+ for one and man, I have a TON of followers on Pinterest,” we’d probably laugh (though not to their face. We do have some decorum.). Those things have absolutely no bearing on whether or not someone would be a successful B2B social media marketer.

It’s not about age. It is about skill.

I don’t care whether your 23, 33, 43 or 53. If you have proven that you understand social media to the extent that you can successfully market to the audience that you are marketing to – or at least that you have the skills to understand that you might need to try some new tactics to reach a different type of audience – then you can be a social media manager.

So let’s just all agree that we won’t judge someone’s social media competence based on their age. It doesn’t matter that one company has a 23-year-old running their social media. It doesn’t matter that another company has a 50-year-old doing the same thing. These people have their jobs because they can perform them successfully. Their age doesn’t make them better or worse at that performance so let’s stop pretending that it does.

Post By Liz Harter (70 Posts)

Liz Harter has a degree in English Writing with a minor in Spanish from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. She is an award winning journalist on the collegiate level with a strong background in journalism. She currently works in PR and is a social media autodidact Google+

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About the Author

Liz Harter has a degree in English Writing with a minor in Spanish from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind. She is an award winning journalist on the collegiate level with a strong background in journalism. She currently works in PR and is a social media autodidact Google+

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