Blogger says social media managers should be 25 or younger, draws flak

This millennial’s lack of humility undermines any points she attempted to make. File this under: What was she thinking?

In case you missed it, Cathryn Sloane, a senior at the University of Iowa, wrote a “controversial” post last week for Next Gen Journal titled “Why every social media manager should be under age 25.” (Here’s the follow-up response from the Next Gen editors, if you’re interested and a great post by Mark Story offering some helpful tips to Sloane.)

Provocative headline, right? Well, it was more than a headline. She backed it up with some big opinions around why she really believes it to be true.

You can disagree with Sloane (I don’t think anyone can honestly agree with the idea that every social media manager should be younger than 25), but to me, this has much more to do with attitude and humility than the actual topic.

Justly or not, millennials have been labeled as “entitled” by just about everyone the last few years. Is that a fair statement? Of course not. I’ve met a number of folks in that age range and would hardly use the word “entitled” to describe them. I would use words like “hard working,” “honest” and “determined.”

But, if you take a closer look at Sloane’s post, you see a number of statements and opinions that come across with a bit more attitude than I’d expect from a 21-year-old. And, far less humility. Have a look:

“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.”

Just because those older than 25 didn’t “grow up” with social media doesn’t mean they don’t understand how to use it. And, as many said in the comments section (more than 450 comments and counting), understanding the tool is one thing, but knowing how to use them in the context of a larger PR/marketing plan is completely different. In time, I’m confident Sloane will realize this.

“To many people in the generations above us, Facebook and Twitter are just the latest ways of getting messages out there to the public, that also happen to be the best. The specificity of the ways in which the method should be used is usually beyond them, however.”

Really? She’s saying the ways that companies should use social media to engage with audiences is beyond anyone over the age of 25. I have to believe she was kidding, but sadly, I’m guessing she wasn’t (and based on comments I’ve seen, I’m sure a whole bunch of younger folks agree with her).

Do companies always make the right choices when deciding how to use social media? Not by a long shot. But there are many reasons for those actions that Sloane just can’t see yet as a student.

For example, not all companies want to be conversational or witty on social channels. Some just want to use social media to drive leads. You know, those people that actually buy products so you and I can have jobs. Now I’m copping an attitude! This was one of the more short-sighted statements in her post—by a long shot.

“Yet, every time I see a job posting for a Social Media Manager/Associate/etc. and find the employer is looking for five to ten years of direct experience, I wonder why they don’t realize the candidates who are in fact best suited for the position actually aren’t old enough to have that much experience.”

What jobs are Sloane referring to here? If we’re talking about an entry-level social media hire, I tend to agree with her. I’d probably go younger, too, one to three years experience; maybe even a recent grad.

But, she threw “manager” in there. Manager means you’re either managing people or budgets, both of which require experience in those areas. Sure, people who don’t have that experience get those jobs from time to time, but overall, companies generally want people with that experience in those key roles.

That shouldn’t be a tough business decision to understand. If you were running a marketing team, would you want to hire a social media manager with very little (or no) experience a year or so removed from school? Or, would you rather have someone with five to seven years of experience with time managing teams and tools? I think the answer is fairly obvious.

I’m not here to mock and ridicule Sloane (other folks are taking care of that, unfortunately). She seems like an accomplished student who’s not afraid to share her opinion, which will serve her well down the road.

But, the notion that you deserve these jobs without an ounce of experience (outside of using Facebook and Twitter each day) really got to me. That and her attitude we saw come through in the quotes above.

OK, it’s your turn. What do you think of her post if you’re reading it for the first time? Let’s not pile on Sloane, but instead offer her some helpful advice (remember folks, she’s only 21 or 22).

Arik Hanson is principal of ACH Communications and blogs at Communications Conversations, where a version of this article first appeared.

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