What the Gen X social media gap means for brands

There’s little strong social/digital talent between the ages of 30 and 45. That doesn’t bode well for corporate America.


I’ve noticed an alarming trend lately. There seems to be a significant amount of good, young social media talent (22-to-30 year-olds), but very little strong social/digital talent between the ages of 30 and 45.

That’s good news for me, I guess. I’m 40 and fall right in the Gen X sweet spot. I have 18-plus years of experience in the corporate and agency worlds in marketing and communications, and four to five years of experience with social/digital. The only problem: I’m not looking for a corporate or agency job.

But, I continue to see a lack of talent at the mid- to senior-levels in the social/digital arena.

Why do I say this? I get emails from friends/colleagues around Minneapolis/St. Paul and they’re all looking for the same person: A mid- to senior-level digital/social media counselor/director with deep experience in marketing and some experience in digital/social.

They don’t exist, at least not in big numbers. That has huge consequences for corporate America. Here’s why:

Kids may be leading your social media work.

I’m not saying this as a blanket statement, because obviously it’s not true across the board. But, more often than not, the teams I’ve seen pulled together by big and small agencies are built with junior-level talent.

There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’m not judging these younger pros. In many cases, these junior-level folks are smart as all get out. But, they are still kids with a handful of years of experience in many cases. They simply lack experience. So, you just have to know what you’re getting into, and what you’re paying for.

A lack of social strategic thinking.

I’m not saying the junior-level folks are incapable of strategic thought. Like I said, they’re smart as hell in some cases. But, they’re also inexperienced. It is what it is, right? We were all inexperienced at one point. And that has a downside. We need more mid- to senior-level folks who understand business and marketing strategy and can integrate digital strategy seamlessly.

As I think about all the requests I’ve received locally lately, I can honestly say there just aren’t that many people around (who aren’t happily employed) who can do that in the 30-to-45 year-old age range. And this, in a market (Minneapolis/St. Paul), where we pride ourselves on creative and digital talent. If that’s the case here, what’s the pipeline look like in St. Louis, Denver or Cleveland (no offense to those markets)?

The wrong people in the wrong roles.

When companies can’t find ideal fits for these senior social/digital roles, they turn to the next best thing—people with some of the skills, but not all. Right now, that’s the only option they have because of this talent hole. The long-term effect is that you get people in senior-level roles within organizations that have no business being in those roles.

This surely isn’t the first time this has happened in modern history, but I see a need for this senior social/digital role. And, to be frank, the supply just isn’t keeping up with the demand.

What do you think? Is there really a significant talent hole for digital marketing/PR talent in the 30-45 year-old age range? Or, am I just making that up? And, does that hole have consequences for corporate America?

A version of this article first appeared on ArikHanson.com.

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