Thursday, January 13, 2011

Should companies hire 20-year-old social media managers?

Should companies use 18- to 20-year-old interns to handle their social media outreach?

At a Wednesday panel discussion on Charlotte's 2011 marketing landscape, a panelist suggested just that, and got quite the blow-back from folks in the audience, according to accounts and tweets of those present. The event, sponsored by nine Charlotte-area marketing organizations, drew some of the city's most high-profile corporate social media managers and consultants.

So when Lauri Wilks, sales and marketing manager for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, opined that companies should use 18- to 20-year-old interns to handle their social networking, some in the audience began booing in disagreement, according to tweets and blog accounts of attendees.

"It was not a mean boo," internet marketing consultant Corey Creed blogged about it the next day. "It was more like a 'we don't agree' boo. Several in the audience clearly did not want that sentiment to be accepted by the hundreds of attendees as fact."

Several tweeted their displeasure at Wilks' statement. Some even left the event early, though it wasn't clear Wilks' statement was to blame. One audience member did come to Wilks' rescue, tweeting: "'social media gurus' -Don't be pissed because it was said an 18-yr-old could do your job. (Social media) in its purest is conversation."

Wilks posted a response today to Creed's blog, saying she didn't mean to offend anyone, and that seasoned marketers should be the ones guiding corporate strategy and holding online conversations with the public. Interns, however can be "a fabulous resource" for things like monitoring reviews on sites like Yelp or updating Facebook photo albums, she said. "This generation understands what tools are out there and how to use them," she wrote.

This little dust-up underscores a bigger point: how increasingly high-stakes social networks are becoming. All media enterprises, stripped to their business models, are about gathering an audience and selling advertising. And nobody's gathering audience share these days quite like social networks. As the reaction to Wilks' comment shows, social media skills aren't just for fun anymore -- they're a marketable career asset that people aren't willing to cede to any one segment of the population.

I think it's true that younger folks who've grown up using social networks might have an edge on us older folks when it comes to casual use. That might not hold true when it comes time to analyze business problems and use social networks to solve them. If I'm the CEO and I've got a 20-something socially-savvy whiz kid and a wise 40-something veteran to choose from, I split the difference and put 'em both on the case. But, if anybody asks, the 40-something's in charge.

What do you think? Are younger folks inherently more knowledgeable about social networking than their parents and grandparents?


Anonymous said...

I've had over 25 years experience in marketing, using all kinds of media, and my teenage grandsons can run circles around me using Facebook, Youtube, e-phones, digital cameras and and many, many other "social medias" with a quick click.


Anonymous said...

As the CEO of a $3 mill company my best social media employees are between the ages of 20-25. I am 42 and many of my peers in our industry can barely manage to use the basic functions of a smart phone much less social media. Her statement is more truth then not.

Anonymous said...

If people over 20 are such lousy users of social media, then how are 20 yo "marketing geniuses" going to reach the over 20 market with social media?

I guess social media is fine for all your 20 yo customers, but what about everyone else?

Anonymous said...

High risk, even higher potential reward. I would want a senior person to at least be able to be a sounding board for ideas, but that age group would be much more appropriate to manage execution and potential new media markets.

Anonymous said...

I'm in my 20s and I work with technology. I have no doubt that I could run circles around the older generations when it comes to this stuff. The ability to multi-task and have instant information and gratification is part of my generation.

By the way, a 40 year old shouldn't necessarily be in charge of the 20-something. That all comes down to the person. I have no questions I can manage myself just fine, without the guidance of older generations.

Anonymous said...

Again, technology is just a tool.

Being a whiz at a technology doesn't mean you have the sense to know when and where to use it.

In fact, it probably means you will try to over use what you know at the expense of what you don't.

This has been the main failing of technologists for ages.

They just don't know when enough is enough.

Danielle G. said...

Obviously your circles are small. I know plenty of over 30's that know how to leverage social media. It's not the age it's the mindset, most tech savvy people have the tendency to be early adopters and therefore have learned how to use social media as it grew and are just as capable as the youngin's. It's funny I work with a bunch of twenty somethings that just use one form of social media facebook and that is all. Do they use any other tools? No. Do they know about strategy? No. Do they understand how to use it from a business standpoint? No. Nor do a lot of them have the desire to but because they seem young and hip they will get the job & opportunity.And by the way I'm over 35 manage 2 brand twitter accounts, a non-profit twitter account, my personal twitter account, a facebook brand page and my personal foursquare account (LBSM). Take that non techies! It's not the age that matters!

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree that in general the younger generation is better qualified for these positions, but please, hire the ones that can at least communicate, in proper English. Phrases such as '...waitin' on' (should be ...waiting FOR) and 'I was like...' (should be 'I said...' just won't cut it with us older and seemingly better educated individuals.

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree that in general the younger generation is better qualified for these positions, but please, hire the ones that can at least communicate, in proper English. Phrases such as '...waitin' on' (should be ...waiting FOR) and 'I was like...' (should be 'I said...' just won't cut it with us older and seemingly better educated individuals.

Anonymous said...

To the 20 something kid: No one gives a damn. Good luck marketing to the children. You better hope they have all the money you think they do! Meanwhile the adults who will pay the bills are spending their money with those who are mature enough to include them.

Once you understand that the whole damn world doesn't revolve around facebook, the better off you'll be.

Anonymous said...

I knew Lauri Wilks when she worked/studied under Humpy. She learned well!

Anonymous said...

This coming from someone on the same marketing team that chose a 'redneck' voice for radio ads. Did they really think the Hall of Fame needed to be marketed to the average race fan? Maybe thats why numbers have been so low! This marketing team is a joke.

Anonymous said...

Its been apparent for a two decades or more. The pace of technology has created a divide - from the earliest days when "ask a teenager to set the VCR" to today's social media phenomena.

Truth is, my generation is no longer the "demographic" that many companies sell to. And its apparent that many companies will need an effective social media presence to prosper.

But like so much in the marketing world, good ideas are so often a victim of "reductio ad absurdum" - a logical fallacy that shows that any good idea can be taken to absurd conclusions.

As a long term unemployed in marketing, I'm not a tweeter, my Facebook is seldom visited and I've yet to use my smartphone for messaging or to look at the web.

But in my experience, I can't figure out why an industrial supply company needs soical media - or why I'm still not able to manage those efforts - even of a twenty year old - as those efforts still need quantitative evaluation.

Anonymous said...

From a 40-yr old Full Time Employee...
If a 20-yr old can do the intern job - then that kid should be hired. That is correct, as an intern. In fact, I would keep hiring a 20-year old intern year after year to stay current with the latest tech craze. We are not talking about a FTE complete with benefits and a company car. We are talking about some person who knows the in's and out's of the latest tech craze and can explain them cohernetly with less than 150 uses of the word "like" in a paragraph. As with all interns, they will report to a team leader who hopefully has some wisdom to take risks by implementing the ideas presented by the 20-yr old. Makes perfect sense.

Anonymous said...

that is the problem...what a
&^%$^&% question.

Anonymous said...

By the way, a 40 year old shouldn't necessarily be in charge of the 20-something. That all comes down to the person. I have no questions I can manage myself just fine, without the guidance of older generations.
Son, I am 68 years old and spent 28 years with a major computer company and another 5 years with Microsoft. You want to talk to me about who can run circles around whom? And when you make such ridiculous statements such as "I have no questions I can manage myself just fine, without the guidance of older generations.", you are just reinforcing your inexperience and need for supervision and management.

Anonymous said...

Considering that the most profitable customers for many businesses with social media campaigns are the 30-40 women with families, I don't think I'd want a 20-year old trying to decide how to best converse with them.

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand why so many businesses think it's important to 'Facebook' and 'twitter'. I have a Facebook account and use it purely for social reasons. I do not 'like' and business on FB and will never follow any one (or thing) that puts mindless messages out on Twitter. Nor do I click on any annoying ad links I see in the side bars.

Anonymous said...

I someone who works in the tech industry, namely internet. Have been in this for 12 yrs. In this industry even just a few years makes you an expert. When I started out I was in my mid-late 20s. At that time I was fresh out of college and able to bring the companies I worked with something new that their older peers had not yet embraced, which at the time was flash based websites and php. This industry changes faster than you can imagine. What is hot today will be old news tomorrow. Some of what is social networking now is also starting to crumble. But take it from someone who has watched a lot of trends come and go, twenty-somethings can easily tell when something is being tweeted or posted by someone who isn't in their generation. It's somewhat embarrassing when I see clients trying to market and sell to the younger crowds and they still sound like a bunch of 40 and 50 yr old marketing guys.

Shirley Cress Dudley said...

I completely agree. I work with companies and help them with their social media and presence on the internet. I have only been immersed in Social media since 2007 (a little over 3 years- with over 36,000 followers on Twitter and over 1,000 on Facebook, and over 1,500 on Linkedin.)

When someone tells me they are working with a marketing company with over 20 years experience (and I can't find them on the internet, in a search, and they don't have a clue about social media)- I tell them that the majority of that marketing company's experience and knowledge is not valid for the internet.

People don't watch TV commericals, or use the yellow pages anymore- they go to the internet to learn about a company.

It's the ones who have learned in the last several years (yes, most are younger) that truly understand the interactive quality and importance of social media. I'm 48 years old, so the "over 20" group is teachable!

Anonymous said...

My favorite part of this whole argument is that whenever there's an article young people doing something wrong, like commiting a crime for instance, everyone will chime in that young people need to do better, work harder, stop being lazy, not get into trouble, etc. Here, the question has been posed should young people be given the opportunity to *gasp* have well paying jobs where they might be able to make something of themselves and naturally most older people say no. The truth is all the old farts don't want young people to succeed. They want young people washing their cars and waiting their tables. Stay classy old farts!

Anonymous said...

a monkey could tweet and post on Facebook

Jack said...

Sure put all 20 year olds and younger in charge. Country is shot anyway.

Anonymous said...

Ok, why listen to someone from Nascar Hall of Fame when they cant even market that failing Hall of Fame

Richard Brasser said...

It is really surprising that every comment was posted anonymously. I thought you guys were social media folks. Anyway, what we have here is a misunderstanding of the marketing ecosystem. The is certainly a difference between familiarity (aka. frequent use) and marketing strategy (aka. the plan that achieve specific business objectives). I think that age is mostly irrelevant. The key is to make sure that (a) Whoever is in charge of the social media strategy has significant experience in marketing (b) Is aware of and responsible for the overall business strategy and objectives and (c) Has the deep understanding of how to use social technologies to drive specific results. Too often, companies are jumping into the social media world with no strategy and no alignment with the larger marketing plan. The tasks are dropped on the lap of the "familiar" (regardless of age) and noise without a cohesive plan follows. Forget about age...chose experience, prior results and ability to craft a solution that drive corporate success.

Anonymous said...

The reaction of the older marketing executives makes sense when you take this mashable article into consideration:

Anonymous said...

Shit or get off the pot.

The older generations can't get by with jokes about how they can't understand new technology. Learn it or get out of the way for younger folks who can do the job better.

I see too many 40-somethings who want to manage social media, but have to call the young employee to their office because their printer stopped working or they don't know how to format something in an Excel spreadsheet.

These are the tools of today. Learn them or make way for someone who does.

Your age does not automatically mean you know more or are in a position of authority.

Anonymous said...

As the CEO of a $10 mill company my best social media employees are between the ages of 30-40. I'm 52 and many of my peers in our industry barely manage to use the basic functions of a cell phone much less social media.

Kathryn said...

The majority of the people commenting here keep referring to social media as facebook and twitter. Don't hire those people. Any good social media manager (any good media manager, for that matter) would know that "social media" is not just facebook and twitter. Social media is ANY forum that involves or can involve a two-way conversation. Not every business needs a facebook page and not every business needs to talk directly to consumers. It is a media manager's job to help lead the company to do what is right for them, not what is popular at the time. There are far too many examples of companies and brands jumping in to the "social media thing" too soon and ending up having it backfire in a big way. There are other examples of companies who completely underestimated the power of social media, and that ended up backfiring as well.

Whether you are 44 or 24, if this is your job, you have to keep up with emerging media. Period. You have to be able to translate what is available out there and turn it into something useful for your company. Yes, "older" generations are at a disadvantage because they did not grow up alongside this technology, but that does not mean that they cannot learn it and excel at it. There are younger members of the workforce who don't know the first thing about a hashtag.

Wilks simply meant that interns can help manage these spaces. They shouldn't be the driving force behind decisions regarding content or strategy- that is why companies pay marketing teams- but they should be allowed to be involved in the conversation. You know, for learning purposes. So one day they can be that 40-something who doesn't know how to print. (Lighten up, people!)

(Also - If you want help understanding what the heck social media is, what it involves, and what it can do for your company, feel free to contact!)

Anonymous said...

An executive with The Nascar Hall of Fame giving marketing advice is like Rosie O'Donnell working for Nutri Systems.

Does this lady really expect us to believe anything she says, only thing worse would be taking accounting lessons from Tim Newman or learing our personality skills from Winston Kelly.


Anonymous said...

CEO: You want me to spend 80k on social media this yr?
Agency: Yes. We'll have our best interns handling your account.

CEO: Huh? Why are you using interns?
Agency: Because there's no real ROI to social media. But hey, we are having conversations. That counts for something right?

CEO: Conversations? My sales teams have quota each yr and they have 'conversations' every day.
Agency: Well you'll be perceived as being hip and 'in the know' ok?

CEO: Ok let's do it!!

Bernard said...

As the CEO of a $10 trill company my best social media employees are between the ages of 13-17. I am 21 and many of my peers in our industry can barely manage to use the basic functions of a smart phone much less social media.

We outsource to India and other countries where child labor laws are not so strict.

I believe the maximum age should be around 20.

What surprises me is that people who have been doing social media for less than 1 year are going to be 'forecasting' what's going to happen in 2011.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing that Pete Gorman puts 20 somethings with six weeks of boot camp in charge of your little darlings on a daily basis. That social media really helps clean up the projectile vomiting of Velveeta in the hallway or telling the world what you think about the bleeping school system. You can tweet or use a smart board but you're history if you can't motivate a irrelevant score out of a pee wee or stop a gang fight with facebook.

Anonymous said...

Anyone up for a game of Pong?

Phil Kabza said...

I've read the kind of postings that 20 year old marketing staff leave on social networking sites. Do you like want your company to be like represented by a 20 year old? Awesome!

There's nothing about web based social media that a 60 year old can't learn, unless they don't want to, in which case hire an awesome like 20 year old. They don't have a lot to say yet, but it's like amusing to read.

Joanna said...

When I read this, I thought of the August 2010 Social Media Today article:

Interns make coffee, not social media strategy

I do believe that in terms of the basic posting and monitoring this is something that could be done by a more junior staff member. However, a middle range staff member is more likely able to decipher a trend and assess the importance/impact of nuances overlooked by someone with less experience.

You hire the right person for the job. It is ludicrous to hire someone because they are the right age if they lack skills or discount a person just because they have gray hair. Neither is a yardstick of whether or not they are savvy when it comes to the technology.

Yes, there are talented people who are 20 years old. Last week I heard a young entrepreneur, 21 year old Joe Davy of EvoApp, speak on "The State Of Things". I was impressed by his eloquence and was poise. He had ability to articulate his message and communicate effectively. ( I would put him up against the most seasoned professional.

However, I am just as aware that there are people the same age who lack skills, maturity and understanding of what business does.

Interestingly enough, if you are banking on the rising crop of teenagers, their messaging of choice is SMS Texting - mom and dad can't monitor it as easily as public venues as FB and TW.

Let's remember that as an industry, Social Media metrics and analysis have yet to show the true ROI of building community.

Just because you can use a technology does not mean you know how to leverage that technology to achieve business objectives.

Before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, take the time to identify and define your goal. Align the correct methods and technology to achieve that goal.

Yes, the likes of Facebook, Twitter & Youtube are the current sexy tech out there today - tomorrow it may be mobile apps that haven't even been invented.

You need to figure if your problem will be solved by employing whatever tech/medium is being proposed. That's where you will make money -- and really, isn't that what business is looking to find?

And, BTW, if you looking to win over customers using social media, pay attention to the demographics ( Who are you trying to market to? Who is your customer, your audience.

Choose the right tool for the job, choose the right technician to best use the tool.

Anonymous said...

Hire them to be part of the program, sure. Hire them for their expertise, their passion, their talent or their voice. But no, someone with no business experience and very little work experience probably shouldn't be managing a business program, social media related or not.

Not saying there aren't exceptions, but generally, no. Hiring someone to manage a program just because... they are young is ridiculous.


Mark said...

The age doesn't matter. It's about having a relevant strategy that drives the messaging.


Anonymous said...

It's called Investment Relations. Sure I would give my 17 year old daughter the keys to my Ferrari but will she bring it home undamaged.

Jorge said...

I think that it all comes down to choose the person who is the most qualified to deliver the results you are looking for. I agree that a team with a combination of experience and youth can be the best option for bigger projects

Tameka said...

The bigger issue here is not social media at all. The bigger issue is the backlash of the "generational diversity" discussion we've heard on TV or workshops we've participated in either in our workplaces or at conferences. There are generalizations about each of the four generations in the workplace. Albeit that the millennial generations MAY be more likely to understand modern day technology, does not mean that other generations can't do the same. I attended the panel discussion and I don't believe she meant any harm. However, as a representative of an industry that already has some stereotypical generalizations of its own, she should have been a bit more mindful of making that comment. Look the workforce is becoming more diverse every day, so your workforce will diversify in its own. But you want the best and brightest talent and making statements like that may make it more challenging to attract that talent and you'll miss out on remaining competitive.

Richard Brasser said...

Kathryn - Good response. The folks at Boone Oakley "get it." The biggest problem with social media right now is that there are too many people that think a year of posting on a couple freeware sites is sufficient for guiding a social strategy. This is absolutely silly and won't last long...age is irrelevant!

For all of the social media gurus, sorcerers and ninjas out there, I would start looking for a new industry to fleece. This one is starting to become educated enough to know the difference. Maybe QR codes or near field HID tech would be a good one. I personally am loving where 2011 is going and finally seeing some good separation between expertise and good old fashioned BS.

Outsource SEO said...

It is important that your social media manager is well networked with other allied professionals and colleagues and is informed about the constant changes and ideas. In the current paradigm, many businesses must diversify to survive and find new applications for the same products. Having lots of business connections will help create new diversifications.

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Jon Sigurdsson said...

When it comes to social media, age I'm guessing would be an advantage.
So, yes?

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