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?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Verizon iPhone could be unveiled Tuesday

Either the biggest tech media Punk'd job in history is afoot, or Apple and Verizon are going to announce the long-awaited Verizon iPhone on Tuesday. Countless long-suffering Verizoners (yours truly included) are expected to go streaking to the nearest Apple store on D-day (whatever that turns out to be). Like many of my friends, I've been tied into multiple Verizon contracts, which ruled me out of the iPhone -- until now. The newest Verizon Androids sure make a compelling case for themselves (the new 4G HTC Thunderbolt is quite a head-turner) but I don't know if I'll be able to resist the siren song of the iPhone.

At least, at long last, I have the option. I think.