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 Cathryn)
Provocative headline, right? Well, it was more than a headline. She backed up the headline with some big opinions around why she really believe that title to be true.
Now, you can disagree with Cathryn (I don’t think anyone can honestly agree with the idea that EVERY social media manager should be younger than 25, but that’s just me, I guess), but to me, this whole deal has much more to do with attitude and humility than the actual topic at hand.
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 I would hardly use the word “entitled” to refer to them. Instead I would use words like “hard working”, “honest” and “determined.”
But, if you take a closer look at Cathryn’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 the over-25-year-olds 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 of the post, understanding the tool is one thing (my wife knows how to use Facebook–is she an expert?). Knowing how to use those tools in the context of a larger PR/marketing plan is something completely different. In time, I’m confident Cathryn 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? Basically what Cathryn is saying here is the specific ways which companies should use social media to engage with audiences is beyond anyone over the age of 25. I have to believe she was kidding here–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 to reach target audiences? Not by a long shot. But, there are many reasons for those actions that Cathryn just can’t see yet as a student. For example, not all companies WANT to be conversational and “witty” on social channels. Some just want to use social to drive leads. You know, those people that actually buy products so you and I can have jobs (see, 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 is Cathryn referring to here, I wonder? If we’re talking about an entry-level social media hire, I actually tend to agree with her. I’d probably go younger, too, 1-3 years experience–maybe even a recent grad. But, she also threw “manager” in there. To me, 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. And, that shouldn’t be a tough business decision to understand. Think about it. 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 5-7 years experience with time managing teams and tools? I think the answer should be fairly obvious.
Look, I’m not here to mock and ridicule Cathryn Sloane (other folks are taking care of that, unfortunately). She seems like an accomplished student who’s not afraid to share her opinion (that will serve her well down the road). But, the post really fueled the fire because of the attitude and lack of humility she displayed–at least in my view.
That’s what really got me about this post. The utter lack of humility for those who have gone through this career progression before you. The notion that you deserve these jobs without an OUNCE of experience (outside of using Facebook and Twitter each day). And, the attitude we saw come through in the quotes above.
OK, your turn. What do you think of Cathryn’s post if you’re reading it for the first time? Please, let’s not pile on Cathryn, but instead offer her some helpful advice (remember folks, this girl is 21/22 years old).
Note: Photo courtesy of SaltyDogBrand via FlickR Creative Commons.