11 Things to Consider Before Hiring a 23-yea… err.. Someone to Run Your Social Media.

This is a response to Hollis Thomases’ article ’11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media’

Hello, I’m Ryan Crowe – I’m a 25 year old social media strategist and manager. I’ve made some choice edits to Hollis Thomasesarticle that appears on Inc. and Time. I’ve made some edits below that show that the article’s points do not just apply to 23 year olds or twenty-somethings in general, but rather are a good guideline for hiring anyone for your social media needs. This debate on age in social media has reached monumental levels of absurdity and foul volleys have been launched by both youthful sources and those who are older than this… 20-something age divide that has somehow become the de facto schism.  All of these ageist touche attempts are embarrassing and end up hurting the folks who are looking for jobs right now in one way or the other. The last thing any of us needs right now is another ‘something’ against us… and as social media professionals we definitely don’t need to be doing it to each other. Below are the proposed changes to Hollis’ article.

11 Things to Consider Before Hiring Someone to Run Your Social Media

Better to use an image of many people, all ages, without being too specific, eh?


Pardon the generalization: I don’t mean to attack 23-year-olds new ‘social media professionals’ specifically. Nor do I believe there are no young people new social media professionals capable of managing a business’s social-media responsibilities.

I am, however, trying to make a point: Just because you don’t understand social media doesn’t mean you should forfeit all common sense and hire your niece, nephew, or any other other recent college grad (say, your best friend’s sister-in-law’s kid) just anyone because “they’re really good on Facebook.”

If your business targets the young and hip, most definitely look to a recent grad or young social-media nerd someone who is in touch with this audience to help your business. But don’t assume, either, that you need to hire someone young to manage your social media “just because.”

Frankly, this kind of logic makes me crazy–and yet I’m seeing it more and more these days. But you really shouldn’t be entrusting your entire social-media efforts to a newly graduated intern an inexperienced new hire. Here’s why:

1.  They’re not mature enough. Compared with young people 50 years ago, who were eager to enter adulthood and settle down, today’s youth are not only not eager to do so, but most do not feel that they’ve reached adulthood until late into their 20s or early 30s, according to research from Clark University. Instead, they tend to feel unstable and self-focused and would rather explore who they are and how they can transform their lives. This is great for them but not so great for you, their employer–particularly because Social media is all about communicating with your audience in mature and accountable ways. (Note: this Clark University research, by the way, indicates that marriage and a child are indicators of adulthood to the ‘youth’ in the study. Youth, in turn, is indicated by being ‘open to possibilities’ and being ‘independent’ and ‘spontaneous’.)

2.  They may be focused on their own social-media activity. Because of the above, if you hire a young an unprofessional person to manage your social media, you may also need to need to worry about how he or she is actually spending his or her time. Will you need to be monitoring the person?

3. They may not have the same etiquette–or experience. Your recent college grad hire may have experience with Facebook and Instagram, but make sure you check out the substance of his or her updates and posts. You need to make sure your posts reflect your brand–and that you don’t wind up with a late-night smartphone photo landing in the wrong account. At the very least, ensure you have a social-media policy in place.

4.  You can’t control their friends.  This isn’t exclusive to recent grads, of course, but it’s a risk to consider: Even if you hire a real winner, be sure that his or her friends won’t post inappropriate content to your company’s social-media accounts.

5.  No class can replace on-the-job training.  Social media for business is really so many things wrapped into one: marketing, customer service, public relations, crisis management, branding. How deep is the experience of a young person your new hire in delivering any of these things?

6.  They may not understand your business.  You are handing the keys to your social-media kingdom to a newcomer, but there’s plenty that he or she needs to understand beyond the social tools themselves. What are the nuances of your products or services? What makes you stand out in the marketplace? What are the typical expectations of your customers? How do you troubleshoot issues or cajole customers into working a bit more with you? What does your company stand for? No new hire will be able to absorb these issues overnight, of course–but a brand-new graduate will have an even steeper learning curve based on these studies here that prove new-graduates have a steeper learning curve than a regular new hire learning about their completely new job’s message and company culture (link to trusted studies source)..

7.  Communication skills are critical. Communication is critical to solid social-media execution. Before you let a young new hire take over your company blog posts, take stock of his or her writing skills. Also: Many young people have not yet learned the “art” of communicating. Make sure they know how to read between the lines, rather than taking things too literally.

8.  Humor is tricky business.  People like to be entertained, on social media as well as elsewhere. Will a young  new hire understand the boundaries of humor and entertainment appropriate to your target audience, or could your audience wind up being offended?

9.  Social-media savvy is not the same as technical savvy. Good social media requires a combination of both. Successful social-media management involves production requirements, tools, analytics, and other aspects of work.

10. Social-media management can become crisis management. The real-time nature of social media can quickly turn fun engagement and conversation into a public relations disaster, especially if the person behind the wheel isn’t thinking a few steps ahead. Are you really willing to take that risk?

11. You need to keep the keys. If you do go ahead and hire a new grad social media manager or strategist, make sure he or she sets up the social-media accounts using your company’s email and shares the passwords with you. Otherwise, you could wind up with no access to these social-media accounts–and no way to take them over.

Social media is not the be-all and end-all. It’s a marketing tool–part of an ever-growing arsenal of ways to bring your company to your prospective customers’ attention.

Thinking of it this way, you will perhaps slow down and consider more closely whom you’re hiring–and why.

6 Responses to “11 Things to Consider Before Hiring a 23-yea… err.. Someone to Run Your Social Media.”

  1. Kyle Broyles
    August 31, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    I realize that I’m a little late to the party, but I think Ryan make a great point – it should boil down to maturity, not age.

    Good Stuff – thanks for the read.

    • September 12, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

      Thanks, man! Never late to the party…

  2. vasco
    August 16, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    I can work around a few generalizations but when they’re so blunt I’ll either trash it or ignore it completely. I wouldn’t have your patience.

    • August 16, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

      Patience is a requirement. If I had thrown a fit about it, the charge could quickly be levied against me that I was exhibiting the very youthful imprudence that she warned against in the article. The tact to handling a dissenting opinion is something, ostensibly, learned from ‘experience’ I’m sure someone would argue.

  3. August 11, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    I really like your edits. I felt the same about the original article. Ageism goes both ways; older people are often stereotyped for their lack of understanding of social media, whereas us younger people are stereotyped for not understanding the big picture.

    • August 11, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

      Absolutely – and like I mentioned at the top. Which group actually feels better about themselves the more this conversation happens? It’s such a played out argument to have, yet it continues to happen generation after generation – old vs young. You think we’d have figured out something by now, right?

      Social media is struggling for legitimacy as it is – do we need to add such a base argument to the mix?

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