Are We Too Old For Social Media–Or Not Old Enough?

image of young woman and older womanWhen my Dad passed away in November 2011 I stopped dying my hair. The gray strands are starting to show. Makes it hard to pass for 25, or 35–or even 45 these days. “So,” you wonder. “What does this have to do with social media, integrated marketing or even business in general?”

Not much. And yet, everything.

Recently young blogger Cathryn Sloane’s post  “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25” ignited a firestorm of response. The post was shared throughout social networks and hundreds of negative comments and posts were generated. Sloane’s premise (in case you have been offline for the past 10 days or busy in the garden) is that people under 25 have come up with these tools and have learned to use them socially first and for business afterward. This age group’s familiarity with social media tools makes them ideally suited for the position of social media manager.

There is truth here. It’s true that people under the age of 25 have come up using many of these tools and have more than passing familiarity with them.  Some of these same people also have the native ability to act as effective social media or community managers. Many do not because they lack the education, training, life experience or personality traits that help an employee effectively perform the tasks associated with social media management.

In the same way that certain personality types make wonderful dentists, gifted teachers, patient therapists, or talented performers, your age and experience impact how you do your job. Being young can mean being in the early days of your career and in the early days of your life experience. Being older can mean having learned your trade and how to conduct business. Or how to use online tools to promote research, build, connect and grow.

You could be someone who is under 25 and really has a flair for building business, who has consumed information and training and is just naturally suited for the position that you hold–wise beyond your years. Or, you could be someone like me, who over the years has learned how to integrate digital and social media with traditional marketing and PR. Your age doesn’t necessarily make you better at social media.

In this, one size does not fit all.

Cathryn Sloane’s post outlined her sense that her generation is better suited for social media management and there are many organizations being told that this is so. I am acquainted with people who worry about being overlooked for positions because they are perceived as being too old. Who are never given the chance to interview because of the gray hair. Too old? Too young?

Who’s right? An important question.

As in anything else in life, it depends what you are trying to do. There will be, and are, talented young people who are ideally suited to manage the social media function. And there will be, and are, older people who have the all the qualifications, plus the life experience and learning that comes with having logged years on the earth. As Jason Falls points out, “…at any age social media management means taking responsibility.”

In the end, all of us will learn to use (and some of us to embrace) the fast changing technology of today’s world. The younger of us will find it less foreign but may lack context. The older of us may struggle to learn to tools but may be better suited to use them effectively.

And together we will build teams that find strength on the differences between the ages, races, life experience and creative problem solving. This is the hope for the future and the reason that we aren’t too old for social media or not old enough. We just are.

Comments

  1. You know what? I’ve never noticed your hair is gray. You’re so elegant and sophisticated – and your hair is so great – I’ve never thought, “Huh, her hair is gray.” 
     
    We’ve had this conversation. It has nothing to do with age. I think it has more to do with ongoing learning and curiosity. Some people are curious enough to learn how to use new tools and others are not. And that has nothing to do with age. Nothing.

    •  @ginidietrich You are so kind to stop by and comment on this. Thanks. And I would agree with you. On the other hand, I think this is a discussion that needs to be held over and over again so that we start to really THINK about it. All of us. Older, younger–and in between (whatever that means). 😉

  2. JohnLusher says:

    Excellent post Allen. I read Cathryn Sloane’s post, and while she had some good points, I firmly believe that the inexperience in the business world, at the age of around 25, would do more harm than good. I don’t think there is a magic age for a social media manager, but I also don’t believe that you can be too young or too old to be one.  Being a social media manager not only requires knowledge and understanding of these tools, but the knowledge and understanding of business, marketing, people and relationships. We collectively build social communities based on several factors, but to me, age is not one of them.

    •  @JohnLusher Thank you John. Ideally, I think you choose the person best suited for the position and look to see, if this is a younger individual, if they have that special combination of traits that can offset lack of years. I have recently met several young people who are building incredible businesses (and I am mindful of +Geoff Livingston’s comment about innovations) so don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. 😉 Also feel like someone who is graying and experienced must not be overlooked if they are the right fit.
       
      Thank you for the comment and for sharing. Really pleased to see you here. :)

  3. geoffliving says:

    You get what you pay for, youth brings risk, which can bring innovation. And bad errors.  Experience brings savoir faire. But less innovative approaches. Companies who can afford deep staffs with both (and able to harness both strengths) win. As to Sloane’s post, I feel bad for her. I do. No matter whether she’s right or wrong, the vitriol expressed in the commenting and responses is reprehensible.

    •  @geoffliving I agree completely and probably should have added the value on the side of youth’s willingness to risk and the resulting innovation. And, I also see (in an ideal setting) the benefits of building teams of people from differing ages, experience and even personalities–wait a minute. That’s starts to sound like something that could resemble a marketing round! ;)With regard to Cathryn Sloan and her post: I also feel bad for her. Especially after watching people reach out both publicly and privately and offer to help and to mentor her.(Help she has decided not to accept.)  I’m concerned that she has not responded publicly although I agree that the tone of so many of the comments and related posts has been reprehensible. It must feel overwhelming and I’m sorry that her post provoked such behavior.
       
      Thanks for swinging by to comment. Lovely of you. :)

  4. flemingsean says:

    Great post.  I’ve been meaning to write something on this topic myself. Not sure I need to now.  :)

  5. DaneCobain says:

    I’m 23 and work as a social media manager. I like to think that I’m pretty good at it :)

  6.  @allenmireles Thanks so much for linking to my blog post. It’s a real honor that you took the time to read it and share! Love your perspective that everyone is on the same boat. 
     

  7. davelucas says:

    You are never too old (or too young) to be active in social media!

    •  @davelucas I agree. And, choosing someone to serve as a social media manager should not be based on their age alone. As time goes on, we’ll see more and more people embracing the use of social networking tools as well as other forms of social media–as a matter of course.

  8. You’re never to old for social media, my father (62) has facebook (2176 Friends) and he uses it every day! I have to say that you could be to young for faacebook… for example if you are 12… 12 year old girls go crazy these days online with there pictures! So never to old but you can be to young :) thanks for the post and keep up the good work :)

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