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.

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