Age Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number
Oh, you didn’t catch that memo? Well it’s something like that, according to Hollis Thomases's article in Inc. Magazine titled "11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn't Run Your Social Media."
A good indicator of when someone is about to use a stereotype is when they start with, “Pardon the generalization, but.” Thomases doesn’t waste time getting right to it, bulleting reasons for why companies should steer clear of twenty-something’s running social media channels. A few to name:
- “You can’t control their friends.” Implying the risk of a grad sorority sister posting an inappropriate comment on the company’s Facebook page, etc.
- “They may be too busy on their own.” Suggesting they will be distracted by their own channels.
- “Humor is tricky.” Pointing to the content creation aspect of these platforms and implying that 20-somethings’ views on humor could be considered offensive. (Funny – Thomases' Twitter bio claims she is “snarky.” As if it weren't conveyed in her blog post. )
While all those are fair statements for someone you wouldn’t want running your social media platform, I don’t see how that has anything to do with age. It appears to be more of a HR staffing problem. Why is your company investing in unqualified employees who are taking advantage of your business? Light Bulb! But even as a 22-year-old public relations professional who uses social media every day, both personally and for corporate companies, I have to say – I agree with her advice (with the exception of age, of course). Companies need to take a serious look at who is managing their social brand online. In summary, here are some valid points made by Thomases, sprinkled with my own perspective.
“You shouldn’t forfeit all common sense and hire your niece because you think they’re really good on Facebook”
You wouldn’t hire just anyone to join your executive communications department because they were older and seem experienced. Social media is a powerful and useful tool for your brand, when leveraged correctly; therefore, hiring someone who can clearly articulate what they are doing and why (with supporting evidence) is extremely important. Working in high tech PR, where clients can be apprehensive about social media, it is crucial for our clients to understand what we are doing and how the program is tailored to their goals. Social programs are not implemented for the sake of having a Twitter logo on business cards, it needs a purpose in order to be successful, whether that be gaining visibility with media, engaging with customers, or getting more participants for surveys and webinars.
“They may not understand your business and reflect your brand "
Again, nothing to do with age. The person running your company’s soap-box should be someone you trust to speak on your company's behalf, because that is what social media is. To be frank, I’ve seen too many CEOs using social media platforms and neglecting basic best practices when it comes to representing their own brand! Having a company link on your issued press release is as basic as some other social media functions, like hashtagging. If your company claims to be a thought leader in big data, the tweet should read #bigdata, so it’s filtered to the right audience. If your CIO is speaking at the upcoming Intertop conference and your social media manager hasn’t leveraged the news on Twitter, you are missing out on a huge opportunity from a visibility standpoint. And if this reads like Greek to you – please, please don’t run the social media platform for your company!
“ Crisis communications and keeping the keys "
This is a fear every PR pro has, old or young, on social media or not. There is risk for error with every publicly published document. This is why it is so important to have a social media policy. Does every tweet need to be approved by five people? No. But the overall logistics for your practice should be known and understood by everyone running your communications program. Each program must have a document that outlines the logistics, including passwords scheduling calendars, do’s and don’ts, etc. If your social media manager is on vacation for a week and the company’s Facebook is spamming your customers’ pages with porn websites, that’s a problem!
Overall, Thomases is right when it comes to exactly what a social media manager shouldn't be -- Unqualified. But age is nothing but a number.