In Social Media, Does Age Matter?

An article by recent college grad Cathryn Sloane has been widely shared over the past few days. The woman, a St. Louis native, suggests that nobody over the age of 25 should be hired to do social media work. Apparently, she was serious. (Click HERE for the article.)

Her rant was triggered by help-wanted ads for social media managers that require several years of experience. Her point is those in the class of 2012 have been personally involved in social media for several years. She writes, “We spent our adolescence growing up with social media.”

The blowback has been quick and fierce. Responses range from benign amusement to resentful anger. But the question persists: Does she have a valid point?

My generation, the Baby Boomers, has a bit of swagger because there are so many of us. Unlike the Millennials, we were not raised with our fingers attached to a computer keyboard. We are not “digital natives,” as are those born in the last 25 years.

But do we, the Boomers (and the Gen Xers), lack the abilities to spread information via social networks? No. In fact, we may be better equipped to do so, thanks to our experiences in writing and editing (sometimes with pencil or a typewriter). Many of us who have worked in media, marketing or both know the necessity of connecting with followers, also known as listeners, viewers, readers and customers.

Other media have always been social in nature, if not in designation. Radio, for instance, has always responded to listener feedback. Instead of “likes,” listeners have picked up the phone to say, “Play more Lynyrd Skynyrd. Stop playing the Dixie Chicks.”

Technology advances. In 2012, we have new and different channels. But today’s social media managers are performing tasks that are not that different from some performed by previous generations. The bottom line, the key to success, is an ability to communicate clearly and to monitor responses. As the author of the article concedes in her next-to-last paragraph, “The truth is, regardless of age, some people have a better handle on social media than others.”

The writer of this article should know that persons of all ages have felt the sting of such limitations as “minimum five years experience.” Talk to a few Boomers and Gen Xers, especially those making career changes. They’ll tell you it’s not just a problem faced by the young.

My guess is the attention this item has garnered will help this woman get a decent job offer, experience or not. Whether her points are right or wrong, they have produced a good amount of discussion. And in 2012, an ability to generate genuine online heat is a good one to have.

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