Age Doesn’t Matter, Social Media Experience and Smarts Do

Peter Friedman post by: Peter Friedman

This past week a recent graduate of the University of Iowa student, Cathryn Sloan, ignited quite a firestorm of criticism when she posted a blog “Why Every Social Media Manager Should be Under 25” on NextGenJournal

First I want to commend Cathryn on her social media smarts and skills. Unlike the many posts decrying your qualifications, I think you have demonstrated them well.  Created and posted a provocative theme that has stimulated a wide range of dialogue and creating or re-awakening relationships.  Social media is about the transformative power of online dialogue and relationships.  That’s our vision at LiveWorld, few in social media do understand it.

If your goal was to get attention you’ve done so. If your goal was to demonstrate your qualifications for a social media job (entry level) you’ve done so, at least to our firm, which unlike most in the space does understand social deeply.  We’re not hiring positions that would be a fit for you right now, but may in the future. Right now we are hiring people who deeply understand social media marketing and are very experienced at it.  Social media and online community (same thing for purpose of this discussion) have been around for 30 years, not just 10.  While a small percentage of our industry, there are quite a few people around that have been in this space for 10, even 25 plus years.  They are hard to find and we are proud that most of our staff meets this experience standard. We’re also proud of the newer people and we seek to have a balanced mix of skills, experience and perspectives. If you are interested shoot me an email at and we’ll stay in touch.  (If you ever join LiveWorld you will be working for and learning from and with people mostly in their 30s, 40s and 50s who I guarantee you have more smarts, skills and experience in social media than you do, than anyone under 25 has and indeed more than most other people in our industry.)

My first reaction to this blog, like many of the comments, was the very idea that one has to be under 25 to be qualified for a social media manager job, demonstrates a lack of understanding of and qualifications for such a job.  Indeed while people under 25 may well be deep users of social media, most have neither the knowledge, developed skills and marketing/business experience to be social media managers.  The blog has been hammered with detail on that so I won’t elaborate further. However like any other profession specific individuals may hold great promise and be excellent candidates for starting positions, contributing quite a bit while they are learning and gaining experience.  Like any other profession, occasionally a person’s extraordinary talent makes up some for lack of experience.

The most important thought in Cathryn’s post is,  “The truth is, regardless of age, some people have a better handle on social media than others.”  To which I’ll add, regardless of age, and regardless of experience with social media as a user, most people, most agencies and most brands do not have a good handle on social media.

Most marketing today in social media is not true social. Rather it’s traditional broadcast, PR or digital marketing pushed through social channels, shouting at customers and delivering what Cathryn calls “tired commercial statements.”   True social media marketing focuses on dialogue and relationships among and with your customers. It’s not about the brand.  It’s about the customers, fostering experiences for them and if done well having your brand invited by those customers into their daily lives.

This dearth of good true social media marketing is mostly due to the head on land grab rush at the space by people in other marketing disciplines who think their smarts there or their ability to integrate across marketing disciplines qualifies them for the space.  Generally they miss the fundamental dynamics of the new medium and execute poorly.  There are some notable exceptions, people agencies and brands that crossed over well and do a great job. The dearth of good true social media marketing is also due to a whole crowd of people who think being an avid user of social media (in some cases thinking growing up with it) qualifies them.  So we have a big crowd of self-styled experts in social media that are far from it.  Fortunately brands are realizing this and seeking out social media specialists, recognizing it demands, as Cathryn says, a unique social perspective.  And also recognizing the more years of experience the better and the best, though rare, is to get a team with 10-30 years of experience not just using social media but actually developing and delivering successful social media marketing experiences.  Alas people under 25 are not likely to have that experience.  But they may well have value to add anyway and the best ones will be able to gain that experience and learn as they do.

Peter Friedman, Chairman & CEO, LiveWorld  @peterfriedman  @liveworld

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