Social Media seems to be wildly misunderstood by some folks, including those within the social media profession who have the ability to use its own tools to spread that misunderstanding like a telephone game.
Though my example is old news (by SM standards), I have seen it popping up for the past couple weeks pretty regularly. On July 20, Nextgen Journal published a piece called Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25.
I should qualify that when I heard the title I laughed and assumed it was parody. It wasn't. By the time I read her piece (two days after it was posted) a series of blog responses had popped up. I tweeted the absurdity from a conference (I was studying web intents, really):
I could easily pull the article apart, but it's been done. The link in my tweet does a good job already. To the young author's credit (which may demonstrate that she does understand social media), she has avoided the Streisand effect by allowing the article to stand and the comments to roll in.
Instead of reading all the rebuttals, I like the meta conversations that have popped up about the concerns over ageism in the industry (which appear to be so far unfounded by the successful brands), or how we should all remember that once it's on the internet, it tends to stay (something older users may have been protected from in college, though I wasn't one of them). Some have even suggested the responses from the elder generation could have been more helpful and less brutal (even if I think some of the brutality was helpful).
Some folks saw an opportunity and just ran with it, like the guy who registered CathrynSloane.com, the name of the author of the original article:
I discovered Cathryn had decided not to secure her personal domain name for the past 10 years […] I spent a total of $11.00 USD and about an hour setting up free email & web hosting for this domain. Now all 2,267,233,742 (as of 12/31/11) Internet users can find and read the information presented here. No need to mess with Facebook, Twitter, etc., and I have full informational control over content/context and privacy.
I am over 25. Not by a little. I am also a member of the local chapter of Social Media Club, whose local membership spans a range of ages but does tend toward the younger (than me) side.
I have clients who have asked about finding someone to help them act as their face on assorted social media platforms. I tell them that factors to consider when evaluating a social media manager include experience, skill, understanding the brand message, and just having the emotional intelligence and savvy to present a brand on any social media outlet.
An intern at the copier may be a great use of an inexpensive resource, but an intern who acts as the voice of your organization in a particular form of media probably isn't. Knowing how to use a copier is a rote skill which does not make an intern qualified to produce the annual report or press releases. I feel you can swap Facebook, Twitter, etc. in place of the copier and the analogy stands.
I'd also like to point out that much of this is a rehash of conversations back at the dawn of the web, when the job title "webmaster" was coined and the younger someone was the more qualified he/she was. That also didn't pan out as true.
No matter how old you are, there is something to be learned from this entire story. Probably many somethings, but one that stuck out during a conversation today (which led to this post) was that knowing how to use a tool doesn't mean you won't cut yourself with it. I suspect Ms. Sloane has learned that now.
Related (Because I Said So)
- Another Piece Claiming Social Media Makes You Dumber, August 9, 2011.
- Twitter As Passive-Aggressive Enabler, January 4, 2011.
- Humorous Social Media Infographics, October 6, 2010.
- Don't Let Social Media Get You Robbed (or Stalked), March 2, 2010.
- Lots of Twitter Followers Guarantees... Nothing, January 6, 2010.
- Facebook Doesn't Make You Smarter, Rigorous Research Does, September 8, 2009.