Should Every Social Media Manager Be Under 25?

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This topic contains 29 replies, has 23 voices, and was last updated by  Henry Brown 8 years, 11 months ago.

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  • #166507

    Joseph Porcelli

    According to Cathryn Sloane who attends the University of Iowa, every social media manager should be under 25.

    In her post titled “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25” on she argues:

    The key is that we learned to use social media socially before professionally, rather than vice versa or simultaneously.

    The specificity of the ways in which the method should be used is usually beyond them [companies], however. The typically tired commercial statements or aggressively slang-imitating phrases companies tend to use on their sites do not match the witty, honest, energetic atmosphere these social media outlets offer.

    The mere fact that my generation has been up close and personal with all these developments over the years should make clear enough that we are the ones who can best predict, execute, and utilize the finest developments to come.

    Her post unleashed a fury of comments – some hateful. The editors chimed in – here are some highlights of what they had to say:

    Applying this to Cathryn’s article: whether you agree with her or not, she was describing a belief that a number of young people share. In conversations across college campuses and with young professionals, these ideas often come up: that young people naturally grasp social media more effectively, that members of our generation are best suited to fill positions in the rapidly expanding social media profession, and that employers too often value prior work experience above all else.

    In a time when 1 in 2 recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, those sentiments are understandable.

    Let’s discuss:

    1. Does you agree with this statement – That young people naturally grasp social media more effectively …. that they are best suited to fill positions in the rapidly expanding social media profession?
    2. In your experience, have you seen – that employers too often value prior work experience above all else?
    3. If employers are favoring prior work experience above all else – how then are we preparing and training the next generation to lead?
  • #166565

    Henry Brown

    1. IMO this is like saying only people who were raised in a city are qualified to take positions with the city. Would offer that on a case by case basis there may in fact be some young people well qualified but lumping all others in the other category is like most generalizations.

    2. Yes always have and probably always will. That is not to say that other skills are not important (communication skills, programming skills, etc.).

    3. The same way that that the baby-boomers were prepared and trained by the “greatest generation”, and the baby-boomers trained and prepared the Generation X’s etc. etc.

  • #166563


    I would refer Cathryn to our EEO laws first and foremost.

    Then to blogs or sites that focus on Law 2.0 (popvox, lexpop, etc.) and more complex issues that require quite a bit of time and experience to effectively manage.

    Add to this trends that show an increasing number of over 70s joining social media and I would say:

    No. Sorry. Another urban myth debunked.

    In terms of jobs for inexperienced workers most companies and gov’t Agencies offer student internships and other processes for phasing new employees into their systems.

    Or they could follow in the footsteps of the 20-something startup CEOs and make it happen that way.

  • #166561

    Social media is a conversation. It can’t be “governed,” only influenced. That’s the lesson gov needs to learn.

  • #166559
  • #166557

    Steve Ressler

    I have a couple comments on this one:

    1) Obviously the original article is wrong. You shouldn’t have to be under 25 from EEO reasons to just common sense. Social media is different but it’s also just another channel like radio, email, media, etc and you need to understand the communication basics.

    2) I think her argument is also wrong in that there is one “right way” to do social media. As the majority of users of social media are above 25 now, I think there are more ways to do social media right not just what works for younger audience. Different audiences use social media differently and now everyone is there so have to think of your strategy

    3) One point I would give to her is the question of how much prior work experience matters – as my father once said “do you have ten years of experience? or 1 year of experience you’ve done 10 times?” For a lot of roles, I think a really amazingly talented and hard-working person with just a couple years experience could be just as good if not better than an average person (in talent and hard-work) with “1 year of experience done 15 times” – agree? disagree?

  • #166555
  • #166553

    Bill Brantley

    May I suggest that the University of Iowa consider adopting a critical thinking program like several other universities have done? This will prevent their graduates from making such stereotypical and poorly-supported statements such as Ms. Sloane’s assertion.

  • #166551

    Jeff S

    No but every Social Media manager should be very open to new ideas

  • #166549

    Andrew Mullen Scott

    As a 25er, I can’t help but giggle at how silly Sloanne’s arguement is. It’s too one dimensional. I’ve been professionally practicing social media for three years now. In that time I’ve had to explain it’s essence and basic application to 40-somethings AND (hold on to your iPhones!!) early 20-somethings. And I’ve learned new elements and better practices from folks well over 50. Being a “Digital Native” doesn’t guarantee one knows squat about how to really use social media. It’s about constantly educating yourself and the willingness to learn from others to become better.

  • #166547


    Here is a good comment from our internal Yammer discussion at NASA where the topic is currently trending, with 23 comments so far.

    V. in reply to Megan Eskey (ARC): I find social media the greatest outlet to understanding trends, awareness and variations of ideas from all age groups. Everyone has an opinion about something and grasping the idea of texting, owning a smartphone, creating apps, and finding new ways to communicate can be beneficial to any age group. In my opinion, it all depends on the subject matter to which some may have more knowledge than others. As a gen-x person I may have more knowledge on travel, ways to secure financial matters, and the importance of investing for the future. However, my younger brother (still in high school) may post trends on fashion, the newest high tech car, or app. Both are highly important to any company that is willing to invest in a social media audience. In my opinion, the successful approach would be to master the balance of several generations

  • #166545

    Steve Ressler

    Great answer…I think your point that early-20 somethings can be just as bad is something that isn’t talked about but I see all the time.

  • #166543

    Kurt Williams

    Last sentence – Agreed!

  • #166541

    steve davies

    For those of us, like myself, who are over 25 and, therefore, are near death I do agree. In fact, anyone over the age of 25 should be banned from using social media full stop. I mean, we drag the whole internet down. Better to leave it to the under 25s who ‘get it’.

    Well, not exactly. The problem is the personal practices and mindset of individuals and the organisations they have worked for.

    As a 55+ heretic I do not like closed minds and closed organisations. Both fail to liberate our talents. So you might like to check out my post Practices of the 21st Century Organisation.

    It is a bit of a worry that the NextGen mob want to stick themselves in a cell of there own making. A closed mind is a closed mind. Which is really far from progressive whatever the packaging.

  • #166539

    David B. Grinberg

    Remember: age is just a number. What counts most is one’s qualifications, talent and ability to do an exceptional job. While it may be true that the 20-something crowd as a whole is more talented and skilled in this area compared to older folks, no one group(s) should ever be excluded simply based on age or any other potential discriminatory reasons. For example, what if the question was, “Should every applicant for [insert job] be Black or Hispanic?” How does that sound?

    If an employer wants to exclude entire classes of people from consideration, there must be a legitimate business justification that passes legal muster, like a socalled BFOQ (Bona Fide Occupational Requirement). Regarding age, for example, airline pilots and some public safety officials are subjected to mandatory retirement at a certain age for reasons of public safety or otherwise — but this is a narrow exception.

    Bottom line: every individual deserves the freedom to compete and advance in the workplace on a fair and level playing field.

    Here’s a link to facts about age discrimination. Hope this is helpful.

  • #166537

    Chris Cairns

    Are there accepted metrics for social media marketing / outreach / etc? If so, and you’re able to meet or exceed such metrics, then it really shouldn’t matter what your age is as long as you can deliver.

  • #166535

    Chris Cairns


  • #166533

    Steve Radick
  • #166531

    Scott Burns

    Just want to give a shout out to your dad. I have been repeating what he blogged about regarding experience ever since I read it the first time a couple of years back. Until I read this, I almost had forgotten where I first heard it. Probably the most insightful comment I’ve ever heard about experience and something I live by and try to hire based on.

  • #166529

    Scott Burns

    Wow. Sloane’s perspective is amazingly naive. Just because you have set up parties and dates, posted some pictures, and organized a fundraiser on social media does not mean you know how to make use of it professionally. Also, one thing smart people learn how to do in their jobs is to adapt to and learn new technologies. Guess what, Sloane? Many of us already had to transition from little/no Internet to Internet in the workplace. How did we ever survive?

    As a side note, I definitely think that the “digital native” perspective is a useful one to incorporate into the workforce just like any other unique perspective. I wouldn’t hire Sloane, but I’m sure some of her friends are bright.

  • #166527

    To me social media is like anything else – practice makes perfect. And you can certainly practice at any age.

    I might have thought something as ridiculous as Ms. Sloane years ago, but it would have been due to a lack of professional experience. The reason employers often value experience is that it gives you perspective and understanding. I think whether this experience should be academic or professional is debatable but there is definitely something to it.

    That said, it is hard for young people to gain sufficient experience, which frustrates many of them into making comments like those in Ms. Sloane’s article. As someone else argued, this is certainly a reason behind student training programs and perhaps we should focus more on these.

  • #166525

    William Lutz

    Ms. Sloane’s comments were unfortunate, but in my belife they underline a serious problem that persist when there are generational issues.

    As a 34 year old, I’ll be the first to admit, it’s hard for me to understand where some of my older co-workers who have been doing their jobs before I was born end up adapting to the world they are now in. Back in 1978, this organization never had a computer, now everyone has one. I often wonder how work ever got accomplished back in the 70s and 80s, I am sure there were a lot typewriters and slide rules. With the advent of new technology, there is one fact that I don’t think our older generation understands and one fact that the younger generation can’t fully articulate; younger workers are much more productive now than they ever were. What would have taken a younger worker to accomplish thirty years ago now gets accomplished in a fraction of the time. What does this mean? It means that younger workers need to be consistently challenged, evaluated and they aren’t patient enough to move up.

    Younger workers, myself included sometimes, sees older workers as relics of a bygone era where efficiency and effectiveness may have held the same qualitative value, but there is no way that they can compete today; today’s NextGeners are sliently whispering “lead, follow or get out of the way”.

    What’s worse is when younger workers start to espouse their option, much like Ms. Sloane, they are immediately villified. I wonder if someone twice Ms. Sloane’s age made the same arguments with little or no substance to back them, would the criticism be the same? I doubt it, Ms. Sloane’s young age makes her an easy target. Conversely, even if we disagreed with someone older, we would much more kinder and gentile in our approach to criticize.

    Personally, I get upset when young people are villified for putting forward their opinion, because regardless of their age, their opinions are formed from their experience and deserve to be heard. Anyone who is older and is critical of this generation, in my opinoin, has themselves to blame. This generation was the original generation that learned to be self-reliant at a young age. Many a NextGener came home aftershool to an empty home for at least two hours and had to take care themselves and a younger sibiling. Many a young NextGener saw a family member, or even a parent, lose a job in the 80s or the 90s or a house in 2000s. Many a young NextGener is facing a more uncertain world then their parents. If you ask me, this generation may not be the “Greatest Generation”, but dammit, they have earned the right to be suspicious of big organizations and blaze their own trail. Not becuase they simply want to, only because that is what they have been doing their whole lives.

  • #166523

    Brian Deming
    1. I completely disagree. Anyone who is willing to learn can pick up the next “big” thing. Tearing down a car engine, building a computer from the motherboard up, launching a social media presence… it all boils down to the learner’s knowledge/skills/ability (KSA).
    2. It’s still an “employers” market. As such, experience is a very easy way to whittle down the hundreds (thousands) of applicants for a handful of openings. As to experience outweighing KSA, I feel it depends on the task. If the decision comes down to two individuals who are extremely close in KSA, experience is likely to win every time.
    3. Time to get creative. Approximately 10,000 people turn 65 every day for the next 19 years. Certainly, we can create an on-boarding/off-boarding partnership between these two workforce generations to build up the skills and transfer knowledge. The youngest generation of workers is more-connected than any generation prior. Why not take advantage of this networking opportunity to connect them to one additional resource? If I cannot hang onto a rock star employee, I would hope that we prepare them so that they can excel wherever they decide to go. Given that 40-year careers with a single employer appear to be going extinct, odds are that young rock star will loop back into your work environment eventually. Wouldn’t you rather have them as an ally versus a competitor?
  • #166521

    Joseph Porcelli

    Steve, I really appreciate your approach – “let’s discuss how we can help her and others like her and move forward from here.” You put the community back into the social. And that is what it’s all about…

  • #166519

    Terrence Hill

    Yes – Social Media Mavens should have the heart and spirit of a Millenial, regardless of their age.

  • #166517

    Joseph Porcelli

    Thank you all for your thoughtful responses. When I first read Cathryn’s post and the ensuing comments, I found my self caught up in an emotional response….is this person for real, she no idea what the heck she is taking about.

    When I gave it more thought, I wondered if we could turn this into learning opportunity, and it has – thank you.

    My un-scientific summary is that there appears to be consensus, as Brian put it above, that knowledge/skills/ability should matter most and that age is not indicative performance.

    As a community – our job is to help each each other learn, grow, and become more effective and efficient at all of jobs, no matter our age. I think this also makes a strong case that those of us with lots of experience can make an real impact by serving as a mentors.


  • #166515

    Robert Bacal

    I wouldn’t want to hire a “social media” person. I want to hire a person with an understanding of a number of business and org. things, who THEN has skill in social media. I see the problem where people, in fact, many on govloop, who are so stuck with their “tool” that they run around trying to find things to use it for.

    I know, I know, I’ve said it before, but government is wasting millions, and private sector much more, on waving its social media tool around in the air looking for a fly to swat.

    As for the age, generational stuff, who cares. it’s hardly worthy of comment, except to say that I think we’d be better off not having social media managers under the age of six. Same logic.

  • #166513

    Robert M. Watts

    I was looking for the article that Andrew K. provided when I saw his link, the fact that not all Millenials are so tech savvy.

    1. I do not basically agree with the statement. What you need is a blend of the young and experienced, obviously. I work in the enterprise social media shop of a large agency, and learned a lot from my 17 year-old (when she was 15 actually), but also learned that many young people might “grasp” social media, but what do they grasp that can apply to an enterprise setting? They may not see the collaboration and knowledge management possibilities of social media. Fed agencies have PII, accessibility, security, and other legally-defined conditions for use of social media, as well as unwritten organizational norms that govern the etiquette of social media use, that an under 25 newbie is not going to understand. In any situation, the senior managers who govern use of social media tools are not going to be Milennials, and often range from mildly tolerant to “why the h do we need this stuff, I’ll never use it,” and would be looking forward to the first stumble of the people running social media.

    2. On the other hand, work experience alone isn’t sufficient unless someone can show that they can grow and adapt to changing technology.

    3. In the best setting, sharing control and management authority as soon as possibile – recognizing the limitations of more experienced managers in understanding new tech, and taking advantage of energy and tech awareness of “next generation.”

  • #166511

    Jay Johnson

    1. Not sure there’s suficient evidence to make such bold statement, though it is a great attention getting headline.

    2. This post on the WSJ blog suggests the opposite:

    3. Starting your own business seems to be a popular topic. I recommend the new $100 Startup. Also for an example of a 20-something that began a very successful social media business, see Laura Rouder (


  • #166509

    Allison Primack

    This topic produced a heated discussion on GovLoop’s Facebook – here’s what they had to say:

    Michael Bertoldi Absolutely not. I’m 29. I was on Facebook in college when it came out and was only for college kids. I was on Twitter before it went mainstream. I’ve been around for the emergence of social media and have seen it evolve into what it is today. Plus, a foundation in traditional advertising/marketing/PR is good for social media. You need to know what you’re trying to accomplish with these new tools, not just how to post an update. Can someone under 25 do this? Sure. Should they be the only ones doing it? No.

    Trish Bachman What? Is anyone really going to argue for this?

    Teresa Adcox No, I’m 46 and love participating in and learning new technologies.

    Martha Garvey Sorry folks, I think any question that involves “every” and “social media”…just doesn’t work. I read the original essay a while ago. I understand why she thinks the way she does. Regardless, EVERYBODY in social media should go through a “history of the Internet” course. Community on the Internet has been around as long as the Internet. It’s not her age that bothers me–it’s her lack of history.

    Trish Bachman Oy vey. Ms. Sloane would have been well advised to pay more attention to her writing techniques – she immediately loses credibility with the first awkward stumble. She may also want to take a trip to her library and read more about scholarly materials demography and generations, rather than just relying on her own opinions, especially if this is a topic of interest for her academically and/or professionally. Cheers to her for getting her work out there, but I fear she’s done more harm than good for her newly budding reputation.

    Trish Bachman ‎*read more scholarly materials about

    Deborah Johnson This 50-YO finds the question sort of…questionable. Framing up for some age discrimination? Do you think I can’t possibly learn anything new at this age?

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