Youth not key factor in hiring social media manager

Younger generation may be instinctive about social media usage, but other factors more valued than age such as crisis management and communication experience.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

Age should not be a factor in determining the performance and recruitment of a social media professional, due to the need for related experience and widening job scope to include marketing, communications and business objectives, industry players note.

Last week, Cathryn Sloane, an undergraduate at the University of Iowa, put forth the view that social media managers should be under the age of 25 because this was the generation that understood social media "socially" before they even use it professionally.

"The truth is, regardless of age, some people have a better handle on social media than others. But every generation has changes in history that define them, and social media happens to be one of those for mine," she said in the NextGen Journal last week.

She was voicing her frustration at seeing job postings for social media manager roles requiring applicants to have five to 10 years of direct experience, and wondered "why they don’t realize the candidates who are in fact best suited for the position actually aren’t old enough to have that much experience."

However, industry watchers disagreed, and point out that it was not age, but expertise and experience which determine a social media manager's success.

According to Peter Noblet, senior regional director of information technology (IT) at Hays' Recruitment, Age is not a factor in a social media professional's ability to perform any job, and it should not be a factor in any hiring manager's decision.

Recruitment should not be based on age
It is true that people from different generations have different life experiences, he elaborated.

However, it does not rule out the older generation--who were adults at the time Facebook became popular--from being suitable from the job. "This does not mean they are not passionate about social media or lack in-depth knowledge about how to use tools for the benefit of an organization", Noblet noted.

A good social media manager has a genuine interest not only in social media and the latest developments, but also the industry their organization operates within so it will shine through their tweets and online discussions with their communities, he explained.

They also need good time management skills to respond quickly, professional online communication experience and to be able to understood why their organization is using social media in order to reach out to the right people and build a suitable community, he added.

Carolyn Camoens, Waggener Edstrom Singapore's deputy general manager and digital lead, noted that in recruiting for her digital team, she did not consider age as a factor, but what they can "bring to the table" relative to the qualities needed for the job.

While many Generation Y job candidates had fit the bill, there is still value in hiring for experience and maturity to maneuver organizational complexities, and age is a poor judge of that, observed Ben Israel, digital strategist at Edelman, who is in his early 30s.

Managing social media encompasses other marketing knowhow
Social media marketing is also quickly expanding outside the realms of consumer marketing to include other priorities such as business-to-business (B2B) marketing, stakeholder engagement, recruitment and reputation management, said Israel.

All of these require a certain depth in subject matter expertise as well as knowledge of a broad range of segment, which often comes with tenure and the ability to interpret data, he added.

Israel's words echoed that of industry players', who previously told ZDNet Asia that being savvy about social media is not enough, as the role required greater responsibilities that can answer larger business objectivessuch as driving sales and mapping ROI (returns on investment).

Camoens agreed that it was more about skill and experience rather than age. Being more comfortable with social mediabecause they are more active on those platforms does not necessarily give the younger generation an advantage over someone else when managing a brand's reputation and outreach efforts into those channels, she explained.

"A younger generation who has 'grown up' with social media may be thought to 'get it' instinctively but in times of crisis, I think the seasoned communications professional [will] add a valuable perspective," she said.

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