Controversial NextGen Journal Piece: ‘Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25’

A provocative piece published late last week on NextGen Journal arguing all social media managers should be under 25 years old has stirred incomparable levels of rancor and commenting.  NextGen founder and editor-in-chief Connor Toohill confirms it is the most controversial post appearing on the site since its inception in fall 2010.

In the piece, fresh University of Iowa graduate Cathryn Sloane contends social media is a phenomenon embedded most intricately within the DNA of teens and young twentysomethings.  Their innate knowledge of its ins-and-outs, according to Sloane, makes them “the ones who can best predict, execute, and utilize the finest developments to come,” including in the workplace.

As she writes, “I do commend the way companies . . . have jumped on the social media bandwagon and recognized that it is the best way to connect with people nowadays.  Yet, every time I see a job posting for a Social Media Manager/Associate/etc. and find the employer is looking for five to ten years of direct experience, I wonder 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.”

From her perspective, individuals middle-aged and older do not fully understand what they’re doing on social media.  In her words, “No one else will ever be able to have as clear an understanding of these services [as younger people], no matter how much they may think they do. . . . To many people in the generations above us, Facebook and Twitter are just the latest ways of getting messages out there to the public, that also happen to be the best.  The specificity of the ways in which the method should be used is usually beyond them, however.”

Soon after the piece appeared online, readers began fighting back.  As of this morning, roughly 450 comments (and thousands of replies and ‘likes’ for those comments) have been posted– many written by ‘older’ individuals belying the naivete or inaccuracy of Sloane’s assessment.

Two examples:

In a follow-up post acknowledging the piece’s virality and controversy, Toohill confirms it even divided NextGen’s editorial board.  But he reasons it is still a sentiment shared by many young people and deserves to be considered.  As he writes, “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.

A separate rebuttal from social media guru and University of Maryland prof. Mark Story lays out several points he feels Sloane glossed over or left out.  Among them, as he explains to Sloane directly, “[Y]ou confused familiarity with using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter with the ability to turn that into offering actionable, solid communications advice for internal or external clients.  There is a BIG difference between posting Facebook Timeline updates and telling General Motors what to do with their own social media presence in the midst of a crisis.”

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