Are Students the Best or Worst Social Media Managers?

A spirited debate is brewing online this summer, focused on a single question: What is the proper age and experience level for a social media manager?

The position– increasingly popular in the digital age– mixes content production, customer service, and public relations.  Some current college students and young alumni view the job as their birthright– saying it requires a knowledge base and skill set as familiar to Millennials as texting.

Other “older” professionals with a digital bent are fighting back, claiming the position’s high visibility and snap decision-making make it dangerous for a company to leave in the hands of an individual who is inexperienced or immature.

A new piece for Time.com, headlined “11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media,” adopts the latter position.

Hollis Thomases, a digital marketing services company CEO, argues young people lack the basic netiquette, business savvy, communication skills, personal sophistication, and crisis management know-how to make them “capable of managing a business’s social media responsibilities.”

As he advises older employers, “Just because you don’t understand social media doesn’t mean you should forfeit all common sense and hire your niece, nephew, or any other recent college grad . . . because ‘they’re really good on Facebook.’”

Last month, a provocative piece published on NextGen Journal took the opposite tact, contending all social media managers should be under 25 years old.  The viewpoint stirred incomparable levels of rancor and commenting. NextGen founder and editor-in-chief Connor Toohill says 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.”

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