Should a social media manager be under 25?

If I ask you to imagine a social media manager, what do they look like?

How old are they?

The quintessential social media manager is often thought to be a very young, tech-savvy individual who is speaks in internet slang. So is hiring, trusting – or being – a social media manager over 35 a bad idea?

It’s a contentious subject

In 2012, a university student called Cathryn Sloane wrote an article about how all social media managers should be under 25. Her take on it was that job adverts that were looking for years of experience for platforms that had only launched a few years previously were ridiculous, and that the generation that was in its late teens and early 20s in the 20teens (her generation) was uniquely qualified for these roles.

“No one else will ever be able to have as clear an understanding of these services, no matter how much they may think they do,” she said.

Everyone hated it.

But did she have a point?

There’s a reason that people in social media roles need to keep such a close eye on the shifts in metrics, changes to platforms, and are such massive consumers of ‘Help’ articles. Your social media manager probably googled a How To video on YouTube this morning.

The changes that can occur in social media in a 6-month period are astounding.

Unlike many communication channels, social media changes platform set up, and the way it delivers content to audiences, with an alarming frequency. Features are taken away, added. Metrics stop mattering. Budgets need to change. Audiences get older and start behaving in a different way or they abandon a platform all together.

Is a young person going to be better, and more in-tune with all these new features?

Not necessarily

There are many reasons why a social media manager doesn’t need to be in the first flush of youth. That’s true now, and was true in 2012. Firstly, and mostly simply, digital communications came before Facebook. But there are at least two other reasons that have a big impact:

  1. Anyone who is a social media manager and graduated high school before 2008 had another career before they started in social media, and that pivot shows courage and flexibility
  2. Early adopters of platforms have a unique perspective on the technology – they’re okay with not knowing, and having to find out.

What you need is a multi-skill team

A social media dream team – one that makes the best content, gets the best results, executes the best strategies – needs a wide variety of skillsets.

Some of the people with those skills could be young!

Because nobody wants to talk to their friends in the same room as their mum and dad, new platforms are usually where younger people flock. And if you want to be good at social media, you need to know how people use it, intimately. If you need to target a young audience, you need someone who gets a platform so you can join the conversation instead of starting your own and expecting them to show up and listen.

But likewise, some of the best designers and communications professionals used ink wells when they were in school. A change in format and platform of delivery doesn’t alter the ability to nail key messages, make good context-informed judgement calls and produce great creative.

I don’t think the age of your social media manager matters. It’s how supported they are with resources, tools, and time.

And incidentally, I think Cathryn Sloane is in her 30s now. She’s not a social media manager.