Why Inc Has It Wrong About 23-Year-Olds

Inc.com is a good resource for business startups. Good, not great. Actually, not even close to great. It’s articles are still hunkered down by the “number-your-reasons” blogging hype of last year. Right now, 7 of its 10 most-viewed articles start with numbers. Yes, they’re getting viewed. No, we haven’t become such poor readers that we need everything to be in lists.

But that’s not why I’m writing. I’m writing about a different number. Twenty-three. Inc.com published an article recently “11 Reasons A 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media“.  It got posted on TimeBusiness too. It’s written by Hollis Thomases, who has a pretty impressive background in social media and marketing AND, yes you guessed it, is not a 23-year-old.

I’m not going to go over all 11 of her points. They’re pretty much just saying one or two things and most of that boils down to 23-year-olds having a lack of serious experience in social media. More, she says they’re spontaneous, uncontrollable, and don’t really understand all there is to be understood in social marketing (analytics, general business, public relations, etc…).

Some of these border on the “duh” variety and some are just plain wrong. Of course, I think it boils down to the word “run” and what that means. Thomases doesn’t think you should let 23-year-olds run your social media. Okay. But should a 23-year-old be front-running any aspect of a new business? Startups are a different story, but I don’t remember reading stories of top economic grads taking over the options trading team at their firms.

But maybe you’re consider having a 23-year-0ld run your personal social media profile. A one-on-one handover. The “make-me-be-seen” attitude. Maybe that’s what Thomases is drawing on. But, then, is it ever so wise to hand over something so completely like that. I’ve already written a few blogposts on outsourcing – on it being an execution process rather than a handoff. If you’re an individual handing off your social media to another individual, don’t. It should be a team effort, you and him/her building a social presence, nullifying any concerns of that individual not understanding the true concept or brand.

BUT that’s still not the point I want to make. I want to defend recent grads (those 23-year-olds) against their alleged shortcomings.

Thomases point #2 is that 23-year-olds might be concerned with their own social media activity over the business. This hurts. Not every recent grad is caught up in growing their own network, though they have every right to be. The point is, social media is entering into a very, very large conversation. You want your voice to be loud and communicative. You want to be heard. What better way to get louder, stronger voice than to have an team member with more practice? More voices heard, more conversations had – an employee growing his or her own profile is NOT a drawback. Furthermore, if your hired social media help has a large personal profile, leverage that to help your business.

#5 – “No class can replace on-the-job training”. True. But social media is replacing traditional marketing just the same – and we’ve grown up with social networks anyway. It’s in our bloodstream. We’ve been training since we were teens. The on-the-job marketing training from 15 years ago is certainly not moot, but it’d be hard to deny things have changed. In this case, on-the-job training is no longer manuals or “how-to’ books, it’s real life, social media experience.

#7 – “Communication skills are critical.” Yes. Very critical. But gone are the days when the memo ruled the business place. If you want your business to move fast, and a social media campaign to follow that, your communication depends on social presence and consistency. And quick. Nothing a 23-year-old can’t handle.

The rest of the points are sort of plights against any business owner hiring any social media assistant improperly. Age-defined or not. Thomases lays out all the already-heard reasons for not wanting a youngster on board but ignores some of the best aspects. Eagerness, hunger, new-age paradigms. The most successful social media is out-of-the-box thinking. Maybe they shouldn’t “run” a social media campaign, though I think that with the right support, they’re just as capable as any other age group. If not, more.

Instead of ignoring their capabilities, why not ask what a 23-year-old can bring to your social networking. With Freedonia University, I’m discovering more and more how amazing college students are. They’re creative beyond means and entirely capable of producing a driven and successful social media campaign.

23-year-olds may not be the most experienced, but neither is social media. It grows with doubts and concerns just as a post grad might. Don’t be dissuaded by the older generation of marketers’ fears, college students and recent grads are a breath of fresh air in the business world.

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