A Response to Inc.’s Hollis Thomases

I was browsing my Twitter feed this afternoon as I routinely do, and came across this article from one of the people I follow. It’s basically saying that a company should not hire someone right out of college for a number of reasons.

So I read through the article, although I was already a little upset and put off by the title, which was “11 Reasons why you Shouldn’t Hire a 23-year-old for your Social Media”.

Now, the article gives good advice, don’t get me wrong. There are some great things to look for (or look out for) if you were hiring someone to take over all your social media for your business.

However, it greatly upset me that the author didn’t seem to think that the majority of recent college grads had the sense to accomplish the job.

Here’s why I think this article is misguided:

Article Point #1: They’re not mature enough.

This can be true, but most of the people who have just graduated college in this field are looking to further their career. Just because they’re focusing on what can further their own career doesn’t mean they aren’t going to do a good job. Guess what? Our careers move forward because we do a good job: we communicate effectively, learn the business, and do our work well. This includes being professional, well-spoken and written, and representing the company effectively and in a positive light.

Article Point #2: They may be focused on their own social-media activity.

I think this point comes down to the hiring process. You need to hire someone you can trust to do the work they’re hired to do. To put it quite frankly, we learn how to manage social media by working with our own brand. We learn how to build up a following, provide good content, and represent ourselves well. When we learn the company’s brand well enough, we’ll be able to do the same for the company we work for as well.

Article Point #3: They may not have the same etiquette: or experience.

Etiquette and age are not mutually exclusive. I would assume that if the person you hired is not an idiot and is a professional, they will have some idea of etiquette on the Internet. Especially younger people because we spend the most time on it. Most younger people know to think about the ramifications of what they say, do, or post, because it is thrown at us all the time either through the media, seeing the experiences of friends, or just gosh-darn common sense. To hit on the question of experience, a commenter on this article, Phil LaDuke, hit the nail on the head:”who are these grizzled veterans in an industry that has been around for less than a decade?” We have been born and bred on social media, and we’re the ones who spearhead the industry in the first place. Who has the right to say we don’t have the experience to go into it? We already have a hard enough time getting anyone to hire us or take us seriously, why make it that much harder?

Article Point #4: You can’t control their friends.

There’s not much to say here but if you have friends that in their early 20’s will do something stupid like post inappropriate content on your work social media site, then you need to get new friends.

Article Point #5: No class can replace on-the-job training.

This is true, real-life experience is a lot more rewarding and usually more helpful than taking a class. But is there yet a degree in social media? Aren’t we already getting hands-on experience with the dos and don’ts of the Internet? And if we went to school for communication, aren’t we qualified to at least have the chance to get that on-the-job training? No one gets any experience without being hired.

Article Point #6: They may not understand your business.

The problem here is that any newcomer, whether they’re 20 or 60, is not going to understand the complete ins and outs of a business when they first walk in the door. This is what job training is for, this is what hands-on experience is for, this is what reading up on and learning about the business you’re working for is about. If the person you’re hiring is passionate and dedicated to the job they are applying for, then no matter what age they are, they are going to shine at the job and do as much as they can to learn about that business. It’s not exactly rocket science that you have to walk before you can run. That applies to anyone.

Article Point #7: Communication skills are critical.

So…I just worked hard for four years to get a communication degree and I didn’t come out with any communication skills? Hmm. I also apparently didn’t have any real-life exercises or anything. What’s the point of going to college if I didn’t come out with any skills at all? This also goes back to experience, we can’t get any if we don’t do the job we’re aiming for.

Article Point #8: Humor is tricky business.

This is something I’ve come across at my job. You have to be careful about what you post. But again, this goes for anyone. If you work for a company or represent a brand that you know has people who could be easily offended by certain things, you learn what not to post. And this is where you go to a manager and ask them their opinion if you’re not sure. We do have common sense here, and especially if we’ve been trained in public relations situation usually can spot something that’s a little iffy before we put it out on the internet.

Article Point #9: Social media savvy is not the same as technical savvy.

If you hire someone who has been successful at their own social media and is obviously capable of learning and understanding your brand, they have the skills required to do the job. This is, again, simple hiring decisions.

Article Point #10: Social media management can become crisis management.

Again, know who you’re hiring. When I took public relations classes in college, we always took real situations, came up with strategies to handle those crises, and compared them to what was actually done in real life to find out what we should have done differently or what the company in question should have done. We handled crises from the Exxon oil spill to the Tylenol murders, things that actually happened. Crisis management comes down to honesty and tact. And if the person you’re hiring doesn’t have that, then yes, you shouldn’t hire them. But don’t make their age a factor.

Article Point #11: You need to keep the keys.

This is a given for anyone you hire for social media. Of course you should have the passwords to all the social media sites. It doesn’t necessarily mean you should go barging in on what they’re doing, but of course you should have access. Again, this doesn’t have anything to do with the person’s age, simply that the account does not belong to the manager, but rather to the company. At my last job that I handled the social media, I sent them the password to the one account they didn’t have after I left, to make sure that they had it on file if they decided to continue it.

The final statement of the article says what should have been said without the age bracket: to carefully evaluate the person you’re hiring. This goes for any situation. But please, don’t generalize the younger generation who is already having a hard enough time of it as it is. We are just as capable of accomplishing the job as anyone else is. Businesses just need to be careful about who they hire.

What did you think when you read this article? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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