Or, Who Owns the Social Media Jobs?
Recently, I wrote about Facebook’s generation clash, in which teens are abandoning Facebook as their parents embrace it. But, there’s another generation clash going on in social media, too; this one taking place in the professional world of digital marketing.
Last week, Cathryn Sloane, a student at the University of Iowa, wrote “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25.” She argued that social media was created by our generation, for our generation, and that we’ve grown up with it. That, by virtue of being digital natives, the younger generation has an innate understanding of social media that our elders cannot grasp.
She’s frustrated by seeing job postings asking for years of experience in social media and, frankly, so am I. I’ve seen companies asking for 15 years experience in social media. But here’s the thing: no one has 15 years experience in social media because it hasn’t existed for that long. That is, unless you take the broadest possible definition and include things like Geocities or MMORPGs. And, I highly doubt that anyone’s listing “Dungeon Master” on their resume. (Sadly, mine does not include a reference to my, long defunct, Geocities Spice Girls fan page.)
Realistically, I understand that the people who post jobs with these impossible expectations don’t really mean 15 years social media experience – they mean “please be a real grown-up, not just a kid who’s ‘really good at Facebook.’” The “grown-ups” of social media marketing responded to Cathryn by making just that claim, saying that it’s their years of experience and broad understanding of marketing tactics that make them better suited for these positions than Twitter-happy fresh-faced grads.
Meta social media at its best, the debate spread like wildfire. Most reactions to Cathryn’s article were strongly negative, but I see her point. It’s an economic one. It’s the same way that my generation looks at the Baby Boomers and rolls our eyes, knowing that we’ll never see the money that we pay into Social Security because they’ll consume it all. At its core, Cathryn’s argument is this: on a broad scale, our generation has suffered from a failure to launch, caused by an economic situation that was not of our making. We need jobs, and these ones should, rightfully, be ours.
While the forty-somethings of social media responded to Cathryn with scorn, they’re the same ones waiting for the Baby Boomers to retire so they can slide into the CMO and VP spots that they’ve long been coveting. If the economy were in better shape, people with 15 years experience wouldn’t give a second glance to many social media positions. But it’s not, and they do, and that makes it really hard for kids to get a foot in the door.
While I totally understand the economic battle lines that are being drawn, I’m not sure about Cathryn’s claim that we really are better at social media. Initially, I dismiss it out of hand; but then I compare it to another type of nativeness: language. If you’re not a native speaker or don’t learn a language at a very early age, odds are that you’ll have an accent. And maybe that’s the issue – that people who aren’t digital natives… they have a digital accent. That you can hear the analog in their posts. You know that they’re working to translate from their native, paper language to the one of the web.
I’m not sure if that comparison holds up, but it’s been kicking around in my head for a few days. So, what do you think?
Questions of the day: Are you a digital native or an immigrant? Do you think there’s such a thing as a web accent? And, to Cathryn’s original point, who should the social media jobs go to?
Formerly MaggieCakes, Maggie (not Margaret) covers technology’s impact on culture, specifically on how we interact or connect with each other. Have a question or an idea you’d like me to write about? Leave a comment, or send me, Maggie O’Toole, an e-mail: moc.teragramtoneiggam@eiggam