I’m older and I have more followers!

Most readers know I earn my living as a high school teacher.  This year, as the school year wound down to an end, more and more current and former students approached me to say they’d applied for a position over the summer that involved social media.  All of them wanted information or advice that would win them that job in this economy.  Parents approached me looking for students to help integrate social media into new or existing businesses.  One former student even used my experiences at TWTRCON as a blog interview for her summer position.

I’m 46 and have the scars to prove it.  So when did I become the “go to” person for the 18-22 year old crowd entering the field of social media marketing?

My answer lies in an experience I had at the beginning of this year.  I love craigslist.  It’s layout warms my coder heart, it’s minimal set of rules appeals to my libertarian soul, and it’s job list helps me out when I need some extra cash.  In the middle of winter, I read an ad looking for someone to set up and run a social media marketing campaign for a nationally known company in Lakewood.   Never hurts to send a email, so I did.  A few days later, I got a response I would see and hear more and more over the months to come.

We’re looking for someone onsite in their early 20s with real experience in social media.

Teenagers immerse themselves so much in computers, cameras and smart phones that their use appears intuitive to their parents, teachers, and employers.  They’re are all over Facebook, it’s true.  Yet they have little if any experience “real” or otherwise in marketing and shy away from brand contact.  After all, they’ve been told all their short lives to be wary of strangers contacting them online.  Why then would they give access to their personal Facebook accounts to a faceless brand?

They’re response to Twitter is even more cautious.  This is the second year I’ve introduced students to Twitter, shown them how to create an account, find and disseminate information, and create a presence on that platform.   At most, 2 out of 10 continue using Twitter once the class requirement is fulfilled, and many of them have locked accounts again due to zealous training about privacy.

Why then to employers look to these younger users to promote their businesses? As someone who spends a lot of time with teenagers, the answer is that employers think because they’re young, they’re internet savvy.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t automatically translate into business know how.

For example, the average age of a Twitter user is 35.  The largest growing age group on Facebook is over 40.  In fact, when my 70 year old mother visited for my daughter’s graduation, the first thing she announced at dinner was that she wanted to “learn Facebook”.  When asked why, she said that as a recent retiree she’d heard that there were a lot of good bargains and coupons to be found on Facebook.  Oh, yes, she might want to look at pictures of her grandchildren, but she could get that through email.  What she wanted was brand contact!

All this made me wonder if these young men and women were the right choice for employers to market their brand on various social media platforms.  Is their experience online what’s needed to craft and implement a successful social media marketing plan without the help of their teachers and other experienced adults?  What employers don’t know is that their young employees are relying on those of us older and wiser in the ways of social media to help them succeed.  As a teacher, that’s as it should be, but I want employers to know whose expertise they’re actually paying for.

Employers, next time you interview that high school or college kid, you might want to ask who they know who really knows how to use Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and other social media!

…while thinking about this blog post, I kept coming back to a scene from one of my favorite movies, Friend Green Tomatoes. Of course it’s on YouTube, so watch it below if only for the big hair and Flashdance fashion.  Suffice to say, I feel like Kathy Bates’ character.  These youngsters have pulled into my social media parking space, but I’ll have the last word – Towanda!.  After all, I’m older and have more followers!

2 responses to “I’m older and I have more followers!

  1. Joanna Carides

    While my initial reaction was ‘oh, dissing the twenty-somethings’, you make a valid point about age and experience. It’s a good reminder to employers but it’s not a sweeping generalization.

    (Full disclosure: I’m a 47 year-old marketing/social media consultant.)

  2. Yea, I wasn’t trying to malign anyone, just informing those employers who hire those teenagers/20 somethings!

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