You are a marketer first and a Tweeter second.
So if you haven’t yet read it, you should read this article by Cathryn Sloane. You should probably proceed there now.
Go on, I will wait.
Now, when I point out some of these items, please note that if someone is at this moment 25-years-old, they were likely born in 1987 (or late 1986 and will soon be turning 26).
Before I even began to read the article, I felt an intellectual and emotional response to the title. Much like a high-concept movie is chosen for the ease in which it is marketed and broken down to a single base idea of less than five words, it was designed to cause conflict and chosen for shock value. Already I found myself thinking that she clearly has no interest in integrity, she is simply going for shock value. This was, to me, reinforced by her choice of photograph to accompany the article; clearly she cropped a picture of her and friends instead of having a more professional image. She could argue that she does not need a professional headshot, but such touches add a sense of credibility to an article. A cropped image of you and your friends lends more of a sense of amateur and inexperience. If just by glancing at an article it leaves me with a sense of inexperience, my takeaway is already starting off in the negatives.
She begins by stating that Facebook began in 2004 and Twitter kicked off in 2006. What she does not state is that Myspace began in 2003, Youtube was founded in 2005, Wikipedia launched in 2001, Friendster started in 2002, LinkedIn began in 2003… Those are just some of the key sites that evolved social media into what it is now.
To fully understand where we are and where we are heading, you have to be able to see the actual path that has brought us to this moment in time.
Prior to the year 2000, there was a wealth of social media out there. True social media in the modern manner began in the late 1970s, gaining widespread use in the late 1980s and into the early 1990s. While methods of communicating via computer technology existed back in the 1960s, it was the advent of BBS and usenet that truly began near real-time electronic interaction. I’m not a mathematician but I’m thinking if you were born in 1987, you were not, in fact, “around long enough to see how life worked without it.”
Does she even understand what a bit rate is, or what impact it has had on the formation of the internet? Likely, she believes that ‘txt-speak’ originated with text messaging on smartphones, when in fact it was widely used when phones still only had the capability to make phone calls and were attached to a base with a cord, when in reality it was often used in BBS chat rooms due to a combination of the length of time it would take to transmit data and also the fact that many BBS numbers were toll-calls and the longer you remained on them, the higher your phone bill. This taught us to be choosy with our words decades before the character limit of Twitter was ever a consideration.
Before I age myself more than necessary, I should point out that I very recently turned 37. I was fortunate enough to have parents who encouraged my early steps into geekdom and supplied me with a computer, a modem and phone line so I could explore these magical BBS things. In fact, a local BBS is how I met the man who is now my husband. Oh look, BBS even outdate Match.com for online dating!
I suppose it’s no secret that I take some offense at her statement of “…we spent our adolescence growing up with social media” and the implication that anyone who is my age did not and could not. I disagree. I very much spent my adolescence immersed in social media. Just because it wasn’t named Facebook or Twitter and just because there were not 900+ million users does not mean it was not social media. Clearly her lack of seeing outside of the current top of the heap shows she has neither done her research into precursors and the full extent of social media, or she has no interest in expanding outside of those territories. Any person who manages a social media campaign of any size is required to understand the foundation on which the position was built, the current market and the predictions for the near and distant future.
Not only do we have our fingers on the pulse of what makes social media actually social, we are the ones who put the infrastructure into place. We are the ones who wrote the style guides. We are the ones who painstakingly figured out usability and user experience. We are the ones who can predict trends. It takes more than knowing the latest slang to interact effectively with an audience and we not only know the how, we know the why.
We also know, sometimes from experience and sometimes from having witnessed the experience someone else gained, what works and what does not. While she may think we pooh-pooh ideas by those younger out of some sense of elitism brought on by age, it is often truly based in the fact that we’ve seen that idea (we may have tried the idea ourselves, even!) and we have seen the idea fail and learned the intricacies of the why that happened.
A prime example would be the recent Celeb Boutique faux pas and their response:
Not only did they create an outcry on Twitter, their entire retraction was not well planned. If assumed-adults in other countries can cause a potentially serious outcry over a brand, imagine what damage can be done by someone who hasn’t the experience or foresight to understand how to avoid these situations.
Remember, you are not managing a Facebook page or a Twitter account, you are managing the way that the public sees and consumes the information about a brand. You are a marketer first and a Tweeter second. Social media is about more than the tools that are most widely used at this time.
It is also important to understand the rules and laws that govern various forms of social media and the way they are used. For example, if you are in charge of the Facebook page for a beverage company and wish to run a giveaway, there are rules and requirements to do so. The terms of service of Facebook and other social media platforms change frequently and with a solid knowledge and experience base, it’s easier to predict what may change in the coming months.
The article states “The key is that we learned to use social media socially before professionally, rather than vice versa or simultaneously.” Meanwhile, many of us who started using social media prior to 2000 did just that. It wasn’t until the past few years that there was any need for a social media manager, or even someone who did that as just a small part of their duties. It is still rolled into other positions more often than not.
The further statement of “…the seemingly obvious importance of incorporating comforting social aspects into professional usage seems to go over several companies’ heads.” While it may seem this way, the fact remains that perhaps the marketing is not geared toward her, and the social media manager is not typically fully responsible for the content. In many cases, the PR department will write copy from which the social media manager will disassemble and use in various manners. The fact that she would assume the social media manager is the sole reason for any sort of disconnect shows her inexperience.
Just as she is impatiently waiting for us to pass the torch to her, she should remember that it will not be that long before she is seen by someone born more recently as too old to be effective and that someone will want to take the torch from her as well based on the fact that they clearly know the internet better because they’re from a generation that has never been without it. While we may be seen as washed up at the ripe ages of 26+, you’ll note that we social media marketers over the age of 26 don’t judge someone by their age, but by their level of maturity, professionalism and experience. If she’d like us to not look down on her because of her age, she would do well to stop vocally looking down on us for ours.
It is also very important the she remember that she is not just marketing to her age peers, she is marketing to a wider audience. Just because something ‘works’ for her age group doesn’t mean that marketing ploy will resonate with older buyers.
As a final note, please try to remember that being fluent in all the bells and whistles Facebook offers does not a social media manager make. I hope she learns from the responses which she has gotten, as she has shown she clearly does not understand how to use social media to market herself and her views.