There was an interesting article in the NextGen Journal earlier this month.

It argues that every social media manager should be be under 25 years of age. As one might expect, it has stirred up its share of attention (7.5 k Facebook “likes,” 1727 tweets and 872 Google+) and controversy (especially from those of us who are over 25).

You Just Don't Get It

Cathryn Sloane, the article’s author, who just graduated from the University of Iowa, claims that social media is uniquely her generation’s turf, and that outliers can’t possibly understand it the way that they can. Her reasoning:

Facebook began in 2004. Twitter kicked off in 2006. I, along with everyone else in my generation, can remember exactly who told me about these endeavors, the perfect combination of confusion and excitement I felt when signing up for them, and the original layouts they exhibited. We were teenagers in high school at the time, a period when we were young enough to be the most impressionable yet old enough to grasp an understanding. Though we had absolutely no idea how insanely huge social media would grow, we were immediately along for the ride.

You might argue that everyone, regardless of age, was along for the ride, or at least everyone under the age of 30. I’m not saying they weren’t, but we spent our adolescence growing up with social media. We were around long enough to see how life worked without it but had it thrown upon us at an age where the ways to make the best/correct use of it came most naturally to us. No one else will ever be able to have as clear an understanding of these services, no matter how much they may think they do.

Now I don’t mean to pick on the girl, but does that mean that the people best suited to work in Mobile right now are those who had car phones like the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, which, when introduced in the 1980’s, weighed 28 ounces, was as big as a brick and would run out of juice if a conversation lasted more than an hour?

I don’t think so.

And even more to the point, Social Media ≠ Facebook or even Facebook + Twitter, there are so many other channels available. For example, Tumblr was born in the same time period and brands are doing great things with it. Why exclude it from the mix?

Social Media Management is more about reaching the right people, at the right time, with the right messaging than any particular tool.

Understanding how different groups of people use and respond to social media is what’s key.

If I, for example, when wearing my executive recruiter’s hat, am searching for well-educated A-players with more than 10 years of work experience, I’m likely to use LinkedIn as one of my many sources. Here’s why: 70 percent of LinkedIn users are aged 35-49 and 50+ (this is where I’m most likely to find professionals with 10+years of experience); 75 percent of them are college educated; and 69 percent of them are affluent (an indication that they are currently well-compensated in their jobs).

Contrast that with Facebook (or a Facebook-platform dependent job search site like BranchOut) where the majority of users are under 34 and the average income is lower; I’m probably likely to get fewer of the “right” hits.

Marketers of products like BMW’s and Mercedes Benz’s might have better luck on LinkedIn as well.

But if you want to promote a new band or album. LinkedIn would not be an obvious choice. ( Five years back MySpace would have been a clear pick). Facebook has some pretty good data on who likes what kind of music and they have “likes” and Fan pages, so I might go there first, but I’d look at Tumblr as well.

I could go on and on, but my point is that I don’t have to be a digital native to have some insight as to what works where. Not only that, but theories have to be tested anyways and in a pay-per–click world, that might not be so expensive to do.

Gaming for Jobs

Sloane also writes that you have to be under 25 to know when to use Facebook and when to Tweet. To be honest, I’ve never done too much thinking about it. On Facebook, I broadcast to my friends, on Twitter to my followers as well as to the general public … but I know it’s more complicated than that ... there are hashtags and groups to consider. Maybe social media management teams need an expert for each social media tool.

Now where Sloan would have impressed me, is if she explained to me why her generation doesn’t do much with LinkedIn even when one in two of them can’t find jobs. The answer, according to some, is that the site isn’t “sticky” enough, that status updates on it are too infrequent (after all, not too many people change jobs every week) and that it’s not gamified (although one could argue that collecting followers is game-like).

I, myself, had little insight to this until I wrote about the newest career resources for the New York Post. I had trouble fathoming that for some people, winning an internet badge, scoring a few points (when the accumulation doesn’t aim toward anyone receiving a “real” prize), or even earning a digital pair of Manolos is rewarding. And, get this, I don’t have to. All I do have to know is that if I want to win the acute attention of someone in her generation, gamification might be the ticket.

All of that being said, I do feel for Sloane; her generation was supposed to have their choice of careers and now they’re having trouble landing jobs. But insisting that coming of age in a Social Media world makes you a good fit for a Social Media Management job isn’t the ticket. In an economy like this we all have to dig for gold, and for some of us, maybe, just maybe, social media is the shovel. If so, we need to learn how to use it and that takes time, persistence, experimentation and brain power.

Editor's Note: To read more by Virginia Backaitis:

-- Think Social Media is Technology? You May Want to Think Again