The responses and subsequent discussion about the now infamous NextGen article “Why Every Social Media Manager Should be Under 25” has been cathartic and eye opening in many ways. (If as a winery you’re not aware of this lively banter, a student from the University of Iowa posted a blog stating that recent graduates who grew up with Social Media had an inherently better understanding of it and should be the only ones considered for Social Media jobs by employers. 7.1k people so far have politely disagreed.)
I’m going to resist the very strong urge to pick apart her post point by point because that is too easy, and, mostly because the more important issue of Social Media hiring is actually very relevant for the wine industry. As of this morning, over 10% of the sales and marketing jobs on Wine Jobs includes Social Media in some part of the job description. What qualifies one to be “on” Social Media, anyways? We’re trained to hire based on years of experience, and yes, the 21 year old who has been on Facebook since 2005 beats the 35 year old who signed on in 2009. Ok, so hire based on knowledge. But, what if you’re a hiring manager and this is not your forté? How do you choose who knows his or her stuff when you everyone you interview knows more than you?
Here are my thoughts on how to plan your Social Media hire for your winery, or company.
Hire a professional who has PR and Marketing Experience.
This is not about Social Media.
Social Media is a vehicle, not a strategy.
To say it is necessary have “grown up” with Social Media to understand how to use it is like saying that you have to be been born in a garage to be able to drive and not get into an accident. (For those of you playing at home, Social Media is the car in this analogy.)
Now, if you want a driver for your Bentley in Beverly Hills, or a NY City Taxi Driver or a NASCAR driver – you’ll go with a different skill set for the driver. Not necessarily the car. (Give any of them the same automobile and they can probably drive it (with varying degrees of skill, of course.))
You need someone with business acumen and branding/marketing experience to look at your product, your brand profile and the fast moving technology landscape and see what platforms will work for your marketing objectives. That takes experience. And, not for nothin’, but who do you think invented all these toys you’re playing with now, Ms. Sloane? I’m not Al Gore and didn’t invent the internet, but I launched the first Smart Phones with Sprint and the iMac with Apple and the Pentium with Intel, so although I’m 42 and left for college lugging my trusty typewriter, I may know a thing or two about managing a brand in fast moving technology channels. (Ok, I’m aware this is coming off a tad defensive and she didn’t attack me, personally. But, I am only aware of my experience for an argument, and not yours Dear Reader, so please insert your illustrious background in place of mine above, and give me a fist pump and a “hell yeah” for your great accomplishments.)
Hire a professional who has Business Experience.
Poor Cathryn Sloane.
She did so many things wrong. Bad grammar. Faulty logic. Use of definitives. And, pissing off the wrong crowd in the wrong medium.
What I like is how a 50-year old professor, writing a book on how to get a job in Social Media, seized the day with a response to her. Why? He has PR experience and saw a brief and highly visible opportunity to not chastise Ms. Sloan, but offer her counseling on how to get a job (hmm, I think they might have a book on that) and take control of this raging steam engine when the editors of NextGen or Ms. Sloan didn’t know how to. Well played, sir. Swiftly executed like a man who has been around the block a time or two.
We’ve all made mistakes – I’ve made some real whoppers (and will make more). It is how you learn. And why you start off in low risk, low visibility jobs, prove yourself and work your way up.
If you think your company’s Social Media PR platform is a low risk, low visibility job, then by all means, hire the university student.
Why is this important?
A. It costs you money Customers who engage with companies over social media spend 20% to 40% more money with those companies than other customers.1
B. It is how consumers are, and will continue, to interact with your company. 50% of smartphone users would prefer to use a mobile application (like Social Media) to try to resolve their customer service issue before calling into the contact center.2
C. If you screw it up, there are consequences. Just ask Ms. Sloan. 24% of consumers who had unsatisfactory service interactions shared their experiences through social networks in 2010, a 50% increase over 2009.3
I am not against hiring young employees. I just partnered with a SQL coder still in college (I suggested we meet at a bar and then I realized he couldn’t get in, whoops). But the plan is for me to do the strategy and he’d write the codes I wanted for the client dashboards in Oracle.
So, you’re smart, and you’re hiring to fill your Social Media need, that’s great. Ask yourself two questions:
- Is my need in strategy, or tactics, or both? You want some experience if it includes the former. But if you have a Brand Manager, or Marketing Director or CEO who has a clear vision of how Social Media channels fit into your Marketing/Branding/PR mix, and you just need an executer with fast fingers who doesn’t need reading glasses, go for it.
- How big is this task, is it full time or part time? This is usually a function of two variables – a) how often is your brand mentioned and b) are you creating buzz or engaging with customers (or both). If you’re Robert Mondavi and you want to track all your customers, this is a bigger job than if you’re Bob Smith winery in Sebastopol. And, if your strategy involves traffic and buzz generation for your tasting room, that can be a bigger job than just answering questions and thanking customers.
But if you’re reading this and you’re struggling with how to staff your Social Media needs – bravo, you’re halfway there because you’ve realized this is here to stay.
And now, if I can figure out how to use this interweb thingy and this dang computer box, I’ll post this blog in time to watch Matlock before nap time.
1. Source: Bain & Company Report – Putting Social Media to Work
2. Source: SpeechCycle and Echo Research Study
3. Forrester Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey
- Why suggesting social media managers should be below 25 is just plain stupid (newmediaandmarketing.com)
- In Response: Cathryn Sloane’s Social Media Article (socialmediatoday.com)
- Should All Social Media Managers Be Under 25? (forbes.com)
- Why only people over 40 should do social media for a living. (marcywrites.com)
- A Response to: ‘Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25′ (socialmediatoday.com)
- Why Younger Isn’t Always Better in Social Media Management (kellymrivard.com)
- Why Every Social Media Manager Should be Over 25* (devriesblog.com)
- On Being Over 40 and Working in Social Media (blogworld.com)
- In Response: Cathryn Sloane’s Social Media Article (fanfaresocialmedia.wordpress.com)