First off, let me start by apologizing to every college student who reads or hears about this blog article — it’s not that I don’t think you understand social media. Far from it. In fact, because social media is so prevalent in your lives I don’t think you can comprehend a world without it. Which leads us back to “the rest of us.”
For many business owners and business professionals that find social media marketing now their responsibility, the knee-jerk reaction is to find a college-aged adult to handle their online marketing. After all, who better to navigate the world of Facebook status updates, Twitter tweets and Foursquare check-ins than the same age group that texts an average of 3,000 times a month?
Certainly, it would seem college-aged adults have the upper hand in helping get a social marketing strategy started. Consider:
- The average college student’s social sphere encompasses 87 e-mail contacts, 146 cell phone contacts and 438 friends on social networks
- About 95% of adults, age 18 to 29 are online
- Facebook is positioning itself as the communication tool for the coming year, combining e-mail-like communication, online conversations between friends and acquaintances and chat and text interactions into one generic conversation
- Facebook boasts more than 500 million active users with 50% of active members logging onto Facebook on any given day. The average user has 130 friends on Facebook.
So it may make perfect sense to enlist the help of today’s younger generation to handle a company or organization’s social media implementation. And college-aged adults are more than happy to oblige — after all, posting status updates, tweeting and uploading pictures is second nature. They do it all the time.
And therein lies the trouble.
Would you hire an accounting student to do your corporate taxes? What about 20-something to represent you in a serious legal matter? Or set-up and manage your company’s employee investment plan? Now, we’re not suggesting social media marketing is equivalent to knowing the in’s and out’s of tax legislation or litigating a complicated lawsuit or being able to manage a large portfolio of investments, but it’s probably nearly as important, especially when you consider that social media — and the circle of trust it plays in — is likely where consumers will first experience your brand and your reputation.
Very few college-aged adults have experience with today’s social media beyond that for their own use. We see it all the time — it’s a no-brainer to set-up a basic business Facebook Page, but you’d be amazed at how many are just that — basic. Ask them what to post or update and most 20-somethings will look at your blankly — it’s the marketing strategy and know-how they lack.
No offense again to our younger generation, but perhaps a better solution would be someone who has time-tested experience with plain old vanilla marketing but with a comprehensive understanding of just how today’s online media, interactions and conversations can be used to your advantage. Maybe a better choice is someone who knows how public relations works, has experience with real-world business problems and has been on the end of angry client calls, put out the fires that inevitably creep up in everyday business and has dealt with the business politics of owner’s egos, employee’s ambitions and client’s impatience.
In short, if you’re serious about social media marketing, resist the impulse to take the quick and easy out by hiring someone without time-tested marketing experience. You’ll find your online marketing more positive when viewed through the eyes of someone who’s made a few mistakes (and learned from them), can take their offline marketing experience online (and with a few twists) and who can draw upon networks of business parters, advisors and other professionals (that they’ve connected with over the years) — something the soon-to-be-grad hasn’t had the time to cultivate.