ImageBuilding a company’s online following is a major responsibility.  Social media managers must constantly uphold their company’s online reputation, have an eye for branding, and be well acquainted with their employer’s rules on social media etiquette. 

Recently, I read an article by Hollis Thomases explaining 11 reasons why a 23-year-old should not run your social media.  After reading her point of view, I was stunned, not only because I am within the age demographic she is generalizing, but also because one’s age does not depict their success or failure as a social media manager.  Thomases based social management success on age; I choose to write about the best practices that any social media manager should implement in order to be effective, as well as what companies should keep in mind when hiring.

1.       Listen and Become Connected with the Company’s Culture

For her opening argument on why a 23-year-old should not be your social media manager, Thomases writes that new college graduates lack maturity and won’t officially reach adulthood until their late 20s or early 30s. To say that individuals in their early 20s are “not mature enough” or “can’t understand your brand” is a very large generalization.  I also believe it is a major assumption that anyone in their early 30s and older is mature enough to post to social media business accounts.   No matter what his or her age, should a newly hired social media manager immediately jump online and post to company profiles?  Absolutely not!

There are thousands of businesses out there hiring people of all ages who are highly qualified.  However, before posting, all social media managers need to become immersed in the company’s culture, fully understand the organizations’ mission statement, and review all goals the company is looking to achieve on social media.  Every social media manager – even those with years of experience – must take the time to listen online and become acquainted with the company’s online voice, the audience that is being engaged, and the do’s and don’ts of online activity according to the social media policy.

2.       Fully Understand the Company’s Social Media Policy

As I mentioned above, a social media policy is one of the first steps a company needs to take before allowing any employee to jump online because it helps to avoid public relations disasters. The policy protects your brand by clearly stating who should be online, the quality of the content that should be shared, and what the ultimate goals are while fostering an online presence.

Putting social media regulations into writing and familiarizing all employees with company policies will prevent young hires from focusing on their own social media posting at work.  Furthermore, if someone is an active social media user, it doesn’t matter if they are 23 or 43; he or she may be tempted to post to their personal accounts during the day.  Therefore, every employee should be up to speed on the company’s rules for social media engagement.  Defined guidelines stating the appropriate etiquette for social media engagement will provide all employees with a clear understanding of what they can and cannot do online, as well as what they will be held accountable for on social media.

3.       Preparation is Key for Excellent Customer Service and Crisis Management

Along with a policy, companies should provide training for the unexpected. Preparation is key to social media success.  For example, if an unhappy customer writes a negative comment on your Facebook wall, what is the correct way for you social media manger to handle the situation?   Training your employees well will keep all hires within the appropriate communication boundaries, teaching them the proper skills and etiquette for providing excellent customer service and crisis management – while also marketing and branding your company in a positive light.

4.       Be Flexible and Possess a Willingness to Learn

Social media is also a subject that changes every day – in order to be a successful social media manager, one must continue to learn, researching new online platforms and tools that could better represent the company online.  Despite was Thomases says, social media savvy and technical savvy have nothing to do with age – they require flexibility from someone who will learn new techniques and make today’s social media presence stronger than it was yesterday.

5.       Hire Worthy Employees and Provide Them with the Opportunity to Grow

This one’s a no brainer.  People are hired for jobs because they possess great skills, making them assets to the company.  If a 23-year-old has a stellar resume and credentials, is it fair to deny that person the job just because of their age?  No one is guaranteed to be great at a job just because of their age.   It’s that person’s ability to learn and the work ethic behind the age that matters.  If someone is familiar with social media, willing to learn company’s policies and training requirements, and work hard to become an integrate part of a company’s team, then is that person worthy of a fair chance?  If every industry decided to not hire young people just because they aren’t in that late 20s to early 30s age group, what would happen to the work force?  Thomases said, “no one can replace on-the-job training”.  I absolutely agree and it has to start somewhere.  However, it won’t if we stereotype an age demographic right off the bat simply because they are young.  Age does not necessarily mean competency.

6.       Archive All Social Media Activity

No matter who is representing your company online archiving is an essential tool to take advantage of when on social media.  Keeping a record of all social media activity gives you peace of mind, allowing you to view your social media manger’s activity, as well as anything posted or tweeted to company social media accounts.  Archiving is a branch of your social media policy, ensuring that companies “keep the keys” to all online profiles, while also letting social media managers do their jobs.

As I stated before, social media is a serious business.  When hiring a social media manager, make sure it is someone that will take your brand and help it grow.  Many young grads possess drive, passion and brilliant work ethic in addition to social and tech savvy.  Likewise, many professionals who have been in the work force for years are dedicated to learning and researching new social media techniques.  When looking for a new social media manager, take the best practices mentioned above into consideration – not their birth date – and hire the best candidate with an eye for branding in a digital world.