I had a consultation with a small business owner who was looking for advice on reaching his market through social media. A trusted colleague had advised him to “find a kid 18 – 22 years old” to manage it.
I suppressed a groan as I explained that unless the “kid” was a marketing professional that could develop strategies aligned with his business goals it was not a good idea.
Smart business professionals are willing to turn over mission critical business tasks to those they assume know more than they do. Expertise does not have an age limit, but age alone is not a qualification.
There is a huge difference between having knowledge of social media tools and having the knowledge on how to implement those tools in business strategy. This is true whether you are 15 or 45. Business development, ROI, governance, engagement and communications strategies are essential to effectively deploying social media marketing for your brand.
This particular company has much to lose. Launching a half-baked strategy could damage their brand in an industry that has a long memory. Their target market demands credible professionals who are knowledgeable about solutions and truly engaged in their causes.
I can understand the confusion about the value of social media. When discussed in the mainstream it is presented as a frivolous entertainment tool rather than a business tool that can be used for brand building, and customer support.
However, a lack of knowledge is not an excuse for mismanaging the effort by failing to get educated on how it can be used. Social media platforms may be the shiny new tools in the toolbox but the building process has not changed. There is no need to be so intimidated by the technology that you fail to apply good old fashioned business sense.
Facebook may have Farmville but using it as a business tool is definitely not kid stuff.
How do you manage the knowledge gaps in your business? Have you ever outsourced something that you did not understand? What were the results?
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Jeanne Dininni says
Indeed it does, Karen. Good managers do whatever it takes to gain a clear understanding of all the factors that affect their companies’ long- and short-term marketing strategy, their day-to-day operations, and ultimately, their bottom line. There’s no substitute for this and no shortcut to achieving it.
Placing their companies’ entire social media strategy into the hands of inexperienced though technologically savvy young people simply doesn’t fit the competent manager’s or entrepreneur’s job description.
Jeanne, it truly does come back to the burden being on the business to understand enough to establish clear goals and expectations. It comes down to good management doesn’t it? Great managers get this whether it’s people or projects.
Jeanne Dininni says
How true, Karen! The 18-22 age group may be digital natives — which makes them completely comfortable with technology — but most of the young people in this group totally lack the experience and business savvy necessary to devise and execute an effective social media marketing plan; and it isn’t fair to expect them to.
As Brad has implied, doing so is simply abdicating one’s own responsibility to understand and implement the most appropriate marketing strategy for one’s business and instead placing that responsibility on someone else — in this case, someone who is no more equipped to handle it than the entrepreneur who should very possibly not be outsourcing it in the first place.
Karen Swim says
Brad, in corporate this is such a source of frustration even internally. Decisions are made by people without knowledge and without input from either end users or those who will implement the solutions who have the knowledge. It’s a dangerous situation that yields poor outcomes and frustration all around.
.-= Karen Swim´s last blog ..Child’s Play? =-.
Brad Shorr says
Karen, Outsourcing something – anything – you don’t understand is a sign of mental laziness. It’s quite dangerous. How can you manage something you don’t understand? It’s not possible.
.-= Brad Shorr´s last blog ..When Should a Company Be Funny in Marketing? =-.
Fred, I agree! Young people bring a fresh perspective and a boldness that challenges us not to remain stuck. Business leaders must, however learn how to clearly articulate expectations and fit the right people to the job at any age. I have had the pleasure of teaching young people social media and enjoy showing them how to use familiar tools in a different way.
Fred H Schlegel says
A common misconception… While ‘the customer’ knows what they like when they see it, that doesn’t mean they necessarily know how to design it or have a vision for the future. (Kids test toys and dream about toys. Old folks design ’em) One thing a young employee does bring to the picture, however, is a willingness to try something new. With good mentoring, leadership, & advice that can be a powerful advantage.
.-= Fred H Schlegel´s last blog ..The 2400 Year Old Problem =-.
Kate, thanks for weighing in on this with your insight! I agree it is a dumb move for the company and not fair to the young person as it sets them up for failure. This is not at all limited to age either as you can have unrealistic expectations of anyone if you enter the equation clueless. Thanks again Kate for presenting yet another facet of this discussion!
I couldn’t agree more, and I’m in that 18-22 age bracket. I heard it put once that many companies hire a kid to start their social media, do nothing with it, and then fire the kid when it doesn’t amount to anything. It’s an unfortunate truth that too many of these poor kids don’t know enough of business strategy and politics to make their way through this mine field and make the social media work for the company even without the full understanding of the company leaders.