Everything you didn't learn in school that will help you survive the world of work. A place for newbies, for working moms, for seasoned professionals and "free agents" to share strategies, tips and tales from the trenches.

Aug 13, 2012

Your 23 Year-Old Social Media Manager Replies to Inc.com

On August 10, 2012, Inc.com posted an article entitled “11 Reasons a 23-Year-old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media.” (Because they might start sentences with numerals... was not one of the reasons.)  Author Hollis Thomases questions their maturity with your brand and their grace under fire, among other things.  This got one of our student body very hot and bothered.  She also happens to be a social media manager under-30.

Contributing Author, Natalie Keener 

Hire a 23-year-old to manage your social media, because no one else will do it.

I rarely defend Millennials. If we were to generalize, as Hollis Thomases did, we could say most Millennials are over educated and under qualified, with helicopter parents and a clingy yet apathetic nature that is just…annoying. 

I get that. There are few times I will go up to bat for my generation.

 But social media is one area that some (not all) of us twenty-somethings are capable of, if not completely proficient in. I can’t help but laugh at the term “proficient” here because I firmly believe there is nothing difficult about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, etc. People can be “proficient” in Hebrew or calculus. Facebook? It’s like standing in a room full of strangers and not having a nervous breakdown.

If you’re able to engage even one other human in conversation with the slightest bit of charm or wit, your Facebook friends will thank you, and better yet, your consumers/clients/funders will learn to love you.
Here are a few reasons why you should hire a 23-year-old to manage your social media presence, if you happen to stumble across one and are too afraid to ford the proverbial Facebook river alone:
1.       They know other 23-year-olds
Depending on your strategy and goals, you may or may not need a swarm of young people. But is a crowd ever a bad thing? 

2.       They speak the language
When I was first asked to direct a social media campaign, the higher ups wanted to have a talk about “the plan.” This session involved questions like “how often will you tweet?” “who will you follow?” “what will you say?” I’m all about goals and objectives, but 23-year-olds don’t think to themselves Now is a good time to update my Facebook status! Our lives are no longer offline/online/off Facebook/on Facebook. It is a constant, mostly mindless activity. And for this reason, yes, you will need to direct/supervise your social media manager. But would that change if the person were 40? I would hope you’re directing your brand’s reputation on every platform, not just social media. Twenty three year olds grew up on Facebook. We were in high school when it expanded beyond college-only users. We were on Myspace in middle school and Livejournal in elementary school. Yep, we were blogging as 4th graders. Get used to it.  

3.       They’re teachable
If  you’re strategizing and directing your messaging, you’re teaching your staff how to talk about the people/customers/clients you serve and what you do for them. If not, then a 23-year-old social media manager can’t help or hurt your brand because it’s a mess to begin with. To continue generalizing, Millennials need leadership and structure. And feedback. They are the generation who got rewards for just showing up. So imagine the positive feedback required when they actually do something right. But they’re eager to please and grateful to work. Just give them a chance. 

4.       They might have to steward your brand’s future
Like it or not, you’re going to retire/die/move on someday. You and the other 60-year-olds. And these young whippersnappers are going to start becoming old whippersnappers and the next generation of apathetic, shallow youngsters with overbearing parents will come along. And the Millennials will have to guide and teach and move up into big, scary roles. What then? Did you take the time to mentor them, to instill in them the resolve to steward your brand’s messaging and reputation? What kind of online legacy are you planning to leave? 

5.       They know more than you’d expect
When I was asked to be a social media manager, I was 23. I was a few months out of grad school. I did it because I never said no to anything and I knew it wouldn’t be hard. As time went on, people started asking me questions about it. My boss asked me something about effective social media strategies, and I cited a study I’d read. Then I cited a study I’d conducted and published. I hadn’t flaunted that at my interview or even my first few months of work, because it was pretty irrelevant until that point in time. But I studied mass communications, and social media was a big part of it. Anyone who studied public relations, marketing, advertising, mass media, English, creative writing, social sciences, humanities, etc., after 2008 knows about social media and its impact on the [fill in the blank] industry.

Social media is not an art, but it is a language. And odds are, if you're 23, you speak the language.  Not every conversation is carefully crafted with Marketing 101 in mind, but at least 23-year-olds are HAVING the conversation. We're not afraid, we're not intimidated, and we're not inhibited by different formats and media. We grew up speaking this language. Just give us a chance.

Jan 10, 2012

"Stay Interview" tips for the Interviewee

Have you ever sat in your Exit Interview, with a member of HR you never met before, and thought, "Maybe you should have asked this 4 years ago"?  Let us know if you have encountered the latest "employee engagement"  tool awkwardly known as The Stay Interview -- as in, not "why are you leaving," but rather "what motivates you to stay?"

Jon Younger, of the RBL Institute, offered a strong summary of the tool's purpose, along with guidelines for its use a few years ago in The Huffington Post.  At the Finishing School, where some of our best friends are Managers, we are strongly in favor of employee engagement in general.  It used to be a fundamental component of staff development, and was known in our day as ... Management.
American business is less about forming long-term relationships these days.

There is plenty to read on Stay Interview technique -- much of it strangely similar, and nearly all of written for the Manager.

Your faculty would like to complement Mr Younger's  advice (and other postings of similar verbiage)  with advice and encouragement for those being interviewed -- as well as a healthy dose of skepticism.  Like performance reviews and promotions, these techniques can range from discovering hidden capacity  to Exhibit A for moving you down the stacked-ranking list.

The sample questions we have seen for this exercise tend to be more "on the money" than you may be ready for.  The Company goals may be to determine who will stay more than who wants  to stay.  Your answer may be the catalyst for new opportunities, but nearly all in the form of action items for you.  It may be the source of new openness between you and Management; it may also force a response like... "that will probably never change."   So consider your answers carefully. 

Take your time - If you are not offered the time to take away the questions and answer them on your own, ask for it.  Your gut response is probably honest, but needs to be refined (even professionally spun, if you will) in order to be useful feedback.

Use "I" messages:  Still helpful advice in most interpersonal situations.  By answering in terms of yourself, you a) own the experience, however subjective, and  b) avoid putting management on the defensive, which never works in your favor.

Be professional:  Putting the first twp tips together helps you achieve this one.  When the Question is "What do you like about your job?"  and the answer is "nothing," you need to find a non-threatening way to tell the truth.   The same embroidery you put to your resume might be what you draw on now.
needlework by mwashin

"Pays the bills" = financially rewarding
"Close to home" = flexibility
"Good teammates" = "Good teammates"  Management loves this feedback, actually.  It says that they made many good hiring decisions, and that you are a team player

Don't oversell: at the same time, though, don't feel obligated to write a college admissions essay.  Bullet points are fine.  They  are going to force you to talk it out anyway, and with minimal talking points, you can adjust your response to best suit the tone of the meeting, without having to commit to something you wrote last night over a gin and tonic.

Don't ask for the impossible:  A 20% raise would make all of us like our jobs more,  but that is unlikely.  Now you have given your manager an impossible goal.
Don't ask for the undeliverable: That is, if you say you'd like to learn the budgeting process, be prepared to be delegated to.

In both cases, you can open yourself to an easy win, such as getting a mentor, or leading a small workgroup, that solves problems other people have expressed in their stay interviews.

According to  much of the Manager-focused information on this engagement tool, your being asked to participate in a Stay Interview is to be taken a compliment.  Most of this information identifies "top performers" as the first people to interview about why they stay.  So take it in the spirit it is intended, and try not to pine for the days when Management knew why you stayed, because that was their goal all along.

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