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On Being Over 40 and Working in Social Media


Too old for social media?

Like you, I read the post by Cathryn Sloan at NextGen Journal discussing why social media managers need to be under 25. And, like many of you, I took the link bait. As someone who is a couple of years shy of 50, this attitude gets to me. It gets to me not only because of the sense of entitlement conveyed throughout the post, but because so many young people feel the same way. And no matter how much I talk about it today, some of the under 25 generation will just write me off as being old, out of touch and not hip enough to get it. The thing is, I do get it. We all get it. Everyone who is older was younger once. We’ve all tried to fit in and we all thought our way was best. We listened to loud music, we blew curfew, we partied, and we made out in the woods. We all experienced moments that defined our generation. We were young,  gung-ho, cocky and looked to the older generation and rolled our eyes. We thought we could do their jobs better too.

Why Learning at the Entry Level is Also Important

There’s a reason entry level jobs exist. They exist because people, even people with a degree, have to gain experience. Just because one wrote for one’s college newspaper or have a blog doesn’t make one experienced. It doesn’t even make one stand out in the crowd. You can’t learn experience from  a text book or buy it at Office Depot. Experience has to age for a while before it works properly.

In the past decade I have seen younger people who feel they don’t have to do things the “long way” as we did. They feel as if they can come right out of college or spend two years in the field and receive a leadership role over someone who has been busting her hump over the past decade. It’s not even about paying dues, it’s about gaining the right kind of experience. You can’t fix something unless you know how it works. Coming out of college or an internship isn’t necessarily enough time to learn how something works.

When you’re under 25, you really don’t know much about team work. Doing trust falls during gym class isn’t a lesson in team work. Working with the same people every day, whether you like them or not, and sharing the success with the collective group instead of insisting on taking credit at the individual level is really what teamwork is all about. It takes time to learn everyone’s strengths, habits, and rhythm. Teamwork is not doing everything yourself to prove you can. It’s working together and playing off each other’s talents.

Knowing how to work well as a team is more important than mastering Facebook.

Social media isn’t about knowing what’s cool, hip, or in and it’s not Facebook. In fact, if Facebook is any indication, the 25 and under generation still have a lot to learn. When you’re my age, you know a little more about filtering and being appropriate (though I do admit to knowing many old timers who still need to work on that). We know not to post anything publicly online that we wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times. We know that if we publicly bad mouth a boss we can lose our jobs. We know that if we’re looking for work, it’s a good idea to always be on our best behavior online because people are watching.  We know that everything we post publicly is reflective of us and the brand we work for, even if it’s posted to our personal accounts.. We didn’t learn all these things in college. We learn it at the entry level and throughout our careers.

Entry level jobs are there because there’s so much more to learn than the job itself.

Professionalism Takes Time

Here’s the thing about social media: It can be an extremely public role. Someone like me is representing my brand. My behavior and my words are scrutinized. Every thing I do is carefully weighed so we receive the right reaction from our communities. We have to anticipate backlash and anger, just as we have to anticipate success. Social media management is a strategy position, it’s not glorified Facebooking. We have to know the individual as well as the collective members of our community.

Someone fresh out of college hasn’t necessarily mastered being public. Businesses want to hire someone who knows how to talk to people, and also knows how to do damage control during a crisis. People skills don’t come from a book. They come from years of experience. The types of skills necessary in social media  come from observing and identifying the different online personalities and learning to deal with each individually. Knowing how to market to and communicate to different demographics takes time. Managing people is something that’s earned. It’s not like a driver’s license that you’re entitled to because you reached a certain age.

Lately I see too many people who feel being honest is an excuse for being rude, and that being blunt trumps any bad behavior. This doesn’t fly in the business world. In the business world, being blunt or coming off ranty and angry all the time, even the casual, be yourself,  social media world, means that a lot of people just don’t want to be around you. Brands don’t want people representing them who can’t be trusted to treat each individual customer, client, or member of the community with respect and compassion.  Sometimes, I see hot under the collar younger people saying, “well, I just won’t work for a company that censors me and won’t let me say what I want.” It’s not about censoring. It’s about having the ability to treat everyone with the respect they deserve. This isn’t something everyone knows right away.

Having a job doesn't make one a professional.

Starting out in the entry level meant I was able to make some mistakes and learn by those mistakes. You HAVE to have suffered the consequences of your goof ups to truly gain experience in any business. Social media is forgiving, but it’s also brutal. Say the wrong thing, and people are all over you, much as they were all over Cathryn Sloan after she wrote her piece about being better for my job because she’s under 25.


If Facebook is Any Proof, We’re All in Trouble

If you’re like me you friend a variety of different people on Facebook. For example, some of the people who are my friends are also younger relatives in their teens and early 20’s. Some of them even friend their bosses and co-workers or don’t seem to notice the public settings on their status updates.  These same people don’t always realize that posting drunken rants or semi-nude photos can cause an employer to question their judgement. Everything we post publicly is up for scrutiny. Everything. To say, “I don’t want to work for a company that doesn’t let me post nude photos online” is kind of silly. Why would anyone hire someone who can cause damage to the brand?  If you show poor judgement on your personal social media accounts, how does an employer or potential employer know you won’t show poor judgement when representing them? They don’t. And many won’t hire for exactly this reason, especially not at a management level.

When you’re my age, you’ve been through it all, including the embarrassment that comes when something you don’t want public gets public. Knowing how and when to filter the personal stuff is probably the most important social media lesson one can learn. And when something goes wrong, knowing how to fix it while offending the least amount of people possible is also pretty darn important.

Just because someone grew up on Facebook doesn’t mean she’s more social media savvy. Many of social media’s older generation began Facebook at the same time. Before that we were on AOL, MySpace,.Ning, or any number of social networks, and we we working them. We used CompuServe and prodigy too. As Kelby Carr points out, we’ve even been gaming longer.  The methods are older, for sure, but they taught us a lot about social networking and how to deal with people and trolls. I can’t say the younger generation is more technically savvy because we started using gadgets and social networks at the same time, if not earlier.

Is there stuff the younger generation are better at? Absolutely, without a doubt. And, as my colleague Allison Boyer explained earlier today, they’ve grown up under different circumstances. But, does a unique set of circumstances qualify one to hold a managerial position? I think, no. It just means we can all relate to different things.

Demographics Also Has A Lot to Do With It

Can a 21-year-old know what it’s like to be a mom and have to do all the shopping for a family of six? Can a 22-year-old know what it’s like to wear adult diapers? Can a 23-year-old extol the virtues of the minivan?  Probably not. On the flip side, people my age have kids. We know what tweens and teens are going through because they’re living in our homes (no matter how much they think we don’t get them). They tell us their problems and fears and share their Christmas lists with us. We know who the hip boy bands are and what shows everyone is watching. We know what teens find fashionable and what will get them laughed out of high school. So we have the added ability to cater to a younger demographic as well.

Social media isn’t just about working for a brand, it’s about having a passion for the brand’s product or service. There’s no way anyone can properly run a community of advocates if that person isn’t an advocate himself.

In a Perfect World…

As a woman of a certain age I worry. I worry a lot. I worry about losing my job to someone who is seen as hipper and more youthful. I worry that some cocky kid is going to have a fresh idea and I’ll be put out to pasture. It’s in my best interests to stay on top of things and NOT be seen as “old” or “stale.” I have to stay on top of  news and trends because to not stay on top is to absolutely be out of touch. Unlike some of my much younger peers, I  know that I’m replaceable. Despite experience, not everyone wants to hire a woman of a certain age. I think about this every single day.

When I was a teen, I got very upset when people told me to grow up or that I was still immature. What I learned over time was that there was a lot more to maturity than age. All of this isn’t a case of “old v. young” or “us against them.”  In a perfect world, we can all work together as a team and be successful together. Older and younger balance things out. There can be hip but there can also be mature. Instead of writing us off as being too old for the job, take some time to learn from our experience. And instead of writing you off as immature, we should learn what makes your generation tick. There’s room for all of us in social media, but make no mistake, experience plays a big part in success. You can’t manage a community or a team without experience.

Now get off my lawn.


  • BlkChickOnTour

    Love it!!  And, you’re spot on.  

  • Blue Blinds Media

    I love your post and completely agree with you.  As an almost 50 yr old running my own social media business, I chaffed at the naive and conceited attitude of the young woman who believes only the under 25s can “get” social media.  Social Media is a business, not a trend, and to succeed one needs real life experience and real business experience, not just the genetic benefit of being born at a certain time in history.  Clearly her piece is demonstrative of a childish and selfish attitude – not the kind of representation that will enhance her marketability when an “old” person is looking to hire her.

    • debng

       @Blue Blinds Media Thank you. I don’t think it’s not possible for the under 25 crew to “get” social media. I do think they get it  – but I don’t know that they get it enough to take a leadership role. People of any age can work in social media, however, the role they take on must be determined by experience, and, yes, maturity.

  • andrewghayes

    @debng youre over 40?

  • angie_seattle

    @evonnebenedict @debng Not just working in social media. I see this every day.

  • WordsToThriveBy

    @evonnebenedict @debng Great post! How’s everyone today?

  • Kay

    I’m more than 10 years older than you and lost my job as a VP of marketing over 2 years ago. I’m convinced that age bias is the main reason I can’t get a job in my field. I implemented advanced marketing automation, got the brand into the appropriate social media outlets, blah blah blah but I suspect I’m viewed as a dinosaur still roaming the earth.  So two months ago I decided to start a travel/humor blog and be my potty mouthed, opinionated funny self and I”m having a great time doing that. I don’t blog under my name but it’s very easy to find out who I am. I’m having so much doing this! The only drawback is the lack of an income. That’s a fairly major one! Enjoyed your post! 

    • debng

      Age bias affects every profession. One older sister is a programmer and has to work harder than her younger teammates just to prove that she still has it. Another older sister is a teacher and is looked upon as old and out of touch by younger teachers. I’m sorry to say it happens to everyone.
      I had a good role model though. My mother retired from her job at the age of 70 – she worked out of her home designing online courses for accountants. You’d think that was a job for someone much younger but she had a much better work ethic than many of her team mates.
      Good luck with all your endeavors, I’m going to have a look at your blog!

  • LadywithaMic

    I’m a 56-year-old new-media broadcaster!  And as I learn more about social media, the same fact keeps coming up: it is all about relationships.  And just as you say, Deb, people skills are at the core of all of it.  Social media means we all stay connected–and you’d better darn well know how to be straight-up and honest–but with some kindness and compassion.  Because the person with whom you speak today, is someone with whom you may very well be in contact for twenty years or more.  And he/she is your camera that’s always rolling, and your microphone that’s always “hot.”
    Like Kay, in the field in which I worked, I felt my “expire date” had come up due to my age–as soon as I turned 40.  Say what you will, but “ageism” is the one prejudice which everyone seems to think is OK.  I, too, am now working for myself with one blog, and about to launch a second one.  Same boat with the lack of income, wonder what’s a good, ethical and honest way for us to monetize?  Enjoyed, and agreed with, your post!

  • yapaspace

    You are right on ( shows my age). Ageism is prevalent all over the new media workplace. The only real place where is is OK is the CFO where they need the best financial person around to get an IPO in place or arrange for a sell-out. The supposed new media is the same old media. The people may be engaging but in the same way we originally did but the arrogance is appalling. No return emails, lack of LinkedIn responses and absolute  non-response to job applications. I had a 26 year old HR person interview me for a substantial job. What in earth can she know about my experience and how is plays into today’s sales/marketing? Rather than look for diversity and skills they are looking for homogenity and peer comfort.
    My daughters skim FB, Tweet about nonsense and are engaged but in a very superficial way. So are their friends. I try to be relevant, interesting and topical in many ways. Sure, a little superficial at times, but if it is all about engaging we should be engaging in more substantial ways-ways in which our experience and skill set can be of equal or better value than those millenials who worth is based on beer pong and ability to text quickly.
    Sorry, You touched a nerve and frustration so I apologize for the long analysis and complaint.
    You reading this HR? Get with it.

  • Kristi Hines

    As I commented on the post itself, I don’t think we can even take the post author seriously. She’s a B.A. in English with a concentration in Writing, yet look at her tweets – https://twitter.com/cathrynsloane25. I’ve had to shorten things to make them fit, but it doens’t hurt your 140 character limit to use proper capitalization. It wouldn’t drive me nuts if she were an average person on Twitter, but if you write an article about how your age group deserves to be in any sort of management, including social media, you could do better with your own social accounts. 
    Ps., Not sure if you saw the official response on their site – http://nextgenjournal.com/2012/07/cathryn-sloane-response-controversy-social-media-managers-25/. Almost just as annoying.

    • debng

       @Kristi Hines I did see the official response which showed just as entitlement as the original post. If that’s NextGen Journal’s official response their social media team has a lot to learn.

      • manamica

         @debng @Kristi Hines they have serious editorial issues. To even allow a post like that in the first place… or allow it without an editor’s note… And then when things got bad, instead of consulting the experts and put together a kick-ass response, they continue as before. What do they say about when you do the same things but expecting different results? 

  • AmidPrivilege

    You are ever so right. It’s funny, just in the last few weeks I have met some  young folk, very bright, who know they need to learn the ropes. It’s incredibly appealing. Oh, and BTW, I’m speaking as a 55-year old who manages a team that designs and releases products for social media, so I clearly think the territory doesn’t belong to the young

  • PervaraKapadia

    Customer Knowledge with Insight, Category Insight and Brand Knowledge makes one a good advocate of a particular Business / Brand. These qualities go on to enable you in just about Building Relationships on Social Media. Does this really come to people fresh out of college?

  • travelswithron

    @charynpfeuffer @sociablesite @debng I loved the article. I’m 63. I think my life and work experience is an advantage in this realm.

    • charynpfeuffer

      @travelswithron Agree. Life experience definitely plays into it. My writing & marketing experience greatly helps my social media efforts.

  • DottoreGus

    @jennyneill @blogworld @charynpfeuffer if you are over 40 arent you supposed to call it the internets or the AOL?

    • jennyneill

      @DottoreGus I still remember “Gophering” information. And I do believe the first flamewar I witnessed was on Prodigy. #InternetHistory

      • DottoreGus

        @jennyneill yeah, I started it, and it got us kicked off.

  • JohnatNokia

    @haikus Thanks for flagging a good read about age and social media. http://t.co/huvc8K8g

  • felicelam

    @AutumnInSeattle And what were you and @charleskoh saying about it? Some experience do need time. Being a user doesn’t mean everything…

  • Jennifer_Bilbro

    @debng GREAT post. Maturity yields the ability to see the bigger picture. It’s next to impossible for a 22 year old – and that’s ok.

  • jessicamalnik

    As a mid-20 something, I was also appalled by that article. Age doesn’t matter. Instead, its about experience. Someone who is younger may have grown up with all these social media tools, but it doesn’t mean they understand how to use and apply them strategically for a business.

    • WordsDoneWrite

       @jessicamalnik It’s great to hear you say that, Jessica. The ability to execute strategically in a professional setting comes with experience. Just because one grew up with the tools doesn’t mean they have the inherent ability to apply the strategy behind developing marketing campaigns and delivering top notch customer service.

      • jessicamalnik

         @WordsDoneWrite Agreed! I think there is still a bit of misconception that just because someone (from 20 to 60) uses Facebook personally, they automatically know how to use it professionally for a business. That’s far from the case. Knowing the tools is only a small part of it. It comes down to knowing how to apply these tools in a strategic way. 

  • MichaelRajnovic

    “It’s in my best interests to stay on top of things and NOT be seen as “old” or “stale.” I have to stay on top of  news and trends because to not stay on top is to absolutely be out of touch.”
    Excellent point, Deb.  It’s not just important to be up on what’s out there but also keep the antenna up for what’s next.  That’s an appetite that can (and should) be acquired at any age.
    Re: the entitlement issue, quite a few of Ms. Sloan’s generation remind me of kids who can swing a baseball bat and figure they’re on their way to Wrigley Field, whereas most using social media will never get out of “Class-A ball”, so to speak.  There have been a few of their generation who have (deservedly) hit the jackpot using and/or developing new technologies and the Ms. Sloans seem to feel these exceptions to the rule pave the way for all in their group.

  • KenSabey

    Thank you Deb for this article, as a mid-forties guy doing social media management for small to medium sized businesses and non-profits, my clients are happy to have a seasoned professional behind the wheel of their online presence, for many of the reasons that you point out.

  • tracysestili

    @paulrobertspar I didn’t know either, but it was a great article nonetheless and points were well made I thought. #mytwocents

  • JPedde

    @aajain @debng @SBoSM I love the “Professionalism Takes Time” part. So. True. Nice job Deb!

  • rpachter

    Clueless is clueless and isn’t age or gender-specific.
    Experience matters.
    Plenty of young farts as well as old ones.
    You’ve gotta walk it like you talk it.
    You’re never too old (or too young) to learn.
    Keep moving!

  • KKnapp

    @SBoSM @debng: I’m 26, manage Social for major brands and am terrified that I’m losing my edge. I’m “old” in SM terms & find your post funny

    • debng

      @kknapp My lawn is brown and crunchy. I can’t get too freaky about it with no rain.

      • KKnapp

        @debng – I’m so sorry to hear that. Hopefully some rain will green you up!

    • SBoSM

      @kknapp “There are two kinds of fool. One says, ‘This is old, and therefore good.’ And one says ‘This is new, and therefore better.'”

      • KKnapp

        @SBoSM – Luckily, I’ve said neither! Also, might suggest a third kind of fool. One that suggests time=experience, not experience=experience.

  • debng

    @sbosm Thanks so much for sharing my post!

    • SBoSM

      @debng My pleasure. It’s a great response on a pressing issue. I read it too late for today’s newsletter, but we’ll work it in tomorrow.

      • debng

        @sbosm Thanks so much – I wanted to ask you how you choose articles for your newsletter.

        • SBoSM

          @debng I work with another editor to pick ’em. It’s combination of social media recs, blogger pitches and a home-grown search tool.

        • xxdaresay

          @SBoSM Hey check out my status 😀

  • IGmarketing

    Just to make a point for the “under 25” crowd…
    People took the original article way out of context.  Like in the article I link above, “Coming out of college or an internship isn’t necessarily enough time to learn how something works.”  Well Facebook wasn’t taught in school, in Deb’s (the above writer) lifetime or the under 25s’.  I can guarantee I was on Facebook before her as well, because when I joined it was closed to students who had a school email address.  They may be correct in saying we don’t have as much overall experience as people who have been marketing for years, but we definitely have more experience with Social Media.  In most cases, the Social Media Marketing role will be best held by someone “under 25.”  This doesn’t mean that they will be perfect.  TEAMWORK with other Marketing Professionals will produce the best results.  I started in Social Media Marketing as an intern in college and I am now 25, still doing so.  I have since added other marketing roles as I have gained the experience from mentors (yes, older ones).  Whether it’s an older person looking down on a younger person’s “lack of experience”, or a younger person ignoring the value of an older person’s experience, BOTH are wrong!

  • IGmarketing

    Just to make a point for the “under 25” crowd…
    People took the original article way out of context.  Like in the article above, “Coming out of college or an internship isn’t necessarily enough time to learn how something works.”  Well Facebook wasn’t taught in school, in Deb’s (the above writer) lifetime or the under 25s’.  I can guarantee I was on Facebook before her as well, because when I joined it was closed to students who had a school email address.  They may be correct in saying we don’t have as much overall experience as people who have been marketing for years, but we definitely have more experience with Social Media.  In most cases, the Social Media Marketing role will be best held by someone “under 25.”  This doesn’t mean that they will be perfect.  TEAMWORK with other Marketing Professionals will produce the best results.  I started in Social Media Marketing as an intern in college and I am now 25, still doing so.  I have since added other marketing roles as I have gained the experience from mentors (yes, older ones).  Whether it’s an older person looking down on a younger person’s “lack of experience”, or a younger person ignoring the value of an older person’s experience, BOTH are wrong!

    • debng

       @IGmarketing Are you saying you’re more experienced in social media because you’ve been on Facebook longer?  Facebook is not social media and anyone who uses the length of time spent on one’s personal account as a gauge of social media experience is off base. Moreover, many people on my age have been using social media long before Facebook. Whether it was an AOL chatroom, Prodigy, Compuserve, listserves and newsgroups, if you go the “well I’ve been on FB longer so I’m better” route, there will  always be people who will tell you that Facebook is a new player to the game. Many of us have been socializing online since the early 90’s (at the very least.)
      Also, I want to be clear that I don’t “look down on” Cathryn’s lack of experience. I admire her guts, or at least I did until she disappeared without responding to any respectful questions or comments. I was actually rooting for her to get a job out of this.  So I don’t look down on Cathryn. What I wanted to explain – and hope I did so respectfully – is that a “manager” position isn’t demanded, it’s earned. You can’t just come out of college and say, “I’m going to get one of those top spots” because that’s not how it works. You have to know far beyond how to act on your personal Facebook page to be a social media manager. If you’re under 23 and can do that, awesome. But the majority of people your age will need more experience.

      • IGmarketing

         @debng No, I am not saying I am more experienced in social media because I’ve been on Facebook longer.  I was simply using that as an example as it is one of the most prominent social media tools as of current.  For example, chat rooms are definitely outdated.  Using past experience in old tools that are no longer widely used to say you are better in social media is also off base (not saying you are this case).  Socializing online since the early 90’s doesn’t necessarily add any experience to social media, because SM is about what is current.  This is what usually leads to the younger crowd to thinking that “old people” cannot be up to par.  The “young crowd” is always looking for new tools and is shaping where the SM marketing will be geared towards next.  This doesn’t mean that the “old crowd” can’t do exactly that same thing, and be just as well versed.
        As far as being a “Social Media Manager” is concerned… they shouldn’t add the word ‘manager’ if they won’t be managing other PEOPLE.  A lot of companies have a single person “managing” their SM accounts, but that doesn’t make this person a manager, however, it leads recent grads into calling it that.  Unfortunately, a simple job search will show that a lot of companies call the position a “SM Manager” as well, even though it simply means the only “Social Media Marketer” for that company.  I completely agree with you that a person cannot come right out of college and manage other people.  They may get teamwork and group leadership experience in school, but this doesn’t mean they are ready to lead a team.  However, a person CAN come right out of school and be the sole person in charge of Social Media for a company, granted that they can prove they know what they are doing. 

        • debng

           @IGmarketing I still think you’re missing the point. I’m not saying we’re into using outdated technology or that we know social media better because we used chat rooms back in the day. My point is that the old school tools and technologies gave us much needed experience in dealing with and managing people.  However, this doesn’t mean we know nothing about the next big thing as well. It’s in our best interests to be well versed in all the social networks and many of us are. I’m pretty sure I’ve been on FAcebook as long, if not longer than some of your contemporaries, but I’ll in now way use that as a gauge of my expertise.

        • IGmarketing

           @debng I got the point, and I even said in parenthesis that I wasn’t implying what you extracted from my reply.  I just didn’t want to write a page full to make that clear, that’s your job! 😉 Anyways, I think we’ve said all that can be said.  Thanks for the article and I appreciate your effort to respond to comments, unlike many others. Kudos!

        • debng

           @IGmarketing Likewise – thanks for your perspective. I hope you’ll continue to come here and to the New Media Expo Facebook page so this community can continue to learn from you

        • Adi Gaskell

           @IGmarketing Think you’ve missed the point of social media here.  It isn’t about tools at all, it’s about being able to add value to people in a social setting.  Places like Facebook are just tools to that end, just as chat rooms or bulletin boards were before them.
          Your position seems consistent with people who have to have a Facebook account (for instance), even if a) their market doesn’t use Facebook, and b) there is little value you can add to their life via that platform.
          There is a big issue with ROI in social media and taking tools first is a major cause of that.  For me you should first of all focus on what benefit you want to provide your community (social ROI).  Then you can figure out how each ‘win’ translates into pounds and pence (financial ROI).  Once you know that, only then do you look into what platform and tools are best placed to deliver what you and your community needs.
          You’re putting the cart before the horse.  I won’t say that you’d know this with a little more experience, but y’know 🙂

        • IGmarketing

           @Adi Gaskell I honestly figured I didn’t have to say that part.  That holds true for ALL forms of marketing, not just social media.  Thanks to your comment, however, next time I will first consider how people tend to be condescending and assume the commenter has no knowledge of anything not specifically mentioned in their post, before I actually post.  Thank you for most likely saving me some time in the future to avoid posting altogether.

        • Adi Gaskell

           @IGmarketing Of course it holds true for all forms of marketing, but I’m sure you know as well as I do that a great many marketing or social media activities ignore that very simple point, and it’s that that is the problem.  Age has absolutely nothing to do with things, but it is quite possible that someone with more experience of cultivating a community successfully is a bit older than 25.

    • DAMeek

       @IGmarketing I think you should be more clear when you say “we definitely have more experience with Social Media.” You may have more experience relative to the number of years you’ve walked the earth, but that doesn’t necessarily you have more years of experience. And playing around on Facebook in college isn’t the same as managing social media profiles as a profession, although if would definitely give you experience with how FB has morphed over the years.  Also, saying you worked social media as an intern in college is a bit vague. Interning from your freshman year forward gives you seven years, which isn’t bad; beginning an internship as a senior isn’t quite as impressive. Most of the marketing dinosaurs have more SM experience than that. 
      I would guess that younger SMMs are very sharp technically while older users probably have better overall instincts for message/medium. Which means we should definitely team up!

  • DennisCarpenter

    I firmly believe that Social Media success (which can be defined many ways) is not reliant on being a certain age. If anything, Social Media unites and connects the age groups better than any medium ever has!
    I will give the author a kudo, because she wrote a very “buzz” friendly article. She definitely has the writing skills to create a discussion which is an essential skill in the Social Media World. Believe me, when seeing the title, the hair on the back of my neck stood up a little. But possibly, that was her intention when writing the article. If so, she is very savvy.

    • debng

       @DennisCarpenter Writing a controversial article doesn’t mean one is savvy, it only means one knows how to stir up a hornets nest. If Sloane truly wanted to show her savvy she wouldn’t have posted and disappeared. If anything this showed potential employers she has no idea how to handle a social media crisis and negative publicity.

      • DennisCarpenter

         @debng Your points could indeed be true. Regardless, I will also give you props for a job well done. And, you did a complete job! You created a well written piece that generated great conversation while making yourself available to answer back and participate. Well done!

        • debng

           @DennisCarpenter I hope you won’t be a stranger, Dennis! I appreciate your thoughts and would love to see you share more here and on the New Media Expo Facebook page.

  • JulieGallaher


  • juliegallaher

    I’m one of the top social media consultant/trainers in Sacramento and I think being a baby boomer is an advantage.  Far more business owners are my age and it’s quite easy to convince them that I understand their business and their situation in life better than many others might.  I joke, with just a bit of truth, that my targets are business owners who are over 40, because some of my competitors don’t even realize that there are people over 40.
    But, I’d be a lousy social media consultant for an MMA (mixed martial arts) studio or Forever 21. I don’t understand that customer and I never will.  
    A large hospitality business in town has a youngish SMM who is a bit of an ageist.  I believe she thinks I’m old and boring or maybe just not interesting.  She doesn’t seem to realize that my friends & peers are her target audience.  Her friends may come in for cocktails, my friends are booking business events that generate a thousand times more revenue.
    I have a theory that your strengths and your weaknesses are the same, just traits looked at from different perspectives.  Ms. Sloane is going to have a tough time if she doesn’t realize that life experience does bring some strengths.

  • John Laser

    It seems that I am just too old for this. I’m over 50. I’m more worried about my health and well-being than how to work social media!

    • debng

      I imagine that this is the way life is outside of the social media world, John. We’re very small fish in a very big pond.

  • Paul

    Perhaps if I make outrageous claims about how these self entitled idiots need to shut up and go to work so I can draw my Social Security when it’s time I can get reposted, retweeted and then retired!  Ms Sloan, You should watch and see how the world works (it’s not all done by social media – frankly the real world doesn’t give a crap about it that much) because you article only illustrates the sum total of what you don’t know vastly overwhelms what you think you do know.

  • maranj

    Excellent riposte to a staggeringly misguided article. Great job, Deb!

  • ldgourmet

    Many clients have shared with me the problem of “giving social media to the kids” to do because “they get it.” Then they discover the immaturity and lack of business sense means those “kids” have no clue about the proper voice to represent a business. No clue either, about building strategic relationships. My only small quibble is that your response needs to be much shorter and tighter for this online medium. It will be seen as evidence by the young ones (now running many companies) that “older” folks don’t get it. 

  • Bill Ives

    Good for you. I am over 65 and working social media.  The comment about being under 25 is simply age discrimination pure and simple and so immature on the writers part. It shows her age.

  • LindaSherman

    Excellent article Deb. I hear small business owners announce all the time that they are leaving social media up to some young person in their lives, including a part time kitchen helper as though every young person must be a social media genius. It is my passion to educate the residents of Kauai about social media and I can assure you that some of my oldest social marketing students at the U of Hawaii adult extension here, as well as my clients, once committed to the cause are hitting the ball out of the park. A grasp of marketing, strategy, brand and their business goals is more important than growing up on Facebook. This is all a conversation and I am doing everything possible not to let the late-comers on this island get psyched out by the belief of some that they should hand over their online voice without supervision to “young people” because “they get it.” If nothing else small business owners must understand social media marketing well enough to wisely select, manage and evaluate the performance of a person that does it for them.

  • basilpuglisi

    Nice recovery Deb, I think you just showed the wisdom that I feel generally comes with being over 25 or more specifically out of college and in a professional setting:
    1- admit your mistake,
    2- own your mistake,
    3- fix your mistake.
    Bravo Deb!
    Having spent 7 years in student affairs and holding advanced degrees, I can tell you first hand this is not something you learn in academia and that means this vital part of relationship building (key to social media) is rarely a quality of a 20 something.
    The best is in the balance, experience that is open minded with overzealous but influential youth is the key in my opinion, after all this is a communication tool is it not?
    Basil Puglisi

  • Heather

    Ironically, we can see the pitfalls of inexperience in the reaction to Sloan’s blog. As the social media manager of the Cathryn Sloan “brand,” she is already performing poorly.

  • yishrocks

    @mdbarber fodder for our next conversation.

    • mdbarber

      @yishrocks look forward to it. I assume you’ve been following this.

  • JeanetteGardner

    @elwirakotowska schyssta funderingar!!

  • StephjCrawf

    @debng I was under 25 along time ago, I agree with many of the valid points you’ve highlighted. Great post Deb.

  • LadywithaMic

    Curious why you would offer Cathyrn Sloan an all-expense-paid scholarship to NMX, Deb.  I admit I’m disappointed.  At best, her post is naive.  At worst, it’s arrogant and supports a way of thinking that has cost a lot of smart. capable people their livelihoods.  Should she be rewarded, when the rest of us are PAYING to go to NMX?  Including some of us who now aren’t working because of that kind of thinking?
    I don’t mean to be a troll here.  I just don’t agree with that action.  Still really liked your article.

    • debng

       @LadywithaMic First and foremost, we’re all about second chances. Second, we can all sit here and bash Cathryn, but why not lead by example and offer to help her instead? This is a way to show her what we can do – and for her to meet us in person and show us what she can do as well. We’ve all messed up.
      This isn’t about rewarding anyone. Whether we like her post or not, Cathryn did speak out against something she felt passionate about.  We wouldn’t be having this ageism conversation without her, and I’m grateful for that.

  • LadywithaMic

    Admittedly, if she takes you up on it, that would mean she’s open to seeing another point of view than her own, and to learning–two huge advantages to her in her future career. 

  • 4LeafCloverGirl

    Can you be too old for social media? — Yes: http://t.co/rDcZGo9R No: http://t.co/j9eD8fV9 @SBoSM #socialmedia

  • TomMcCool

    I think the key to your post is that each generation behaves as if nothing happened prior to their existence. I was on the Internet in 1985. I was active on BBS (bulletin board system) networks run by hobbyists out of their homes, posting on discussion boards and sharing files. I was on Compuserve and AOL. Think about this. What has really changed about cars? There’s a steering wheel. There’s a gas pedal. There’s a brake pedal. I learned to drive in 1975. That doesn’t mean I can drive a new 2012 car.

  • rebaverrall

    Great article, wonderful discussion, and excellent approach to engaging the author in order to help her see something different! At the staggering age of 42 I am considered the “go to” gal for Social Media related issues in my business unit and we have at least 16 or so souls that are under or around the age of 25 who frequently rely on me for the 5W&H (Who, What, When, Where, Why & How) of leveraging and understanding Social Media. I was disappointed by Cathryn’s attitude and position. That said, as others have pointed out, her article did bring forth a great discussion that is very much worth having.

  • cbsop

    @txwriter Let the youngun’s come. This old dog still knows a few tricks 🙂

  • carol m

    Well said Deb! I don’t think age has anything to do with it – or shouldn’t have anything to do with it.  I’m older than you and have always hated Facebook for personal use – I always felt as if I was being stalked – because I don’t want anyone to know what I’m doing all the time – even my cyber ‘friends’. I don’t need people to know what I’m doing everyday, and I prefer to retain some privacy in my life.  It seems there are lots of people who actually crave attention, and Facebook is great for them.
    But I don’t think this has anything to do with age – it’s about your personality.
    Now I have a Business Page and find it’s actually fun – and a great marketing tool for my blog.  Everything is different when it’s a business you promote rather than yourself. 
    I did find the Facebook Platform was a steeper learning curve than most new software platforms because their Help pages were not great – but what’s wrong with that? It keeps dementia at bay and prevents you meddling in the lives of your children!
    My favorite radio program (program based with high value information content) recently had a makeover and was relentlessly pushing listeners to go to their Facebook and Twitter pages.  I emailed them to complain and got a reply which basically said ‘Old people need to get with the program!’  The nerve!  I replied with a suitable blast of righteous indignation.
    Us oldies need to stick together and remind the young’uns that were not done yet! 

  • M2MNC

    I truly enjoyed your article-you made some great points and I loved your honesty while still maintaining your professionalism. 

  • Anonymous

    I I think that the 40+ should fully embrace the social media world. I know my mother probably couldn’t even log onto Facebook, but with a short tutorial everyone should be able to get into it…..

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