I just spent a few hours — yes, hours — editing some social media captions done by a 20something. While I am happy to share knowledge and experience with anyone who is open to it, the whole document was so bad that there’s no way I could even start to give feedback on it.
It was one thing that I had to just rip the document and start over. But by the end of it, I was infuriated that I, as someone considered “old” in social media, was editing terrible work by a very young person, but people still perceive ME as the incompetent one because of my age.
The biggest excuse I hear from people over 40 for not learning social media is that “it’s for young people.” Somehow there’s a perception out there that people lose the ability to process new information as they get older. Wake up, you lazy dummies! When I first got on Twitter 12 years ago, I was following a 104-year-old woman in England who tweeted from her care home until she died. She was charming, and had made quite a splash as a Twitter celebrity in international media.
Even for me, at the time, I thought I’d be doing traditional PR for the rest of my life. As many people know, circumstances in my job — long before I lost it — created the need to learn social media to enhance my skill set.
I became one of the first people in town to provide social media for businesses, and with my work partner Russ Sumida, we now have 10 employees and a real office. That should give me some credibility as a social media professional.
Still … for the last 10 years, I get comments from strangers like, “Isn’t unusual for someone of your age to be doing social media?” or “You’re older than me, how is it that you work in social media?” Or the worst, “We’re going to hire this other company because it’s owned by a young person.”
I recently explained to an acquaintance that I had spent the day training our young employees on doing social media, and the person seemed to think I misspoke. “Don’t you mean THEY’RE training YOU?” I asked why they said that and they said, “Because young people … they’re all about that stuff.” Right. Ask my 15K organic instagram followers if I’m not all about that stuff.
These strangers and acquaintances ask why we don’t have more young people working with us, and my simple answer is because many young people don’t know shit. And that’s part of what infuriated me when editing this young person’s social media captions. I can teach her to Google terms and facts (although I shouldn’t have to) and how to write properly. But her captions were exceptionally bad because they showed that whomever wrote them, had no life experience. She had just assembled words into sentences over and over, sentences that had no meaning (or in some cases didn’t even make sense).
And all of this was done on a Word document, not a high-tech machine with HTML code.
You can’t teach life experiences. You can’t teach people the desire to learn. You old people need to get over your fear of social media and try to learn it, and you’ll find that it is more about generating meaningful messages and less about technology. And you young people need to get over yourselves and try to absorb some wisdom from people with experience.
The young people we have on board are willing to learn and share, and seem as open-minded as we are. “Open minds never age, IMHO,” said my friend Amy Hennessey when I told her about this. And it’s true.
If, by some chance, you’re a young person reading this, bookmark it to read again in 10 years. You’re not experiencing it now, but just wait til it happens to you! In the meantime, try to figure out how not to make such offensive comments about people’s age. Because in social media, it shouldn’t matter.