I'm occasionally on LinkedIn, whether it's to network or apply for jobs. I rarely follow links to articles, but I was drawn to an article in particular with the hook "Don't Put An Intern In Charge". So I clicked through and read through the column, which you can find here. Long story short, Hollis Thomases, the column writer, listed eleven reasons why not to hire a college graduate (around 22 or 23 years of age) to run social media positions. I didn't quite care for these reasons, so I began to brew this rebuttal.
Mrs. Thomases starts off with "Pardon the generalization: I don't mean to attack 23-year-olds specifically. Nor do I believe there are no young people capable of managing a business's social-media responsibilities." Why would you start off like that? You haven't even gotten to the meat of the column yet and you're already saying "I'm going after 23-year-olds and generalizing the entire age bracket, regardless of experience." Why would you go on to rag on college graduates with legitimate social media experience by lumping them in with college graduates who use Twitter for perpetuating the "YOLO" hashtag, among other things?
Anyways, she goes on to say that common sense shouldn't go out the window when hiring recent graduates or relatives because "they're really good on Facebook." Does that mean they rake in major dough on Farmville? Or constantly post redundant memes or pointless statuses? Using Facebook as such doesn't mean one is really good at it. It means that they know how to waste time on it and not use it for maintaining connections and such, but Facebook is a double-edged sword in that manner.
But to get to the list ...
1) "They're not mature enough.": Mrs. Thomases's reasoning is that modern youth feel that they haven't reached adulthood until their late 20s or early 20s, so they'd "rather explore who they are and how they can transform their lives." I've done some exploring of who I am during my high school and college career, so I'm somewhat satisfied. Sure, there are things I haven't tried yet, like skydiving, getting punch-drunk wasted and puking my guts out, and marathoning television shows, but those things can wait. Especially getting wasted. I'm not too experienced in the ways of alcohol and it's not on my list of things to gain experience in at this point in time.
2) "They may be focused on their own social-media activity.": The question posed here is "Will you need to be monitoring the person?" Okay, I'll admit it. When I interned with my university's Media and PR office, I checked Facebook and my university mail here and there. My university e-mail checking wasn't a problem and I wasn't checking Facebook every minute of every day, but my supervisor just made a mention during one of the evaluations. I took his words to heart and cut down on checking while at editing and rendering and publishing. It helped that I had books to read. Facebook could wait. And when the time comes that I join the creative media workforce (which will hopefully be soon), my Droid shall stay in my pocket, unless I'm on break or some urgent text or call comes in.
3) "They may not have the same etiquette -- or experience.": Mrs. Thomases feels that supervisors need to "make sure you check out the substance of his or her updates. You need to make sure your posts reflect your brand." Wouldn't the hiring staff test the new hiree during the interview process by asking him or her to draft a few sample brand-related posts to test the new hiree? Or would not all companies do that?
4) "You can't control their friends.": Or if said friends post inappropriate content on the company social-media accounts ... or that's Hollis's reasoning, anyways. True, but surely, the new hires would be smart enough to remind their close friends to keep things civil or to only talk work in person over food or drinks and not share things on company social media pages, right?
5) "No class can replace on-the-job training.": True, but if someone has some experience through a class that went hand-in-hand with their media internship, wouldn't that give them a leg up? Or what about common sense, too? I had to take a once-a-week seminar in addition to my internship and I had to keep regular journals about things I learned or experienced on the job, as well as present two slideshows dealing with the impact of PR. The seminar class helped bolster my PR/social media knowledge and I consider the class and the internship the start of on-the-job training, even if it was just a one-semester internship and class.
6) "They may not understand your business.": Okay, let's assume that the applicants haven't researched the company before applying and interviewing and they've somehow landed a position. What do you as their supervisor do? Make sure they get a feel for how the company runs! Have them read through company handbooks and socialize around the office during a probationary period before the real work starts! Help them to understand what they're pushing through social media. And don't assume that every new young hire is slow to catch on.
7) "Communication skills are critical.": Evaluate their writing skills when first considering so you don't hire someone who writes/posts/speaks in LOLCats. Trust an English major and an opinion columnist.
8) "Humor is a tricky business.": True, not everyone has the same sense of humor. Not everyone finds Vonnegut funny. Some jokes could be too soon after some major event. What's workplace-appropriate humor? Surely not The Aristocrats! But at least make sure the new hires have some idea before setting them loose to spread LOLs.
9) "Social-media savvy is not the same as technical savvy.": Should the new hires have some idea of the ins and outs of social media managing, not just using Twitter/Facebook/Google+ like a wiz? Yes.
10) "Social-media management can become crisis management.": If someone Tweets or posts something unbecoming of the company image, what would the reaction of the new hire be? Start a flame war with "Hey, why r u h8ing on our product?"? Calmly respond with "We're sorry you didn't care for *insert product name*, but if you message/DM/e-mail us with the necessary information, we'll see to it that you're properly reimbursed," or something to that effect? Go with calm and level-headed over rushing to ignite a social-media storm. It's common sense.
11) "You need to keep the keys.": So, keep the new hire on a bit of a leash as a way of maintaining trust and having access to social media accounts? Wouldn't these accounts have been set up already, if you're a forward-thinking company? Probably. Wouldn't you already have the passwords? Probably.
Looking over what I've written up, the main thing that I'm seeing is that when hiring recent graduates for social media positions, caution is needed. So while Mrs. Thomases's column/article was on the harsher generalizing side, the point of using caution when hiring is a good one, nonetheless. Long story short, this current generation is more suited for social media positions, but if they know how to use the tools wisely, professionally, what have you, go ahead and hire them.