My December Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly column focuses on one social media’s “dirty little secrets”: ageism. Thanks to Nancy McCammon-Hansen for lending her perspective to the conversation.
In 2012, the NextGen Journal published a piece titled “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25.” As you might imagine, the response to the article was overwhelmingly negative, ranging from casual remarks about the folly of youth to calls for an apology from the author, Claire Sloane.
While there was little overt support for Sloane’s opinion, the controversy highlights a problem with social media that persists today — albeit just beneath the surface: ageism. Sloane is by no means unique in her claims that youth is a prerequisite to social-media success, but others are less vocal.
Nancy McCammon-Hansen, the marketing coordinator for Fort Wayne’s History Center and more than twice the age limit suggested by Sloane, has seen this firsthand. Despite being active on a variety of platforms both personally and on behalf of her organization, she believes her efforts are sometimes overshadowed by age — and she sees that perception as somewhat common. I recently spoke with Nancy to learn what she has experienced.
Juliano: I understand you recently had a conversation that implied some ageism — that social media is perceived as only being for the young, in other words. Can you share that comment and your response to it?
McCammon-Hansen: Actually, I’ve had that happen twice: once in April at the state convention of an organization to which I belong and this past month in a comment from a colleague.
Juliano: Have you heard comments like this before or do you know others who have been involved in similar conversations?
McCammon-Hansen: It really annoys me when I go to a meeting and someone makes the comment that, “We have to have some younger people to do that social-media stuff.” Just because I’m over 50 doesn’t mean that I’m over the hill.
Juliano: What’s your perception of this issue? Why do people see youth as an advantage when it comes to social media?
McCammon-Hansen: I think part of it is laziness on the part of some people who would prefer not to learn something new and the perception that “you can’t teach an old — and I use that word reservedly — dog new tricks.”
Juliano: Is there any truth to any of those claims? Are there advantages that come with having a young person manage your social-media strategy?
McCammon-Hansen: What’s really best is to have people with different perspectives involved in the effort. My officemate is a recent college graduate. I think her perspective and mine provide a combination of ideas that is exactly what any social-media program needs. And we both listen to other staff because we all have different social groups to which we belong and we need to appeal to a wide audience. If more than one person has ownership, I think it’s healthier for all involved.
Juliano: What do you think people need to know when it comes to this issue? Do you believe there is truly ageism in the social-media world, and is there a way to resolve that?
McCammon-Hansen: I think there is ageism in the world — and not just when it comes to social media. I don’t like it, but it’s there. However, it’s important to remember that a good team is comprised of people who use their talents to better the business, support one another, help one another and educate one another. You’re all in it together. Why not make the most of the situation and pool your collective talents and abilities rather than concentrating on one facet — and a small one, at that — of your work force?
Juliano: What would you say the next time someone implies that you have to be young to master social media?
McCammon-Hansen: Well — after I sighed loudly, because likely I would do that — I would try to tactfully point out that I manage four Facebook pages, plus my personal one, two Twitter accounts, my LinkedIn page and two blogs. I’d add that I’ve made it a point to learn about social media because that’s my job as someone who works in marketing and public relations. Learning about social media is no different than those of us who learned to type, on a typewriter, now using a computer. If you want to be an asset in the marketplace you keep up and a professional will make it a point to stay current.