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.
I am, however, trying to make a point: Just because you don't understand social media doesn't mean you should forfeit all common sense and hire your niece, nephew, or any other recent college grad (say, your best friend's sister-in-law's kid) because "they're really good on Facebook."
If your business targets the young and hip, most definitely look to a recent grad or young social-media nerd to help your business. But don't assume, either, that you need to hire someone young to manage your social media "just because."
Frankly, this kind of logic makes me crazy--and yet I'm seeing it more and more these days. But you really shouldn't be entrusting your entire social-media efforts to a newly graduated intern. Here's why.
1. They're not mature enough. Compared with young people 50 years ago, who were eager to enter adulthood and settle down, today's youth are not only not eager to do so, but most do not feel that they've reached adulthood until late into their 20s or early 30s, according to research from Clark University. Instead, they tend to feel unstable and self-focused and would rather explore who they are and how they can transform their lives. This is great for them but not so great for you, their employer--particularly because social media is all about communicating with your audience in mature and accountable ways.
2. They may be focused on their own social-media activity. Because of the above, if you hire a young person to manage your social media, you may also need to need to worry about how he or she is actually spending his or her time. Will you need to be monitoring the person?
3. They may not have the same etiquette--or experience. Your recent college grad may have experience with Facebook and Instagram, but make sure you check out the substance of his or her updates and posts. You need to make sure your posts reflect your brand--and that you don't wind up with a late-night smartphone photo landing in the wrong account. At the very least, ensure you have a social-media policy in place.
4. You can't control their friends. This isn't exclusive to recent grads, of course, but it's a risk to consider: Even if you hire a real winner, be sure that his or her friends won't post inappropriate content to your company's social-media accounts.
5. No class can replace on-the-job training. Social media for business is really so many things wrapped into one: marketing, customer service, public relations, crisis management, branding. How deep is the experience of a young person in delivering any of these things?
6. They may not understand your business. You are handing the keys to your social-media kingdom to a newcomer, but there's plenty that he or she needs to understand beyond the social tools themselves. What are the nuances of your products or services? What makes you stand out in the marketplace? What are the typical expectations of your customers? How do you troubleshoot issues or cajole customers into working a bit more with you? What does your company stand for? No new hire will be able to absorb these issues overnight, of course--but a brand-new graduate will have an even steeper learning curve.
7. Communication skills are critical. Communication is critical to solid social-media execution. Before you let a young hire take over your company blog posts, take stock of his or her writing skills. Also: Many young people have not yet learned the "art" of communicating. Make sure they know how to read between the lines, rather than taking things too literally.
8. Humor is tricky business. People like to be entertained, on social media as well as elsewhere. Will a young hire understand the boundaries of humor and entertainment appropriate to your target audience, or could your audience wind up being offended?
9. Social-media savvy is not the same as technical savvy. Good social media requires a combination of both. Successful social-media management involves production requirements, tools, analytics, and other aspects of work.
10. Social-media management can become crisis management. The real-time nature of social media can quickly turn fun engagement and conversation into a public relations disaster, especially if the person behind the wheel isn't thinking a few steps ahead. Are you really willing to take that risk?
11. You need to keep the keys. If you do go ahead and hire a new grad, make sure he or she sets up the social-media accounts using your company's email and shares the passwords with you. Otherwise, you could wind up with no access to these social-media accounts--and no way to take them over.
Social media is not the be-all and end-all. It's a marketing tool--part of an ever-growing arsenal of ways to bring your company to your prospective customers' attention.
Thinking of it this way, you will perhaps slow down and consider more closely whom you're hiring--and why.