Social Media and Ageism
by: Howard Lee
While social media is being used in business and doing quite well, I'd recently found that it has revealed how we look at age in understanding its usage.
I'd met up with a group of small business owners at a community mixer. While we were talking, the subject had come up. I'd told them that my business was using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, etc. to attract new customers. They'd asked me about my business and also who had done my social media network for me. After I'd answered that I'd done it all myself, they'd become quite shocked and surprised. One man had said that he'd thought that I'd hired some young people to do my network and also that it is only they who can understand how social media works. I'd said to him that this is not true and anyone can learn how to use it for his or her business.
Here is where ageism comes into play in social media and business. Many business owners feel that only young people ages 18 to early 30s can create social media networks for their businesses. So they hire these young people with the hope that they would get better results. Unfortunately, they create these networks only to look good for people mainly in their own age group. The business owners would unhappily find out that their business needs are not being fulfilled because their networks are not attracting enough new and appropriate customers. Business owners, regardless of age, must understand that it's not about how many 'likes' they may have on Facebook or 'followers' they may have on Twitter. They need to turn them all into business customers. This can and should be done only by people who truly understand social media and business and more importantly getting their messages and brands into the minds of the public. Neither time nor money should ever be wasted.
To illustrate my point, recently I'd read an article online written by a 26 year-old woman who had stated that if a business wanted to get into social media it should not hire anyone over 30 years old since a person that old could not do a good job. After thinking about how arrogant her statement was, I'd commented that I was using social media for business for ten years starting with Linkedin and am currently using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter since 2007. I truly hope she will rethink about her statement about social media and age and also change her attitude.
Another example: I'd gotten a call from a company telling me that my business could not really grow without social media and how I would be losing out if I don't use them to create my social media network. This young salesman probably in his mid 20s was talking about his experience in social media and why it is something I could not understand without his expert 'guidance'. After about ten minutes of this, I'd asked him long he has been using social media in business. He answered three years. That's when I'd told him that I'd been working with social media for ten years. He was quite surprised to hear that. Then I went on to tell him that I was also working with companies since 2007 to put them on MySpace and YouTube to increase their businesses and had taught at a seminar on social media and mobility in business in 2010 at Illinois Institute of Technology here in Chicago and one of the guests was Luke Shepard from Facebook. Then I'd told him that he obviously didn't look at my business because if he did he would have seen very clearly that we are very social media connected and could probably teach him a thing or two about using it. Towards the end of the sales call, he'd asked me if I'd like to talk to their business development director about possibly partnering on future projects. I'd told him that he could pass on my info and I would take his call if he think we could possibly work together. I had not heard back from them since.
The aforementioned stories are just two of many similar stories I would hear from other older business owners who would get calls many times from younger so-called experts like that salesman who would 'talk down' to them about social media as if they are just too old to understand social media. The results are that most owners feel insulted by these 'helpers'. This may be why business owners don't take social media seriously because they themselves haven't been taken seriously. The solution to all of this is that younger social media companies should make sure that they truly understand that older business owners really want their experiences to be accounted for while talking with them. And more importantly, they should not treat the owners as if they're 'out of touch' and explain to them in plain English how social media can help their businesses. And also, just like traditional forms of advertising, social media can get their messages and brands across to attract new customers.
I'm happy to say that I have found that older business owners have responded very favorably to using social media when it is shown clearly as something that can truly help their businesses. It's just like in the early 2000s when business owners didn't think that websites could help their businesses. Now almost every business, large and small, has some type of online presence. Social media is now another means of getting businesses even better online presence.
Oh, in case you were wondering what my age is and why I wrote this article, I will proudly say that I am 58 years old and all this needs to be told and hopefully understood.
Thank you for your article. Social media in business is all about engagement, and nothing is less engaging than assuming an entire population is incapable of understanding something. We encourage all businesses to get involved in social media. It takes some commitment, but it’s a great tool to have. We would recommend anyone interested in getting started in social media to take a look at our Social Media Quickstarter page for more information.
Great article! Well written about how social media has used age as a factor in understand social media. I think social media personnel need certain skills, and it’s often younger people that have those skills. But be sure there aren’t tech-illiterate 20-year-olds and social media savvy 50-year-olds?
Most of the people are older, haven’t grown up with social media as a daily part of their lives and do not have the skill set to succeed in the same way that someone who is younger has.
It is this kind of attitude I been hearing from younger people that has convinced older people that they can't learn any thing new that can help their business. This wrong in many ways. We all have the skills to keep learning all of our lives. I have seen it happen and in some cases. I made it happen. THe fact that social media is nothing more than CRM on steroids. As I have explained to my clients. I find that have explained that to them and respected their ability to learn. I find that any thing in IT they can learn and understand how it can work with their business