The Social Business Battle of Youth vs. Discipline

4.9.14 blogThe conversation often starts the same. They come up to me after I’ve just delivered a talk on getting serious about social media for their businesses. They’re incredibly excited about the possibilities of the scope and reach of it all, and they get it, they’re going all in. But then, it sours from there.

I can’t help but wince a little bit… each time I hear business owners tell me about how excited they are to bring on their sons, nieces, neighbors, etc. who are bright-eyed twenty-something kids out of college to “do their social media.”

Now, at first glance, you might not get where I’m going. You’re probably thinking that this makes sense – the youth entering the workforce have grown up with social media and can natively communicate, effortlessly. They know how to navigate the landscape, all of the little tricks to each specific network, and they live on it, from Snapchat and Instagram, to LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Perfect.

Here’s the problem:

They’ve been users, consumers, tapping social as a tool to explore, learn, connect, create and do all of the incredible things that are possible via social. The Achilles of this thinking is to forget that the business purpose and usage of social media is significantly different than from the user perspective.

Social media represents many different things to many different businesses. For some, social is a huge part of PR and branding. Others leverage it for sales and marketing purposes such as lead generation, prospecting and research. Yet others use the powerful real-time nature of social to provide outstanding customer service.

Each of those usages for social represents different, vital disciplines for business. So my caution is less “anti-youth” than it is about thinking through (and understanding) social and what it really means to your business.

By all means, make use of the young outstanding talent that’s out there. At 36, I’m a grizzled veteran in the digital marketing space (And reminded of it often, when my ’85 Bears references completely go over the heads of those on my marketing team that can only comprehend 1985, in theory.).

I’m consistently impressed and educated on new tactics, techniques and entire networks by twenty-somethings – who very well might be the sons, nieces, neighbors, etc. of the business owners I was just talking to. I appreciate how native the communication flows for the generation that has grown up on a heavy dose of technology. Those of us who grew up with pen pals and writing reports for school on a typewriter have all had to find our voice for communicating via social media, email and every other technology that has emerged and become a mainstream mode of communication since.

While the youth movement seems to represent a swift shift to getting serious about social in your business, don’t underestimate the importance of the disciplines being represented: sales and marketing, public relations, customer service, etc. All of these have an art to them… there is nuance that can only be learned through experience.

Your business message needs to be communicated with that professional touch, regardless of who is taking on the challenge of social. Realize that your business needs stellar salesmanship, service and positioning… not just hyperactivity on all of the social networks of choice.

The business world of today requires that you evolve or die.

Get your sales and marketing people to learn the art of social selling and prospecting so that there’s no need to ever cold call again. Let your customer service handle the situation and satisfy customers on Twitter and Facebook to not only keep those customers happy, but to win over those who are watching. But remember that there’s something to be said for experience and professionalism. Don’t lose touch of what your business goals for using social media are, and what your strategy is for attaining them.

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