Several years ago I stumbled upon a career in social media. I took on a graphic design internship at a small PR firm in the tri-state area. However, I was one of the few people in the office who how to create a Facebook event, and as a result was dubbed the social media girl. Luckily for the person who hired me, I knew my way around the marketing and branding world, and the internship quickly turned into a steady gig, and eventually a career. However, a lot has changed in the last few years and while I fully understood the idea of handing social media before Facebook brand pages existed, it seems insane to me that companies seem so willing to make interns the social media mouthpiece. If you are about to hand over your social media keys to a newly hired social media intern, consider the following:
Being active on social networks does not make an expert
In 2009 it may have been an acceptable practice to assume your interns were social media experts, after all, Facebook was initially a tool for college students. But that is no longer the case. A few years and billions of marketing dollars later, social media management has developed into a very specific skill set. The person calling the shots on your brand pages needs to understand your brand, marketing and PR goals, as well as be a customer service genius to really maximize your results.
All it takes is one rookie mistake to land in national news
While interns and entry-level hires can bring great energy and creativity to the tasks you give them, they are also the most likely to make rookie mistakes that can cost your brand or agency the reputation you have worked so hard to earn. It may sound a bit dramatic, but the truth is both brands and agencies have made national headlines this past year for social media disasters. Whether it's posting to the wrong account, firing off in the heat of the moment, or just not communicating in the brand voice someone with experience in community management is your best bet.
There’s more to social media than posting status updates
While the value and health of your social media community lies in well-crafted content and engagement, there is more to take into account when it comes to day-to-day social media management. Outside of technical proficiency, your social media manager needs to understand analytics and metrics. At the very least, they need to know the value of engagement over fan base and be able to take statistics and data and turn it into relevant actions for your pages. You should expect monthly reports with clear action items for program refinement as well as a list of new opportunities and campaign ideas.
Consider the biggest reality check of all
Would you allow your intern to adress a room-full of journalists and editors, or deal with complex customer service issues? Of course not. You would never allow an intern the opportunity to speak for your brand on a global platform. So, why would you trust them to speak to consumers (and media) 24/7 using social media platforms? When you allow an intern to manage your social media community, you are taking a big risk. You are trusting them to represent your brand and your clients on an international stage. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a business program or school in the entire country who would consider that a smart move.
Instead, have social media interns support on the following tasks
While I don’t believe interns should be given full control of your brand pages, I am actually a huge advocate for using interns to spice up your brand’s digital strategy. There are plenty of ways you can invite your interns to become a part of your social media efforts while minimizing the risk.
Competitive social media analysis
Have your interns put their social prowess to work, by evaluating your competitor’s pages and campaigns. This research can prove invaluable when creating your own content and having a fresh set of eyes may allow you to see your competition’s content in a new light.
Industry research and news recaps
There are hundreds of blog posts a day written about social media and staying abreast of all the changes is difficult. Have your interns filter through industry blogs and send you the highlights to read every day, or once a week. They will learn a lot about social media and branding and you will save time.
While it is never a good idea to have your interns developing content in live time, let them take a stab at helping you develop content calendars ahead of time. You will find interns are a wealth of fun, creative ideas that can break you out of the monotony of trying to come up with something new to say every day. Also, it provides them with valuable experience learning the brand voice and crafting key messages.
Invite your interns to your marketing brainstorming sessions. Interns are often using social media on a daily basis and can provide ideas and insight for your next big social media push.
Do you have questions about how to leverage your interns to your brand's digital benefit? Or, how to choose the right social media manager for your brand or business? Ask them here and I will be sure to answer!
Photo Credit: Aleksandr Slyadnev