140+: In the Moment

Social Media? Give it to the Intern! (NOT!)

Today, just for fun, I searched the job listings in online for “social media.” 9 out of 10 of the results were for Interns. I was pretty surprised, and a little bit ticked off.  Do managers think social media is something to relegate to Interns?

WAIT: I am pro-Intern!  As a matter of fact, I routinely hire Interns and have found incredibly talented, insightful, and productive young people who are capable of producing amazing work . But…

There’s a common misconception that just because young people are often use social media to connect with their peers and organize their social lives, they are perfectly suited to take on social media for companies. That’s like asking a 16-year-old licensed driver to drive an 18 wheel tractor-trailer on a highway at rush hour.

The skills needed to devise a well constructed social media plan and execute it every day are more complex than just putting out a few tweets and posts on Facebook. It is true that some Interns do understand how to use social media tools with great depth, but they probably are not:

  • subject matter experts on your organization’s mission, products, and services;
  • aware of the competitive landscape in your field;
  • familiar with the buzzwords and language that are specific to your field;
  • capable of writing well-constructed posts that will cause readers to take action;
  • marketing experts  with understanding of engagement;
  • able to craft the goals for your social media plan and implement them without supervision.

These are critical skills needed for any social media program. You should seek those skills in the professionals you hire to manage your social media.

Don’t get me wrong, Interns are often very talented and are capable of executing the day-to-day basic tactics. But you should not expect to turn over the keys to social media to Interns without careful direction and supervision by a professional with more in-depth understanding of marketing basics and your products and services.

So, rock on, Interns! Direction is the key!

UPDATE: For more information about how to select the right candidate for your organization’s social media program, read:Is the Right Person Doing Your Nonprofit’s Social Media?” on the Wild Apricot Blog


6 Responses to 'Social Media? Give it to the Intern! (NOT!)'

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  1. mikeholden said,

    I think you summed up the topic nicely when you said, “you should not expect to turn over the keys to social media to Interns without careful direction and supervision by a professional with more in-depth understanding of marketing basics and your products and services.”

    I’ve had some interns that have handled social media very well. But I always tell people that taking this approach should begin with a very clear conversation with the intern about what’s expected from them. And you can always start slow or begin by having them engage in social media activities that won’t hurt your brand’s reputation.

    • Fran Simon said,

      HI Mike:

      Thanks for commenting! You are right, that Interns can do the execution, provided that there is a clear strategy and a map for them to follow. I found that until I spent time with them explaining the importance of responding and engaging in conversation, they just slapped up the page or account and ticked it off the “to-do” list. It is important to take an incremental approach with Interns (on every type of task, not just social media) and especially with social media because of its visibility. Fran

  2. Interesting observation Fran! I absolutely agree that there is more to social marketing than the ability to functionally use the tools. I think that is just indicative of companies rushing to try to get a “social media presence” without considering the long-term implications. It’s classic cart before the horse syndrome.

    • Fran Simon said,

      Hi Christy:

      I totally agree. Many execs know they should be “doing something” with social media, and in the rush, just delegate (or relegate) the function to whomever seems to “get it!” I think they also respond to competitive pressures and fail to plan! Social is just in its infancy, so over time, they will get it, but in the meantime, brands might be damaged….

      Thanks for commenting!


  3. Jim Cashel said,

    Nice post. If a newspaper reporter called your organization, who would you have field the call? An intern? Social media has a much greater reach for many organizations than traditional media, but it is often treated as a side-issue.

    • Fran Simon said,

      Hi Jim:

      Thanks for the comment. Indeed! Great observation. Many C-level folks just don’t understand the potential power (positive or destructive) that social media has, and they think it is not worth the investment in a professional. Then again, others invest in the wrong kind of “professional” who doesn’t understand the concept of engagement as opposed to “push” messaging as in traditional marketing. With trial and error, they will come to understand, but there may be damage to their brands along the way!

      Thanks again! Fran

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