I've noticed this cozy little trend lately of large companies hiring interns ONLY to handle ALL of their social media initiatives. Nothing against interns, I've been one plenty of times in my life, but I don't see companies hiring ONLY interns to be their ONLY art director or account executive. Now, being a social media pro, I take this trend of leaving social media entirely to interns highly insulting. Social media is not some passive, five-minutes-a-day task to hand off to inexperienced interns. Here's why:
#1- Social Media is the first point of contact for many consumers with your brand
Think about it. You're online, you see a photo that looks interesting, click on it, and suddenly you're introduced to an entirely new brand. Whoever is representing the brand on the other side better know how to make a relevant, memorable impression, right?
When you start to think of social media as a gateway to consumers learning about your brand, it's impossible to hand it off to the most inexperienced person on your team. Whoever is making that first impression to consumers better be making the 100% RIGHT impression for your brand, or you will lose out on new consumers, and their friends.
#2- If someone says the wrong thing on your brand's Twitter handle, you are SOL.
There are a million catastrophes you can Google, or find on Mashable, that illustrate interns sending out the wrong message on social media. From accidentally using the brand's Twitter account as their own (looking at you, KitchenAid) to being cheeky back to a Twitter follower in a manner that the follower doesn't find so cheeky---> There are messages that tend to slip through the cracks with inexperienced social media associates steering the ship that become a PR nightmare to escape from, or even rise above.
#3- Social media pros need to know your brand inside out before they interact with your social ecosystem
A stellar, perfect social media pro knows its brand inside-out. They are able to effortlessly answer any question that comes in with a tone that matches the brand, because they have experience AND because they immersed themselves in the brand. Granted, the experience needed for this comes from being an intern at some point and learning the voice of the brand, but it does not come from no supervision and owning all of social as an intern.
#4- There is a HUGE difference in the way you manage a personal brand and a BRAND
I am fortunate enough to have a personal brand and other brands that I manage, and let me tell you, there is a clear difference in how I build and respond to my audience as myself, and how I build and respond to my audience when representing a brand. Just because an intern has experiencing managing their own brand, does not mean that they will know what to say when that first consumer Tweets in with a difficult issue they have with their brand. With my personal brand, I'm able to freely respond the way I would as Marji J. Sherman. I don't think twice about it. I just respond as me. When representing a brand, I have to make sure that message aligns with the brand, which does not always align with what Marji J. Sherman would have said.
#5- Social media requires a background in some channel of communications
I continuously speak to this in posts because it is SO IMPORTANT. Social media is a tool. It is not a silo. Social media works with many branches of a business, and manages relationships with consumers, which, essentially, is public relations. You cannot just hire some random person who has experience in social media and expect them to a good job. You need someone that has a background that supports social media --> whether that be marketing, communications, public relations, etc.
All of that said, interns are invaluable when it comes to handling the volume of social media engagement. They are great for training, and developing associates for your team. I completely agree with social media interns --> I completely disagree with having a social media intern owning the entire social media strategy and process.
Social media is more than playing around on Twitter and Facebook --> it deserves more respect than that.
- Marji J. Sherman