Early in the summer, I noticed quite a few social media intern positions on some of the online job boards. Although I could see how it would make sense to some companies to get their feet wet in social media without spending much money, it gave me shivers to think that a solid business with good community standing might turn over its public media strategy to a kid whose only social media expertise was tweeting and Facebooking with friends.
And apparently I’m not alone in my fears. I’ve read several articles that warn SMBs to not hire interns to take on social media—or at least not to hire them to be the sole voice of your company’s social media campaign.
Although the younger crowd is quite familiar with the ins and outs of most social media platforms, it’s mostly what they aren’t yet familiar with that counts the most—your company’s relationship with its customers. I’m not saying that young men and women of college age have no understanding of business or marketing. What I am saying is that it often takes months or even years for a new employee to learn the real inner workings of a business and its marketing needs. Interns sign on for only a few months. By the time he or she begins to get into the groove, it’s time to move on.
Social media is, after all, marketing to your customers. How well will an intern understand what messages should be conveyed to those who can make or break your business—customers, both current and future. One small mistake could give your company the wrong kind of attention. As Kristi Bergeron posted on PR Couture:
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.
Other good reasons that interns don’t make good social media experts:
- Not enough time—Internships usually include 10 to 12 hours per week for work. A solid social media campaign takes a lot longer to create and manage.
- Necessary supervision—You will need to manage an intern and answer questions—lots of questions. Not to mention, it may be wise to read over and approve their strategies as well as each message before the intern posts it.
- Overall inexperience—Will your intern know which social media platforms are best for conveying your business’s marketing message? Will an intern understand your company’s goals and commitments enough to properly pass that message on to your customers? It’s completely possible that the intern you hire will be knowledgeable about your business, but it is highly unlikely.
Social media expert and entrepreneur Aaron Lee thinks that hiring an intern can be a good experience for business, but just make sure they don’t handle your entire social media message. Says Lee:
They make good community managers that can help you respond to people. However, you will need to make sure that the posts are approved by a supervisor. You shouldn’t depend on an intern to monitor your feed after work, just in case of an emergency.