It might seem like social media duties are a natural fit for eager young interns. After all, younger Millennials are among the first for which the social scene is an ordinary part of life – and they are often eager to show they know their way around Twitter, Facebook, and more.
There are plenty of young people out there who aspire to be “social media gurus,” but that doesn’t mean your company should be a step on that path. You could end up leaving value on the table when you let an intern behind the wheel of your social media.
Entrepreneurs are always asking how they can find an inexpensive way to handle social media and “get it out of their hair.” As with many things in business, though, the cheapest way is often the most expensive. There are real risks to letting an intern manage your social presence. The following is not meant to imply that interns cannot provide great value to your company. Providing well-planned internships presents a great opportunity at a win-win business relationship for both parties. The key is bringing on interns at the right time and in the right areas of your business. Interns, especially in critical path roles, are there to learn and grow, not to be tasked with items that can make or break an initiative unsupervised.
Let’s take a look at some of the most significant issues involved:
1) Interns Are Temporary, But Social Media is Forever
Business leaders at all levels need to see social media as a core part of marketing and customer messaging. It is a unique touch-point that can deliver what you need to say with greater speed and deftness than virtually any other medium. Used correctly, it is cost-effective and powerful in delivering the right message at the right time.
As interns come and go, it’ll be that much more difficult to execute your social media strategy with consistency and clarity. As social media passes from one set of hands to another, it becomes harder to create an authentic voice for your brand that people will recognize and connect with. That leads to a sense that your brand is disorganized and unreliable.
2) Interns May Not Have the Professionalism or Experience They Think They Do (At Least Not Yet)
Although social media is relatively new, there is already a distinct difference between “using” it and knowing how to make it work for you. While virtually any young person has probably used social media for several years by now, much of this engagement is passive and superficial. A far deeper and diverse skill set is involved in building engagement and online community.
To be effective, social media campaigns need to be created by experienced marketers. A clear vision about social media and how it relates to all the other aspects of the business is the missing link when it comes to generating social ROI. Unless an intern is capable of embracing that “bird’s-eye” view, quantifying results and sustaining execution in the long term, they will not succeed.
3) Interns Lack Investment in Your Brand Vision and Offerings
There are literally dozens of reasons why someone might pursue an internship at a company like yours … sad to say, “love of your brand” may be near the bottom of the list. Would-be interns might be looking for an introduction to the industry, a little extra spending money, college credit, or – perhaps worst of all – resume fodder to help them achieve the position they really want.
While many interns will have the best of intentions, the majority of them simply won’t be as passionate about your brand as someone who is totally immersed in it full-time. Those who see themselves as part of the brand’s ongoing mission to deliver value to customers are more likely to bring the right sort of infectious enthusiasm and detailed knowledge to their social efforts.
All in all, hiring an intern to launch and maintain your social media brand awareness and engagement is applying short-term thinking to a part of your business that is ever-more crucial each day. Social media should be a long-term priority with its own strategy, campaigns, and objectives – fully integrated with your marketing across all channels. If you’re thinking about recruiting an intern, it’s probably already time to consider a seasoned hire or partnering with a digital media agency that can bring the expertise and record of success you need to excel on the social Web.