Whether your company is brand new to social media or has been part of it for awhile, the answer to having and maintaining a social media presence should never immediately be: put an intern on it.
Interns can be truly wonderful. Every once in a while you get one who is eager to learn, go the extra mile, and may even just teach you something. If you’re especially lucky, they are so good, you can’t let them go after a semester – they stay with you as a permanent part-time employee through college graduation at which time, they become a full-time employee at your company. No matter how great they are, you may want to think twice about throwing them freely into the social media jungle without the support and guidance of a seasoned professional.
Interns are beginners. They are with you to learn and get experience. There will always be growing pains. Just think about how you were you when you first started out in your career and how far you’ve come. While the same statement applies to entry level employees, your full-time entry level marketing associate often has more time to overcome some of those growing pains and is more invested.
Free or cheap help could end up not being so free or cheap after all. Can interns be an answer to getting work done when budget reductions are a must? Sure, but without the proper guidance, their inexperience could cost you more than you’d bargain for. Ever feel like it always takes twice or three times as long to fix a problem instead of getting it right in the first place? I sure do!
One badly judged move could diminish your company’s reputation. Remember this New England Patriots Twitter problem? If this were to happen with a different organization, a much smaller one that does not have such a large, loyal following, I could bet that it would have lost a lot of fans/customers because of such statement. Now, while the Pats credit ‘auto tweet’ for this problem, an inexperienced social media employee could very well do the same thing.
Social media is more than just posting photos and updates about your day. For years, my dad never understood what I did. He thought I would just BS on Facebook all day. From what I’ve seen in my 6+ years of doing this and speaking with and to numerous undergrads, the understanding of social media strategy is not quite there. If only my job were as easy as sharing status updates on what I did last night. If I used social media for clients the way I use social media for personal use, I would be out of a job – the results would simply not be there and many people would be confused or even pissed off.
Social media is not a 9 to 5 job. Social media never sleeps and is not the type of gig that can be done during your typical business hours only (unless your business is a hospital that’s open 24/7 perhaps). Users expect quick, intelligent responses, even on nights and weekends. As noted by Buffer, the no. 1 thing customers want on social media is a quick response. One study found:
Where is your intern going to be at 11 pm on a Friday night when an annoyed customer starts bashing your company on Twitter? If you’re a larger business, you better have someone who is well-versed in public relations and customer service who has the ability to make key decisions, on it. If you’re a smaller company that simply has no way of managing social around the clock, that comment better be addressed first thing Monday morning with apologies for the delayed response. As a smaller business, a good rule of thumb to follow is:
Stay tuned for part two of this article: When to Hire a Social Media Intern & Keep Everyone Happy