Guest

Five Reasons the Intern Shouldn’t Run Social Media

By: Guest | June 16, 2011 | 
96

Andrew Hanelly creates and executes digital strategies for clients at TMG Custom Media.

Your intern has more Twitter followers than you do.

That is great. But what happens when she gets offered that gig with the agency across town?

Will your corporate blog survive? How about that snarky Twitter account or well-maintained Facebook page?

Though much of management is wearing the “social media strategy” hat in the board room, the work gloves of “implementation” are being worn by interns more often than you might think.

In other words, the board room is preaching social media, and the interns are the ones practicing.

Don’t believe me? Check the ads for a “social media intern” on your favorite job site. It gets alarming when you read what these companies put in the interns’ job description.

Some choice items:

  • Research and write blog posts for [COMPANY] blog.
  • Respond to customer service queries via social media.
  • Be [COMPANY]’s voice in the social space.
  • Develop strategy to integrate [COMPANY] in social media.
  • Responsible for monitoring, managing, and measuring [COMPANY]’s social media presence.
  • Be “us” on Twitter and Facebook.

Interns are all the rage these days in social media.

“Are you in college?”

“Do you have a Facebook?”

“Congratulations, you’re the new face of ourcompanyblog.blogspot.com. “

Many people are in this position. Budgets are tight. Social media is a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have (right?).

But, if you value your social media person in the same way you value other outward-facing positions (let’s say your sales team) it makes no sense whatsoever.

Why? Because of these five reasons:

  1. Interns don’t live and breathe your brand. Yet. When people connect with brands on social media they’d rather interact with someone who’s been there more than 30 days (let alone 30 seconds). Interns can identify your audience, but they can’t necessarily identify with your audience. It’s not their fault, it takes time to understand the nuances of an industry and it shouldn’t be expected that an intern can just pick it up and run with it.
  2. Interns aren’t forever. Internships are meant to be a temporary (God help you if yours isn’t) trade of time for experience. When your intern passes the reigns of your social media campaign to the next intern, there’s a loss of continuity in tone. Even if your current intern has a fabulous personality, there’s no guarantee her predecessor will, and your followers will suffer.
  3. Interns stick too closely to the script. Sure, he/she impressed you in the interview when she was able to recite the “core values” and memorized the story of your company’s founding. But reciting the brochure on Twitter does not a social media strategy make.
  4. Interns aren’t always aware of the faux pas minefield. When the stuff hits the fan – and it will – you want someone with experience to deal with bombs and grace to deal with trolls. As Donald Rumsfield famously said:
    “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”
    Social media is full of the unknown unknowns. Experience is necessary.
  5. Interns aren’t compensated well enough for the pressure. It’s unfair to put the weight of your brand’s world on the shoulder of an intern. If you’re taking social media as seriously as you should be, you know that it’s a medium which wields a lot of power but also bears a lot of responsibility.

Make sure the person you have with their neck on the line has the thick skin of experience.

And interns, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you’ve got 100 reasons this post is inaccurate, off-base and doesn’t paint a fair picture of the depth of your skill set.

If that’s the case, I’m wrong about you. And you probably deserve that full-time gig you’ve been working for. In which case you won’t be running the Twitter account anymore.

Andrew Hanelly creates and executes digital strategies for clients at TMG Custom Media. He blogs at Engage the Blog.

 

  • davenicoll

    Not to mention that interns spelling and grammar are usually shocking and not a good representation of a professional service or established brand.

  • HowieSPM

    This is great stuff. I think often Brands view social in the wrong way. In fact most of the people championing social view it the wrong way. This doesn’t mean interns can not be a huge asset in helping run social media. I have a marketing intern for a client whom I am teaching how to handle twitter and eventually Facebook. But it starts with the brand. McDonalds and ATT have teams that have a manager with the interns and employees underneath. I have wanted @ginidietrich to steal one of the McDonalds interns because she kicks but on Twitter. But the other ones not so much. Not every company can be like @livefyre and have someone like @JMattHicks who might have Intern in his title (hopefully not anymore) who is super professional and already part of their community management team led by @jennalanger .

    It should be about teaching vs giving up control. Brands need an internal leader and if their answer is “well we felt we have to jump in like everyone else and felt they were most capable’ and if they are a publicly traded company…short the stock immediately!

  • brandonchicago

    Your voice in social media should be someone of the same caliber that you’d put on stage in front of an industry conference crowd. Would you put an intern up there? I wouldn’t.

  • brandonchicago

    (BTW, I think the apostrophes in your URL are killing your retweet button.)

  • KenMueller

    Oh I am so with you on this. This is the same reason that I tell clients I won’t Tweet for them. I am NOT them. And you certainly don’t want your 17-year old nephew Johnny doing it, even if he is “good at that social media stuff”. Oh I could go on and on and on.

  • @HowieSPM @ginidietrich @livefyre @jennalanger I appreciate the kind words Howie, you da man 😉 Jenna has been a beast in teaching and guiding me along the way (beast in a good way!)

    The intern “dilemma” is an interesting one. We have a number of interns working with us this summer and honestly, we’re only a few weeks (if that) into the program and it’s been mind blowing; love having them on the team. I was able to intern for two months, learning from jennalanger(and I’m still learning) before she “turned me lose”, so to speak. It’s one of those things that I think as long as there’s guidance involved and not simply taking an intern and “throwing them to the wolves”, it can be a very beneficial program.

  • @HowieSPM @ginidietrich @livefyre @jennalanger *Beneficial for all parties involved

  • @JMattHicks @HowieSPM @ginidietrich @livefyre @jennalanger As a writing major, I’m often appalled by the spelling, grammar, and voice of many of my fellow students. Usually it feels like no one bothered to teach them to be careful in the real world outside of texting on their phones and writing status updates on Facebook. At my last internship, I was in charge of the intern team — together, we were the voice of the company through social media. Everyone performed well and nothing horrible happened, but it easily could have gone the other way. I worked as the filter everyone’s posts had to run through so spelling and grammar could be clean and consistent, but there was no one “checking” the company voice. It’s important, and I’m glad that we’re taught that right away at Livefyre. Many thanks to @JMattHicks, jennalanger, and jkretch. 🙂

  • hanelly

    Amen, my friend. I view it the same I’d view speaking for someone on the phone or at a conference. It’s staged. It’s not authentic. And it’s slightly awkward. The beauty of this medium is that it allows voices that are typically not accessible to be easily accessed. Thanks for the comment, @KenMueller

  • hanelly

    Thanks for letting us know – I’ll pass the message along. @brandonchicago

  • hanelly

    Exactly, Brandon. Not if you expect to get results. To extend your analogy: if you put an intern on stage you might get a couple “oh that’s nice” or “wow, that was good, for an intern” statements, but nothing that will blow anyone away or turn into business (usually). If you’re ok with that type of reaction in social, then intern it up. If not? Invest the time of someone higher up in the org chart. Everyone wins. Thanks for the comment.

  • DianeRayfield

    Excellent post and sooo true! The Community Manager is the “voice” of your brand and needs to be someone or a group of people with brand experience, social media savvy and intellectual acumen to say the least.

  • @hanelly @brandonchicago Aha!! that’s it. thanks I’ll fix it right now!

  • hanelly

    Though I have to admit that I’ve met some interns with better sense of grammar than me, you’ve got a good point. But I think that speaks to another “sin” of social media implementation: lack of quality control. That’s a whole different post/rant/whateveryoucall it. Thanks for the comment, Dave. @davenicoll

  • hanelly

    RIght on, Diane. You wouldn’t have an intern be your only representation at a trade show or conference, so why in social media? Thanks for the comment. @DianeRayfield

  • @hanelly @brandonchicago Retweet button has been resuscitated. Thank you, Brandon.

  • lauracoggins

    As someone who was a social media intern not that long ago, I understand where you’re coming from. The hardest part for me was knowing how much freedom I had. You don’t know what’s safe to say or how snarky you can be. Constantly asking your supervisor sort of defeats the purpose, and you never know if you’re doing a good job.

    It can be done, but it takes the right intern and the right intern/supervisor relationship. There has to be maturity and trust and a real feel for the organization that interns don’t often have.

    My qualm comes when these posts are written with the argument that interns aren’t responsible or don’t care or are careless with details. If you have those sorts of issues, I think you have more of a hiring problem than a social media problem. </soapbox> 🙂

    Great post! You hit on the same concerns and problems that social media interns feel from their perspective.

  • Darren Sproat

    I actually worked with a temporary worker (she was a student returning to school in the fall) who was assigned social marketing/media tasks. In discussions with her, and to her credit, she indicated she felt uncomfortable being in the role because, and I quote, “I don’t know the brand or the culture here.”

    Thanks for sparking a memory, Andrew, I think I will look her up and find out what company she is sharing her prowess with.

  • A long time ago, I had an intern who was better than many FTEs at the firm I worked for. I would have trusted her with pretty much anything, not just because she was so smart, but because she took guidance well and was so responsible. To @lauracoggins point, I think the intern/supervisor relationship is critical.

    All your points are valid but especially #s 2 & 5. I think many employers forget that interns are supposed to have a learning experience, and they basically treat them like FTEs without the comparable pay (if it’s a paid internship) & benefits, hoping the IRS won’t get wind of it. That’s just not fair to the interns.

  • AllThingsJen

    So so so so so true! Social media is full of the unknown unknowns.

    Funny though, when I presented the social media aspect of the intern training the other day I had 5 people look back at me puzzled over my talk about Twitter. Only one of them actually had a Twitter account…which surprised me greatly…live and learn!

  • brandonchicago

    You’re welcome. 🙂 Used to have similar issues on our blog too. @Lisa Gerber @hanelly

  • @AllThingsJen I was surprised by stats like that also until I found overall demographics stats that indicated, as a whole, only 1 in 10 North Americans had a Twitter account.

  • bdorman264

    Slippery slope indeed and I have been on this exact conversation w/ a non-profit YMCA wondering how to get into social media in an impactful way and WHO is going to do it because it is not in our budget. They are moving forward and the Exec Director is going to try to maintain some control over the process, but you bring up some very valid points I will share with them.

    However, if @Shonali agrees with all but #2 & #5 then I will probably have to defer to her because she’s smart like that…………….just sayin’………….:)

    Good info, thanks for sharing.

  • @bdorman264 LOL, to clarify, I agree with all but especially 2 & 5. 😉

  • @annedreshfield @JMattHicks @HowieSPM @ginidietrich See this – these are/were our Livefyre interns, and they kick but without me even telling them too 🙂 I’ve never been about letting them loose with our social media accounts, but more about teaching them about our brand and interacting with our community. How else are people supposed to learn and gain experience? My first social media internship turned into a real job, we hired Jeremy, and all of our interns right now are allstars and that’s why we picked them. Social media is all about learning from the people around you, and that’s what we’re trying to show with our internship program.

  • @Shonali I would double like this comment if i could! Wait, I work for Livefyre, maybe I should make that happen… 🙂

  • Community and social media have been core to Livefyre since the beginning. Our internship program is core to our company as well, and it’s much more about learning and participating than actually taking over the social media activities for the company. Our approach is to teach the interns about our company culture, have them learn FROM and WITH our community, and understand what it means to build community through social media.

    While we don’t thrown any of the interns straight into answering support tickets or sending tweets by themselves, it’s important to us to include them in the process and teach them how we do things, which will eventually lead to them helping run it within the company. While the interns will leave at some point, we have then trained them about the importance of community and they will always be part of ours, even when they’re off working for Twitter or hiring me for a job 🙂

  • @jennalanger Yes, you should!

  • Thank you! I couldn’t agree with you more, Andrew!

    Companies just want to cover their social media bases with minimal financial investment. Maybe this social media stuff is “just a fad” after all. Ha.

    If you want to play with the big boys and do SM right, it requires a grown up, real world professional. Someone who knows much more than how to send a tweet, but someone who understands business, customers, and branding. Interns have no place in these roles. Just because you have a Facebook account to share pool pics with your friends doesn’t mean you know anything about creating or maintaining a successful business.

  • SuzanneVara

    Andrew

    Great article. Many interns can be very valuable to an organization when they are guided by someone within the organization. I had the opportunity quite a few times years ago to work with interns and there was something magical that happened with the company that I was with. As we were teaching, we were renewing our corporate culture and all that it represented. Some of the interns were flops and that happens.

    The one point that I always make to companies who are considering interns for their SM is are you asking them because they know how to rally the crowd on twitter or facebook or are you considering them because they have a background in marketing and are able to understand that this a part of the marketing efforts and there is more to this than just tweeting and updating status? There share of voice, share of customer, show them and discuss the entire marketing plan as well as well as the social media portion and explain how it all fits together? This is when we really now can have the discussion on interns, their roles, the supervisory thereof and if they are going to be behind the tweets because they know how.

    I am all about interns learning and given a real shot in a company so long as they themselves are getting something out of it but for the company that they are not placing someone in a position just to have someone there without fully understanding why they are doing so.

  • OnlineBusinesVA

    “Great post Andrew. You always are on the edge of thinking outside the box and very clever. Thanks! “

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  • StephenJack

    Very True! This is the common practice which is being used by the most of the organizations I have seen and it results nothing but disturbance by increasing the work load and panic. As you said it is not a mistake of interns how can you suppose to market a product efficiently when your knowledge about the product is just like the consumer of the product and in most of the cases less than the consumer. Well! this is a joke but unfortunately this is happening.

  • jennwhinnem

    Be “us” on Facebook and Twitter. That makes me 🙁

    Great post, Andrew.

  • kamkansas

    Good post, Andrew. The Donald Rumsfeld quote alone makes this a must-read. I know a lot of reasons why interns shouldn’t be running social media for a company, but you brought up one that I hadn’t thought about much before now. It really is too much of a burden to put on an intern’s shoulders. Especially when a problem or a controversy comes up, it’s not fair to expect them to handle that. (And it’s really stupid to ask a newbie – who is temporary no less – to “be us” on social media. That’s just asking for trouble even if the intern has skills and the best intentions.)

  • Steve_Law

    Any chance this article extends to people working at a graduate level? I think so! Why heap a campaign onto a newbie? They should get their feet wet by co-handling with an experienced colleague imo.

  • Glenn Ferrell

    Ha ! Traditionally, companies would never consider putting an intern in charge of marketing. It seems companies hiring interns to do Social Media just aren’t connecting the dots 😛

    But if I were an intern, I’d jump at these opportunities 🙂

  • @jennalanger Thanks for sharing how it works for LF.. think you are developing a real internship program, designed to train and teach…. not just hand over the keys.

  • Good points here, agree with them all and think the biggest reason you don’t HAND OVER the marketing, PR or SM to an intern: they don’t have the PROFESSIONAL experience. An internship is: on-the-job-training. It’s about learning how to do something, under supervision and guidance of those who know how to do it and how to teach it. Sure they may have their own blog and FB page, but is it designed to promote professional brand, represent a company… or just themselves, just for fun? It’s very different. See also #4.. so much they don’t know b/c as interns, they’re learning. FWIW.

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  • @3HatsComm I’ve had many internships in my day and at the beginning it always seemed like I was doing busy work. Turns out, it really was community management! I was mostly self-taught, but I realized that it would have been helpful if someone help explained to me that what I was doing was important to the community and the company. That’s what we’re trying to do here at Livefyre. It’s not just commenting on blogs, it’s learning from and building relationships with our community. The connections they make here will last for a long time and I’m sure will help them in their careers.

  • Amen Andrew, great points all the way around. I do feel this trend is as much about covering the social media bases cheaply as it is thinking of social media as a “youthful” endeavor—that young interns should have inherent skills at it. In a way I agree with Glenn—interns interested in social media marketing are in a sweet spot right now because they can actually get these kinds of responsibilities right off the bat. But I definitely think it’s a risk for companies: this is absolutely much too large a burden to place on someone that has little experience with the company and brand, is temporary, and is not compensated fairly. In a way these kinds of missteps make me excited and optimistic: that it evidences the newness of all of this, that we are still trying to figure out our conventions and procedures, if sometimes wrongly. It’s exciting to be a part of all of that. @RyoatCision

  • YasinAkgun

    Hi, all my comments to you are with respect. I am a soon to be final year student who us just about to start on an internship where part of my role will be to engage in the social media strategy.

    First off, you make some pretty unfair sweeping generalisations of interns. Such as “interns do not live and breath your brand”. Really? I doubt I am so special to be unique to all the student interns out there.

    Secondly, interns aren’t forever? Well that’s not the fault of the intern is it? Luckily for me, I have the chance to stay on with the company I’ve just started my internship with which I will gladly take if I impress enough. Again, I doubt I am the only one out of all the student interns out there.

    Thirdly; interns stick too closely to the script. No, bad interns do that and bad supervisors/team managers allow it. From speaking to companies based in the UK the most common criticism I hear of interns with regards to this is the total opposite, that interns tend to do their own thing and think they know best. I doubt either of us can find a student who can recite company brochures or textbooks word for word.

    Fourthly; Of course, experience is necessary. But why are you suggesting interns are devoid of any experience in social media strategy? There are some (admittedly rare) that do have practical experience.

    Fifthly; I don’t feel as an intern I should be compensated for any sort of pressure. No matter how hard, no matter how deep and no matter how upsetting it may be. That’s the nature of business. If I don’t learn it now in a relatively safe environment then I feel sorry for my future self.

    I think your examples are indicative of bad companies who do not select candidates carefully enough, rather than it being indicative of student interns as a whole.

    But I certainly agree with what I think is your underlying sentiment that social media should not be treated as something you might as well have, or something you ‘have’ to have.

  • YasinAkgun

    @Shonali @jennalanger definitely, the intern/supervisor relation is very very critical from a student’s point of view. I can’t speak from a supervisor’s view but I can imagine it is to them too.

  • YasinAkgun

    If I could just doubly make sure that I make it clear that my comments are with respect. The only thing I know as a student for sure is that I don’t know everything so I do respect somebody who has far more experience and credentials than I have.

  • It amazes me that so many companies are doing this yet not a one of them would ever dream of putting an intern in the position to be the company spokesperson for traditional media! It’s crazy!

  • ginidietrich

    @AngelaDaffron Or send them to new business meetings or have them close a big deal. It makes me shake my head.

  • ginidietrich

    @Glenn Ferrell Me. Too.

  • ginidietrich

    I’ve written about this quite a bit and, when I speak with CEO organizations, I repeat it. It’s not that some interns aren’t savvy or that they couldn’t handle the responsibility. It’s simply that most just don’t have BUSINESS experience yet. Just like you wouldn’t send an intern to a new business meeting alone or to close a big deal or to ask a donor for money or to pitch the media, you don’t want he/she serving as the face of your brand. The way you coach and mentor young professionals in every aspect of their career is the same with social media. Just because they use Facebook for personal use does not mean they know how to translate it to business use.

  • @ginidietrich Exactly!

  • hanelly

    @AngelaDaffron @ginidietrich Or handle an angry phone call from a customer. Dealing with people is one of the toughest skills to hone. Why have your least experienced person in charge of it?

  • hanelly

    Yasin – Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

    I want to preface my response with this: The interns I’ve known have been amazing. They’ve been hardworking, they’ve been hungry for experience, they’ve had valuable perspectives, they were articulate, and they were smart. In short, they’ve been amazing people who are talented and were going to go on to do great things. The fact that someone would take on an internship – especially an unpaid one – shows that they are driven and ambitious.

    This post isn’t a swipe against the qualifications of interns. I think there are great examples of interns being awesome. You can find some of them in the other comments on this post.

    That said, this post is not anti-intern. The crux is this: Interns are ambitious, hungry, smart, and talented. And, given the option to take the reigns on any project, most interns would sign right up. That’s the point of the internship. They want to prove themselves.

    I remember when I was an intern I would take on any project I could, regardless of scope just because I wanted to prove myself and get experience. That’s happening today, too, and it’s good. But that can’t be the entire strategy. The intern can’t go it alone.

    It’s unfair on the part of the employer to thrust an intern into the social media trenches – alone – to achieve real business objectives.

    I think employers – strapped for resources, mostly – take the easy way out with social media by throwing a young, smart, ambitious person into the ring and call it a day.

    End rant.

    That said, I’ll respond to each of your points:

    1. Interns do not live and breathe your brand yet. This isn’t to say that interns can’t, it’s just not likely that they understand the brand culture as well as a veteran on day 1. It takes time that – by nature of being an intern – they haven’t spent yet.

    2. Interns aren’t forever. You’re right, it’s not the fault of the intern. It’s just a fact. Why hinge an important part of your marketing on a temporary piece? And if an intern does stay on for full-time employment, they are no longer an intern … see what I mean?

    3. Interns stick too closely to the script. You’re probably right on this. But whether they stick too closely to the script or veer too far, it proves the same point: They aren’t comfortable enough in the brand skin to act natural and stay on brand. Not their fault but rather the fault of the management team that placed them into the situation in the first place. Don’t strand them out there.

    4. Experience. I’m not saying they are devoid of experience, but they probably have less marketing experience than veterans at the company. By no means should interns be banned from social media, they should just not be alone.

    5. The pressure. Fair enough. I suppose doing this to an intern could give them some trial-by-fire experience that molds and hardens them for the rest of their career. I agree with you there. And I think the truly brave do have an opportunity in this situation, but again, I don’t think it’s great for the company.

    Anyway, that’s the spirit of all this!

  • hanelly

    @RyoatCision Great comment. Thanks for dropping by.

    I agree with what you’re saying here.

    From the perspective of the intern this is a huge opportunity. Get great, hands-on experience and stories to tell at the next job interview. I don’t blame them for jumping in head first – I’d do (and have done, in different contexts) the exact same thing. The experience is there, the caution tape is not: GO FOR IT!

    But, from the perspective of the brand it’s a huge risk. What happens if they don’t know what to do? What happens if they say the wrong thing? What happens if they upset a customer? What happens if they misrepresent the brand? What happens if they accidentally Tweet thinking it’s their personal account? What happens if they leave?

    Too many unanswered questions to build the foundation of a strategy on.

    Sure, tap the exuberance, let the digital native show you around, but by no means give them the keys to the kingdom and walk away. This is a team effort for many reasons.

  • hanelly

    @3HatsComm Brilliant! You’re absolutely right. Just because they know how to use a tool (e.g. Twitter or Facebook) doesn’t mean they know how to achieve business objectives with it. Amen!

    But this sentence stands out for me as being ultra important:

    “An internship is: on-the-job-training. It’s about learning how to do something, under supervision and guidance of those who know how to do it and how to teach it. ”

    At the end of the day sure, it’s good experience. It’s trial by fire. BUT, it’s a rip-off to the intern for not getting direct tutelage in exchange for their time.

  • hanelly

    @Glenn Ferrell Right? It’s like saying to an intern: “Hey, you know how to use a phone?? Sweet! Why don’t you call this list of prospects and pitch them our product?? What, you’re not sure what to do? What do you mean?? You said you know how to use a phone!!”

    It’s insanity. It’s reality.

  • hanelly

    @ginidietrich @Glenn Ferrell Absolutely. In my days of being an intern I would have volunteered to run the entire company (hey, I believed in myself!) That doesn’t mean it would have been smart for them to take me up on it.

    Interns: This is a huge opportunity for you

    Brands: This is a huge risk for you

  • hanelly

    @Steve_Law Exactly. Show them the ropes, don’t just give them enough rope to hang themselves. Huge difference.

  • hanelly

    @kamkansas Right on! “Hey, it’s your first day at ABC Company! Now, put this t-shirt on and go introduce our brand to everyone you meet. Tell them everything about us and answer their questions perfectly.” Outside of the context of social media it seems insane. I guess my point is (and what we’re all agreeing to here is) inside of social media it is just as insane, when you stop to think about it.

  • hanelly

    @jennwhinnem Reading that one was the catalyst that finally got me to put this post together 🙂 Thanks for the kind words!

  • hanelly

    @StephenJack Yeah, it’d be a funnier joke if it weren’t true, right? It boggles my mind how often this still goes on. My question is: will this still be the case in 10 years? I hope not …

  • hanelly

    @OnlineBusinesVA You’re far too kind.

  • hanelly

    @SuzanneVara Exactly. It needs to be (for the intern and the organization) part of a larger context. How does social media fit in to our marketing plan? What are the goals we are trying to achieve here? How will we represent our brand on each platform – social and otherwise?

    Answering these questions – as a team – and then implementing a cross platform strategy is the ideal for everyone involved. Sure, the “intern” might help run any part of it on a day-to-day basis, but by no means are they alone, in a silo, Tweeting.

  • hanelly

    @WordsDoneWrite Right on! There’s knowing what the tool does, and then knowing how to use the tool to get results. High-five.

  • hanelly

    @jennalanger You guys are doing it right!

  • hanelly

    @bdorman264 @Shonali I wonder how the Executive Director would feel about incorporating social media into his or her own schedule? How about the rest of the staff? What about creating a strategy that asks each person already there if they can spend any extra time with social media? I think eventually being active in social media will be as commonplace – and expected – as answering email.

  • hanelly

    @AllThingsJen Amen. It’s unfair to expect the generation of “digital natives” to have a working knowledge of all things digital day one of an internship. Being young doesn’t guarantee that they are “connected.” And they shouldn’t be. They are an intern – just getting started.

  • hanelly

    @Shonali @lauracoggins It should be a fair trade where both sides get value. Interns get the experience, employers get the help. Both sides can teach, but both sides need to feel like they’re getting something out of it. Otherwise, as you said, it’s a rip-off!

  • hanelly

    @Darren Sproat She had wisdom beyond her years. Smart insight and lots of courage to say that.

    Glad to have sparked a memory, Darren! She’s probably a CMO somewhere now 🙂

  • Glenn Ferrell

    @ginidietrich Absolutely. No degree that I know of prepares you to deal appropriately with an unexpected reputation crisis or a very important angry customer. Sure guidelines help but dealing with crisis situations successfully is the result of having a person with the right “emotional intelligence” who has integrated a “big picture” view with the guidelines and, through experience, has learned to make the right adjustments in the moment without freezing. That’s pretty tall order for most interns. Many long term employees have not yet learned how to do this.

  • hanelly

    @lauracoggins I think you hit on a key point: “if you have those sorts of issues, I think you have more of a hiring problem than a social media problem.”

    Couldn’t agree more.

    The main reason I didn’t even want to publish this post is because of all the good interns out there who might take offense. It’s not their fault and I don’t blame them for seizing an opportunity. Some of them are more qualified than a FTE “supervising” them.

    In those cases, I flip the script and say this: Maybe these type of interns deserve to be MORE than an intern. Maybe they need to get offered a full time job with benefits. They sort of prove the point: the conventionally defined intern shouldn’t be alone on social media. The exceptional intern that can pull it off? Probably shouldn’t still be an intern!

  • hanelly

    @Glenn Ferrell @ginidietrich Amen, Glenn. And if you find an intern who has these skills, this level of grace, a high level of emotional intelligence, etc? Hire them full time. They shouldn’t be an intern. Right?

  • Glenn Ferrell

    @hanelly @AngelaDaffron @ginidietrich You got it. By the way – nice thoughtful answer to Yasin.

  • YasinAkgun

    @hanelly Thank you Andrew for taking the time to respond to my comments, really appreciate it.

    In your experience, have companies ever given staff who are given the role of intern supervisor training on such a role? And if not, do you think that they should, or would it be time spent on something that could be spent on something that can be argued is more important?

  • hanelly

    In my experience, I’ve seen interns treated 2 ways:

    1. “Here’s what to do” – These unfortunate interns are getting ripped off. They’re being told to do tasks because they need to be done with no broader context. They are simply performing seemingly unrelated tasks on a to-do list. They perform functions for the sake of checking an item off a list. The only value they get from an internship is the bullet points they can put on their resume.

    2. “Here’s what we want to achieve and why” – This is the way I try to work with interns and it’s the way for both sides to be successful. You give the intern some challenges to work with and explain how their particular project fits in the broader context of what the company is trying to do.

    It presents the intern with the problem, explains the “why” behind the importance of the problem, and allows the intern to think critically about the best way to be successful. Collaboratively, the intern and supervisor arrive at a solution and the intern carries it out. This grooms the intern for potential work at the company, and gives the intern valuable working knowledge they can take anywhere. An intern who has spent time in this situation has graduated from the “intern” nomenclature and is ready to be considered a full-time employee.

    I think that if a company is going to have interns work with them, they should only do it in scenario #2. Otherwise, just hire out temp help and get the rote tasks done. If you’re bringing in an intern, you need to make sure it’s a fair trade for both parties.

  • @hanelly @bdorman264 I agree, and I think one of the big mistakes companies make is assuming that social is the responsibility of only a few people. I think it *should* be managed from a central point, but the more employees are trained and encouraged to use it, the better it will be in the long run for the organization. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; employees are your best brand ambassadors. Or, at least, they can be, if you let them.

  • hanelly

    Absolutely, @Shonali There’s the old saying that goes “the most important person in your company is the receptionist because they are the first person anyone talks to when reaching out to your company.” Social media has changed the landscape and now whoever is running your social media campaign is just as important as the receptionist. Anywhere an employee connects with a customer is a huge opportunity for a brand. We understand that and treat it with respect in every context *but* social media.

    Great comment, Shonali!

  • YasinAkgun

    @hanelly Thanks for your reply, I also agree scenario 2 works best and luckily for me that’s the scenario I’m in.

  • hanelly

    Glad to hear that! @YasinAkgun

  • HeidiCohen

    I totally agree. Businesses think that hire an intern is a cheap and easy way to do social media. NOT! As you point out, social media can be a business and/or brand landmine even if you know your firm and/or brand. Even worse, most of these companies don’t outline any social media guidelines or have a crisis management plan in place! Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • hanelly

    Amen, Heidi. Thanks for dropping by. Just like any arm of the marketing department, it takes more than just one person (let alone an intern – regardless of their skills and brains) to operate.

  • FollowtheLawyer

    This post was driven home to me last week at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting, one of the speakers on a panel discussing case studies of successful social media marketing kept hammering the point that you should use interns or minor children — literally recommended using your 14-year-old child, niece/nephew or child of a friend — to set up Facebook accounts and manage content marketing.

    In addition to the insights you outlined, I would add one more: You’ll never get any better. If you don’t hire people more experience or skilled than you are, you’re not going to be able to compete.

  • FollowtheLawyer

    This post was driven home to me last week at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting. One of the speakers on a panel discussing case studies of successful social media marketing kept hammering the point that you should use interns or minor children — literally recommended using your 14-year-old child, niece/nephew or child of a friend — to set up Facebook and Twitter accounts and manage content marketing.

    In addition to the insights you outlined, I would add one more: You’ll never get any better. If you don’t hire people more experience or skilled than you are, you’re not going to be able to compete.

  • hanelly

    Exactly. Glad you posted this specific example because some people believe this doesn’t actually happen. It happens a lot more than we’d like to think. I think you’ve added a great point that I didn’t think of: the more you blindly have someone else manage an increasingly integral part of your marketing strategy, the less you learn about how to interact in the space and the further behind you become.

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