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 “

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.