Nothing against Cookerly’s newest intern, but the answer should be no. You wouldn’t hand an intern a company credit card, so why should you give him the login to the company’s Twitter account? Either one could end up costing you.
It’s a classic move. A new technology comes along that looks promising, but top-level management isn’t convinced that it’s worth an investment of any “real” resources. At my first job, our website was built by a part-time employee whose primary job responsibility was in-house courier. He built us the simplest of sites in his spare time. In some ways we were ahead of the game – keep in mind that these were the days when creating a website was cause for a press release. But that amateur website stuck around a lot longer than it should have, giving leadership an excuse not to invest any resources into something better because at least we were “out there.”
Obviously, a lot has changed in the past 15 years. But given the fact that our social media director has gotten the question, “Can’t an intern handle our social media?” at multiple speaking engagements in the past week, it’s clear that many people are still not convinced that social media deserves the attention and effort of experienced professionals.
So here’s a quick run-down on top reasons an intern shouldn’t be in charge of social media:
Strategy. If you’ve been playing this game a while, it’s easy to forget how long it can take to get a firm grasp on strategy. And I don’t mean learning what a company’s particular marketing/PR strategy is – I mean understanding how strategy differs from tactics, and why that matters. Implementing social media in a way that will effectively, consistently build your brand requires strategic thinking and you’re not going to find that in the intern seat.
Messaging. Sure, you can teach an intern your company/brand’s key messages. But do you really trust them to figure out the most effective way to communicate those messages on the fly? Social media is immediate – you’re not going to get the chance to review every tweet, every status update, every blog comment. So whoever you’ve got in the social media driver’s seat had better know your brand personality well enough to communicate the right messages, in the right voice and via the right channels. Again, probably not an intern.
Integration. Perhaps the biggest reason that the intern shouldn’t be in charge of your social media program is because it should be completely integrated with your marketing and PR efforts. It’s impossible to achieve that level of integration if an intern is deciding what your social media presence looks like. Yes, she may be a whiz at using Facebook to stay connected with her friends, but does she know how to use it to build a brand? Does she understand how a particular social media channel is building community among your customers? Is she aware of the other channels of communication with those customers?
Don’t get me wrong. Interns and other young staff members are often among the most knowledgeable when it comes to social media. But don’t confuse their experience as users with the expertise that is needed for effective marketing. Watching a lot of TV doesn’t make you a network executive, and spending hours on Facebook every day shouldn’t make your intern a social media director.
(Author’s Note and Disclaimer: No interns were harmed in the making of this blog post. Even though he’s only been on board for a week, Michael Knottek is doing a fantastic job and his picture was selected based solely on his position as new kid on the block. I’m sure one day he’ll make an excellent social media director.)