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Social media: Trust your strategists or summer employees?

Why you shouldn't tap interns to manage your brand's social media


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Summer is often marked by the presence of new faces in the office: a brigade of summer interns, eager to earn on-the-job experience. Much of the gig is genuinely useful to the intern and helpful to the seasoned professionals who are managing them. And sometimes, interns are stuck with the tasks no one else wants to do.

One such to do list item often gets pushed onto temporary hires is managing the company’s social media pages.

That notion is, quite frankly, inexcusable.

Social media is one of your brand’s most direct touch points with customers. It’s quickly becoming an arm of many brands’ customer service departments, as social media managers are frequently on the front lines when complaints or reports surface on social media. Plus, the content a brand proactively pushes out clearly shapes public perception.

Yet it’s 2017 and I still, all to often, hear from business leaders: “We don’t need a social media manager. We have our summer intern.”

Really?

Off the bat, I can understand why having an intern handle social media seems like a way to cover your bases and save money – especially if the bulk of your career happened before the era of social media. Men, women and children express themselves on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, right? So why not task them with posting from the brand’s pages?

I’m so glad you asked –

A young person posting from his or her own page takes far less strategic thought and has fewer potential far-reaching negative consequences than that person posting from a brand’s page.

What a person posts to his or her Instagram page is based on gut feeling, a sense of what feels true to that one person in the moment.

But building a social media strategy, identifying tone and type of content used on the channel, and creating community management standards and crisis messaging for a brand’s social media channels – That’s a departure from posting a personal photo on a whim to your own account.

Social media professionals know the difference between posting to their own pages, developing and executing on a strategy for their brand’s page.

Specifically, social media professionals (whether a member of an in-house marketing team or an agency professional) have a leg up on fresh-out-of-college marketers in three ways:

Any social media manager worth her salt has an in-depth process for getting to know a brand and building a strategy anchored in the mission, core tenets and goals. That will consist of a deep-dive into the brand and the development of a measurable plan.

Experienced practitioners can provide access to tools that help a brand quantity the efficacy of its social media.

Though they may be quick-learners and hustlers, that knowledge is probably something that a summer intern can’t bring to the table.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a seasoned social media professional will know how to deal with a crisis as it unravels on a brand’s channel — which happens all the time. Sometimes a social media crisis manifests as a post from a frustrated customer, and can be handled with a simple apology and a promise to do better next time. Sometimes it unravels into something more serious, like a customer accusation of food poisoning or legal malfeasance. Social media crises are nuanced and should be dealt with by an experienced social media practitioner.

Of course, all of this isn’t to say you should shield all things social from your summer intern. If you make the decision to bring on an intern, trust that they’re with you to learn, and if they’re interested in social media, they will be eager assistants to your managers.

What I’m saying is this: Don’t put your whole social media strategy and execution in the hands of a newbie marketer. Lean on an experienced practitioner — someone you trust wholly with your brand in their hands. 

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Aubrey Gordon

Aubrey Gordon is president and founder of Sprocket Communications, a Denver-based public relations and social media agency that creates provocative, award-winning campaigns. Sprocket is celebrating 10 years in business this year. Learn more about Sprocket at www.sprocketcommunications.com.

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