I myself cringe when I see a company on Craigslist, or another hiring site, say they are looking for an intern to manage social media. I have a lot of reasons why, but we will cover that later in the post.
The truth is interns are important to business, and I can’t see a foreseeable future where they aren’t, even in social media.
Hiring a social media intern can be an amazingly beneficial action for a company, but as you know or have seen, it can be disastrous as well.
In this post I want to cover the pros and cons of hiring interns for social media. I will then share some guidelines that I think will more specifically help your team assign them tasks, teach them, and keep your company safe from potential problems.
The Pros of Hiring Social Media Interns
- Give them the experience they need
- Train them for free, and potentially hire them later already understanding your business
- Save the company money on repetitive, necessary, tasks
- Have a new eager team member that is excited to be at your company
- Tap into the young generation, get their thoughts and ideas, because young people are our future
- Connections for the future for both your company and the intern
You’ve probably had interns or have worked with them before. The benefits are great. It’s the difference between sending someone whose time is valuable out to the store to get something, and sending an intern who isn’t there yet as far as value to the company.
While they are around they learn enormous amounts of information about business, about your company, and how marketing works. They are like sponges soaking it all up. I just imagine being an intern with Google, Apple or Amazon, the things they must learn and see can be life changing. How exciting to be that opportunity for someone!
The Cons of Using Social Media Interns
The biggest issue with hiring social media interns is that many companies do so without ever training them. While social media is huge for many brands, there are still, laughably, many companies out there who look at it like it’s so easy, an untrained intern can do it.
Chances are, since you are on this blog, you don’t feel this way. And I’m not one to argue with the large companies, like OREO, who spend millions on social media every year, they are more successful than me, right, so how could I say it doesn’t work?
Here’s what I see happening:
- No training about company or the professional-business side of social media
- Interns may have no background in marketing at all, and don’t understand the importance of public relations
- No training in customer service
- Mistakes made on intern’s behalf
- Not completely understanding their reach and importance to the company while performing social media
- No strategy, guides, policies, or guidelines set up
The Biggest Mistake!!
The company misunderstanding the importance of social media and not taking it seriously enough, when it has a huge impact on business. Ever heard “the bigger they are, the harder they fall”? But hiring an intern probably won’t change how the company thinks about social media, and this is why so many social media experts just advise companies not to hire social media interns.
Rules On How Your Company Can Efficiently and Correctly Use a Social Media Intern
1- Have Them Work With A Social Media Expert. This gives the intern the guidance they need to be useful, and it gives the marketing team a person they can begin using for small tasks, and then build up to bigger jobs.
2- Do Not Just Hand Over All Social Media Responsibilities- this could be catastrophic for branding purposes. One mistake can cause immediate backlash from followers and will affect sales. Check out this article on Forbes about hiring interns.
3- Start With Small Repetitive Tasks- For instance following other users on Twitter with SocialBro is a repetitive task that can easily be taught. Curating content from Feedly subscriptions is easy to do. Distributing titles, descriptions and links to social media profiles can be the next step.
4- Give Them Opportunities to Practice- To be sure they are ready to represent your company, give them multiple opportunites to come up with update statuses, promotions, and blog posts. The marketing team can use these, and give feedback about what will and will not work.
5- Make Them Part of the Team- By joining team meetings, seeing the emails, being part of discussion, they will learn more quickly, and be more useful to the company in other ways as well.
Last but not least I would suggest a social media course for interns. Right now I recommend Kim Garst’s Social Media Mastery program, however it is a bit pricey at about $2,000, but for a less comprehensive (however useful) course, there are many social media webinars available at Hubspot for free.