5 Reasons not to Hire a Social Media Intern

Last month Mike Volpe of Hubspot wrote a post condemning social media. Though I was offended at first, I now see his point of view. I decided to explore one of his ideas—“hiring an intern to do social media won’t transform your company.” Thinking about this one sentence made me realize that he’s right. A social media intern doesn’t really help your company. In fact, it can actually hurt you. Here’s why:

5.Inexperience: Since Twitter and Facebook accounts are so accessible, people tend to think that they know social media through every day use of these sites. Unfortunately, there’s more to social media than just creating Twitter and Facebook pages. You need a plan and a good enough reason to use both, or one over another. Not every company needs a Facebook AND Twitter. Getting someone that understands that is the first step.
*On the other hand, some recent grads get it. You can tell which ones by going to their pages and seeing how active they are. On Twitter it’s easy: see what they’re talking about and how many people they engage with and you can quickly calculate how serious they are about social media. For Facebook, just ask them if they have monitored a business page before and see how they respond. Go to the pages they have monitored and see the type of work they did. Doing some quick and easy research will give a real feel of their talent and passions.
4. Time Commitment: An internship, by definition, only equals about 10-12 hours a week. To make matters worse, most interns only work 2-3 days a week. Managing a successful social media campaign dictates that someone is on at all times to engage with the community (especially on Twitter). Your company can only have limited success in becoming active in its community if no one’s monitoring its social media accounts half the time.
3. Knowledge: Every business has its niche. How do you expect an intern to know the experts in your field? The answer—you can’t. Speaking from experience, it is very difficult to manage a social media account where you know nothing of the specific audience. If a social media manager doesn’t know how to engage with the community, there’s absolutely no way the campaign will be successful.
*You can overcome this obstacle by hiring an intern that’s actually interested in your field. But be careful, some people will say anything to be hired....(I’ve done that before!)
2. Central Voice: In a way social media is your company's voice to your audience, community, customers and potential customers. No matter how someone can try to negate it, everyone’s personality comes through via tweets and status updates. Here’s the kicker: an internship usually lasts only 3-6 months. Do you want your company’s voice to change that much? The answer is no, people will think you’re crazy.
*If you get students to commit to long-term internships, you’ll be better off, but at that point of time you just mind as well make them a part of the team.
1. Culture: Presently a culture defines a company. People now choose where they want to work and even what service to use based on the company’s culture. Someone who just came into your company (i.e. an intern) has no way of knowing this culture. If they don’t know the culture, then how are they supposed to communicate it? Again, they can’t.
These are obviously my opinions, and I’m sure there are plenty of social media intern success stories. As a rule of thumb, however, I would recommend a company either bringing on an experienced social media strategist, or going to a social marketing consultant and managing the social media with their advice. These two options give you more of a chance to launch a successful social media campaign.
Have your own opinions? Please share! I would love to hear about your experiences with social media interns or internships. Want to talk in private? Contact me—pardees [at] greenhornconnect [dot] com or @pardees.