Does an intern run your social media?

MyRaganites advise communicators on the role that office 20-somethings should (or shouldn’t) play.

MyRaganites advise communicators on the role that office 20-somethings should (or shouldn’t) play

Take a gander at your interns.

Fresh-faced and eager, these whippersnappers joined Facebook before receiving their college acceptance letter (or wait … e-mail); they Skype with friends who are hiking the Himalayas; and they can text in their sleep.

Don’t even get them started on “Jersey Shore.”

Let’s say your company has finally decided to start using social media. You got approval from your execs. You’re ready to listen.

So tech-savvy and culturally hip you are. Yet, your knowledge runs just so deep, and not very wide. Wouldn’t it be great if one of your interns could run your company’s social media program? Heck, they already own their own Flip cams.

We asked MyRaganites to find out what they thought about turning over the reins to someone who doesn’t remember a time before Google search. You’ll see that the answers vary; so, which do you think is best?

Go for it

Monique Terrell says an intern could handle a company’s social media program but that it’s essential the company has clearly defined its goals in that realm.

“The question to ask is: ‘Will the intern be a tool operator or a strategic thinker that can lead your company in the right direction?'” Terrell says. “Both are very different and require a special set of skills and knowledge. Just about anyone can use Facebook, but do they know why they are using it?”

It’s possible that your intern could be your “tool operator,” but it’s important to make sure you have a social media strategy, she adds.

Start slowly

Starting a new social media program can be exciting, says Mary Cochran. But before you begin, figure out what your company is looking for. First, she recommends setting up a HootSuite account or Tweetdeck to monitor and search for relevant conversations about your industry to determine your social media goals.

How could your intern help?

“The intern could help you start building relevant followers,” Cochran says. “They could be journalists, analysts or other influencers in your industry.”

Hold on—maybe you should hire someone else

Jess Weiss doesn’t think an intern should be in complete control of your social media efforts.

“Social media is a communications tool, not a toy,” Weiss says. “It is critical that this person understand organizational goals before being set loose to represent your agency on the social Web.”

Michelle from California says it’s a cheap and risky option for any company to allow an intern to speak publicly for them. Do you really want someone who gets paid $10 an hour (or is unpaid) for three months to be the voice of your company?

“The risk is having someone who has not been with the company long enough to know the inside and outside image of the organization and to sufficiently speak for that organization in the delicate arena of the social media,” Michelle says. “It is cheap because there are veterans within the organization who may or should have been trained to professionally and confidently represent [your company] with little to no foul.”

Another MyRaganite, Steve from Virginia, echoed Michelle’s thoughts.

“If you’re going to let an intern manage your external social media efforts, you better let that intern speak at press conferences, be quoted on the record in traditional media and go on CNN and FOX News,” Steve says. “That’s effectively what you’re doing by putting him or her in charge of social media.”

Tap into their expertise

Erin Anne says that instead of asking the intern to run the show, ask whether he or she can teach execs and your team about how to use social media. These behind-the-scene training sessions could be beneficial for both you and your intern.

“I find that many people are simply too busy to take the time to learn what the various tools are and how to use them, so they avoid them completely,” Erin Anne says. “The intern will learn a lot, including the kind of pushback that executives will give—and so will your executives.”

Keep in mind …

No matter what you decide, your intern will eventually go back to school. “Who will handle all the work when the intern is gone?” Cher 1117 says.

Well, that sounds like a Situation. If you don’t know what that means, ask your intern.

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