Your intern should not be managing your social media

internsOne of the funnier social media disasters I’ve written about happened a few weeks ago, when the Center for Strategic and International Studies used it’s Twitter account to tell Amnesty International to “suck it.”  CSIS apologized profusely and the whole thing blew over. Ultimately, CSIS blamed the entire disaster on an intern who confused their personal and CSIS accounts.

This is a common mistake, and certainly not one limited to interns, but it did elucidate a point: Interns should not be given the keys.  They should not be the ones responsible for managing your social media, sending out tweets or interacting directly with your customers.

Here’s why:

  • They probably don’t have the experience: Think about it this way: would you let an intern conduct a sales meeting on their own, particularly if they had no training or experience in the field?  Or write up and send out a press release, without at least having it proofed by you first? Of course not.  Most interns are in high school or college and still untrained.  Social media must be treated as a vital communications medium for any elected official, government office or business.  As such, interns should not be given unfettered access to social media tools – at least not without direct supervision.
  • They aren’t as accountable as staffers: Simply put, most interns don’t have the same level of investment and attachment as a paid staffer.  If an unpaid intern is fired, at worst, they’ll lose credit for a class.  The same cannot be said for a professional staffer, who will lose their livelihood and maybe their career.  To that end, staffers have more invested in an organization, and are thus more accountable.
  • Interns leave: Most internships expire after a set period of time. If an intern is the only one running your social media, and they leave at the end of the semester, odds are pretty good that you will have a dead social media account that no one has the ability or time to manage.

This being said, there absolutely is a role for interns and social media.  After all, interns are a tremendous source of creative labor and can be a huge asset to any organization.

Here are some ways you can utilize an intern when it comes to your company’s social media:

  • Competitive analysis: Have an intern check out how competitors, or what other government officials, are using social media.  From there, have them write a report that details what content you can use and how you can improve your social media presence.  This will give you ideas and help give your interns a broader idea of how social media works in the business or government world.
  • Idea generation: Have an intern research how others within and outside of your industry use social media.  From there, have them generate a list of content that you can create or share for your own social media pages.
  • Platform review: Social media is constantly changing, with new platforms emerging on a regular basis.  Have an intern monitor overall trends for social media and make suggestions for new platforms for you to examine – and potentially invest in.
  • Monitoring and suggestions: Just because an intern shouldn’t be the person responding to and directly using social media doesn’t mean that they cannot keep an eye on your presence and make recommended responses.  This is a great way to get interns trained in how to use social media, without actually putting you in a position where you may be liable for their errors.

What do you think – am I being oversensitive, or do you agree that interns should be kept away from front line social media management? Let us know in the comments!

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