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Why you shouldn’t let the intern run your social media

Younger members of staff can be a huge asset to any organisation, but just don't give them free reign on your social media because you don't understand it. You don't want that, and neither do they.

It still happens. Still.

An organisation, otherwise driven by the most senior, skilled and experienced of people hands over the corporate social media accounts - the route to it’s biggest audiences - to the whippersnapper who joined a couple of weeks ago.

There’s a certain logic to it - that youngster lives and breathes the Twitter/Snapchat/TikTok thing that the boss has heard of but ‘doesn’t do’. That’s a world for the youngsters, even Facebook, so let a young one loose on it. It’s based on a fear of the unknown.

What can possibly go wrong? Plenty, as it happens

Getting the tone (and the grammar) right

Tone is the most obvious. The newest person to your business will not ‘get’ your editorial tone instinctively. The voice on your social platforms will, most likely, be theirs. Which may be spot on, but that’s unlikely, unless you are specifically targeting 21 year olds and want to sound like their peers. Generally, they will sound gauche, off-brand and inauthentic - most often trying too hard for likes and RTs, rather than for a carefully crafted message about the brand or product, and useful engagement around it. It, too often, results in an inevitable lack of professionalism that can be really painful to your brand.

And that’s not counting the spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, the misplaced apostrophes, the appropriation of a copyrighted image or the inappropriate posting of a gif or liking of a wholly unsuitable post in your name. These things happen to all of us, but they happen most often to the most inexperienced of us. Those mistakes are how we learn. Don’t let that learning process be on the most public platforms you have. They’ve got their own accounts to do that on.

Getting the strategy right

Giving the social media accounts to junior members of staff is thought to be all about implementation. The thinking is that it’s all about the posts…. But it isn’t.

Your social media strategy should dovetail with your overall communications and marketing strategies and therefore be in line with your product and packaging messages, your PR, your digital marketing and CRM… and so on. Is the youngster in charge of that too? The danger in thinking of social as some sort of inconsequential off-piste activity is that when it is off-piste it will jar with the rest of your efforts and harm the strategy and the work of the rest of your team.

The messaging, the language, the desired outcomes (whether that’s brand profile or sales) has to tally with the wider strategies - or else why are you doing it?

The choices of platform have to cohere as well or there may well be some rather random choice. Selling medical equipment? Head to TikTok! The jarring misalignment of audience and platform can mean you are messaging in the dark - sending posts out to an audience who will never buy what you are selling.

Getting the measure of it

Chances are the process will lack robust measurement and KPIs. Let’s not make too many assumptions…. But there are few people at the start of their career who have the attention to detail to measure what’s working and have the humility to change their approach in the light of that. But that iterative approach is vital to success - so long as you’re measuring the right things - genuine engagement rather than RTs and likes from their friends. It’s important that whoever runs your social media takes the time to review strategies and platforms, to engage with followers at the right times and about the right topics. In short, to ensure that the work is hitting the right audience. And that is in context with the rest of the communications strategies - the same messages to the same audiences. This isn’t work for the same person you send out for tartan paint.

Knowing your industry and market

You might be in a complex industry, with, perhaps, some difficult compliance issues to talk about. Or you might be trying to lobby the government for policy change. What’s harder? Getting to grips with the idea of harnessing an industry to legislative change? Or mastering Twitter?

Knowing your industry and market is vital - it’s key to the tone, the strategy, the choice of platforms and all the above - but also to the choice of content, the messages, the sense of knowledge, and the aura the social media presence gives off. It’s sometimes tangible - in a response to a post from a customer or competitor where you can show a mastery of your markets, and it’s sometimes intangible - the vocabulary used, the ease of tone, the knowledge about what to react to and what to ignore. It’s just all better in the hands of those with the right experience.

Let everyone play to their strengths

It’s of course a great thing to hire people straight out of college or university. We’re definitely not averse to that - quite the opposite. People in this demographic might typically exhibit more free thinking and creativity, more spontaneity, drive and determination than those of us who have been around the block a few times. And that is vital to any organisation.

The point we’re making is all in the title. Don’t let the newbie run the thing. Social media needs either to have an owner who is part of your communications team or an ‘owner’ of those platforms in some way.

Provide ongoing training and oversight, support and guidance, and train yourself up if you don’t yet feel comfortable to be that guiding light. Good quality collaboration will mean you’re not afraid to share your strengths and vulnerabilities.

In short, there is great power in social media - both to amplify your brand and to damage it. And with that power comes, of course, responsibility. So don’t downgrade social in your communications plans just because it might not be your thing. Find someone who knows both the platforms and your industry, integrate them into you corporate and communications strategies - and watch them fly.