Don’t Delegate Social Media. Embrace It.

Posted By on Jan 9, 2009 | 16 comments

**Disclaimer: I am very much in favor of using Interns because they are plenty of experienced and energetic college students who do great jobs for companies. This post is merely something to talk about a company developing a social media strategy and not throwing it off on the first person.***

Let me run you through a scenario from my days in college.

I was an Intern, an inexperienced and cocky Intern. This was my freshman year of college and my Father wanted me to complete an internship at his radio stations in Terre Haute, IN. Believe me, I wanted to go. I thought it would be a good experience to learn about sales, marketing, and the world of traditional advertising.

And that lasted about… 3 weeks.

Yes, 3 weeks into the process I started getting bored and wanted to do something else. Being a Freshman in college there is only so much you can do without wanting to go and… do what college kids do. With all that said, I helped the radio stations move more into the Internet world and I sold a few ad spots. But I wasn’t really that involved in the organization because of the short time I would be there.

Guess what? I didn’t really care much about building a brand or contributing to the overall five year plan the company had in place.

Believe me.. this story applies to social media.

Jay Baer said it best in Delegation Equals Death in Social Media:

Almost every time I work with a public relations firm… “Us old dogs don’t really understand all this new social media stuff, but we’ve got this brilliant young guy right out of school….” Bang Bang.. You’re Dead.

I am getting tired of hearing about companies throwing social media strategy and tools off on an Intern. To be honest with you, I get tired of hearing about brand building and extremely important communication tools being used by someone who is not OVERLY invested in the growth of the company.

Social media allows you to directly communicate with your clients. It allows you to increase customer support, increase customer interaction with your company experience, and allows for truly grou-breaking information gathering potential.

Would you put an Intern in the front lines of your top customer support center? Probably not.

An entire company needs to be involved and be on board with using social media tools. The company use of the tool needs to be PLANNED and EXECUTED.

Jay asked the question, “Are you a social media cheerleader? Are you ready to drop the pom-poms and get your hands dirty?”

I say, “Burn the stupid pom-poms and throw some dirt. Let’s start using social media to transform communication.”

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  1. Kyle – thanks for your support. I’m glad you agree. Would have loved to have seen you sitting around the radio station as an intern!


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  2. Kyle,

    Great points.

    The more companies get on board and start talking with their clients and customers the more streamlined and organic their marketing campaigns will become.

    Plus more fun!

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  3. It’s gotta become a part of your culture. If it doesn’t, well, then it’s just not gonna work.

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  4. Well said, Kyle. How a company communicates with it’s customers isn’t something that should be relegated to the intern – who, let’s be honest, may not necessarily know how to strategically participate in social media simply because they’re young. It takes a committed, long-term effort from the top leadership to make it work. I can’t help but think a social media strategy is as much a cultural mindset of a company as it is a communication’s strategy.

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  5. My bigger concern about using an intern for social media is that internships are of limited duration. If you are leveraging the power of personal communications and transparency in your social media efforts, those interactions online are going to be tied to your intern’s name, even as she is representing your organization. Then she leaves; and then what?

    Your other point is well-taken as well: the intern is temporarily interested in your company or cause as part of an assignment. Does that really reek of authenticity?

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  6. It’s a pleasure to have found this post via Great thoughts here.

    I wanted to add to not only embrace the tools yourselves as leaders in the company, but engage the intern or others in your company and learn from them.
    Even with interns who have a limited time to spend in the office with your organization in day-to-day operations, this is a great opportunity to empower him/her/them to stay involved. They can use these tools when they go back to school. Pay them. Help them continue to get that valuable experience. They’ll remember this and you would be investing in your company’s future by grooming invaluable employees.

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  7. Kyle,

    Interesting post. I think you will start to see companies start to take social media a lot more seriously. Right now it is still something that is unfamiliar to many, and so they’re uncomfortable doing any more than testing the waters with an intern, or a young new employee.

    Emil: I was an intern last summer at Ruder Finn and it was an amazing experience for me. I was given a great deal of responsibility in multiple areas, including social media. I continue to work for them during my last year of school on a freelance basis. I have now found my passion in social media and am on my way to pursuing a career, quite possibly with Ruder Finn.

    I think both seasoned professionals and young new professionals have a great deal to contribute in social media. I discussed this more in my blog today actually.


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  8. There is a big difference between hearing about something and delegating the work; and personally jumping into something, learning and experiencing if first hand to grasp what the buzz is all about. The true value is in the experience.

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  9. Being in the industry, this is a point that I am all too familiar with. Without fail, the new intern always becomes in charge of updating the Web site or social media presence because the people that will be at the company for more than 3 months “just don’t have time.” Thus the cycle begins. You give them access, get them trained, they make some changes and finally begin to catch on…then guess what? Internship time is over and someone new comes on board. The cycle starts all over again.
    This is not an effective business model…at all. I wonder what it will take for them to get it.

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  10. Great point. Never thought of it that way but it’s true that interns really won’t be motivated to develop on those long term goals for the company. Companies can probably utilize interns to some degree but there needs to be full-time heads of the department.

    Speaking of that. Companies should have an entire team dedicated to social media. Interns can then be used like they are in any other department and assist the full-time team.

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  11. great post, a real issue that I think some firms aren’t completely up front about when they pitch social media strategies.

    I advise some companies against social media since it’s clear they aren’t willing to make the time investment. It’s a different way of thinking. They have to re-arrange their hierarchy when it comes to valuing their time.

    Some companies aren’t that agile and when they jump in they get burned out during the “dip”. So they delegate and it smells funny so no-one buys it.

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  12. As a social media evangelist and a recently signed on Intern… this post was very interesting!

    I think sometimes it takes an Intern to get the social media kick started. And more often than not, I’m sure the intern knows a shit load more than most at the organisation.

    But after that initial kick in the arse, it needs to be complete integration, not just a temporary project to keep someone busy.

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  13. Another and potentially worse situation we have encountered is when a college or company outsources it’s social media, not to an intern, but to a 3rd party company. At InnoGage, we have been asked more than once to take on the responsibilities of maintaining twitter accounts, Facebook pages..etc. for colleges. Although a chance to make some $$, I have always rejected these opportunities because of the “shady” feel to it. Although my company may have a vested interest in the success of our clients, we want transparency above all and that can only come from the horse’s mouth.

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