Posted on March 2nd by Kevin Donnellon

This is part two of a series about using interns in your social media marketing. The first part focused on ways to help an intern succeed at social media. This part focuses on how to make an intern fail.

I am assuming that a thoughtful social media strategy, plan and supervision are already in place and working effectively. 

So then, what can make an intern possibly fail? How about:

  1. Disengaged company and brand — if the organization doesn’t care, why should the intern? That’s like sending him to a gunfight with a pea shooter. Reminds me of Billy Crystal’s line from Princess Bride, “Good luck storming the castle. They haven’t got a chance.”
  2. Faking it – pushing anything but what really matters to your customers and constituencies. Yes, they care about new products and special deals. And, they want to know how to best use product, where/how it is sold, when it will be available and any service challenges or product problems.
  3. Lack of transparency – yes, the essence of social media, must be respected. Okay, do we want Dunce cap to hear: “I am only an intern, so…?” No but we can accept: “I am new at this issue, can I check around the company and respond at my earliest ability?” Don’t ask an intern to be the chief designer, head of PR or marketing or some other position. People will learn and expose this lack of transparency, so follow these suggestions on transparency by Marqui.
  4. Lose focusask an intern to do and be good at everything, and he will be good at nothing, right? It’s like chasing two chickens, it’s impossible to catch either (Confucius) Use your goals, strategies, target audiences and listening tools to guide what content, channels, conversations and connections are important. Prioritize them and then let the intern go at it! 
  5. Be unclear about roles and responsibilities – you don’t want a company or brand channel, conversation or connection to be disrupted because “I didn’t know that was my job.” Define and regularly review clear, specific social media roles and responsibilities, as Funding Universe has in this social media intern job listing. 
  6. Ignore what’s being said – start by listening and more listening. Let an intern listen for at least two weeks to what is being said, how it is being said and where about your company and brand. This will help him learn about appropriate content, conversation and connections in your social media market. 
  7. Set unrealistic expectations – hey, you have a laptop and we have a Facebook page, so what’s the problem here? We should have 10 times as many “likes” by now. Really? It can take 120 days to really show results in social media. Be realistic.
  8. Not knowing what success looks like – ah, this is the major challenge for all of us in social media, but you can establish benchmarks and some easily as Leslie Hughes suggests. And I always support Katie Paine’s social media measurement checklist.

So, process these “nos” or ways to fail with previous “yeses” and ways to succeed and you can most likely develop an intern who can be very effective and successful at social media. Then you will have a real asset to your business.

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