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Social media, at its worst, can be like a book club meeting at a library full of books with only front and back covers with no pages in between. We judge by the cover (the headline) and we leave our testimonials on the back (the social chatter), all without ever opening the book.
The irony is that the only people who notice this are those that open the book and talk about what is happening within. I'm out of analogies and I'm unsure if this is even a new phenomenon.
Is it ruining the media? Or is it bringing age-old traditions to a new format?
Thought-provoking post, Nathaniel. Would read again. Or at least pretend I did on Twitter.
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Total sidenote, but Jessica Funcannon might have the greatest last name ever. Am I wrong?
2 years, 6 months ago on Why Age Doesn't Necessarily Make You Better at Social Media
Smart. (Applause). This is essential reading.
2 years, 6 months ago on Applying the Scientific Method to Your Social Media Plan
We're in the era of the profersonal. Learn it, live it, love it. http://thefuturebuzz.com/2012/01/10/the-rise-of-the-profersonal/
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@ginidietrich Uh oh - filing a police report??
2 years, 12 months ago on Reading Fiction Helps Your Career
1. Don't confuse "privacy" with "hidden temporarily"
2. If you enter this field, get ready to live a transparent life. You'll be a profersonal (professional + personal) in everything you do.
3. Read everything you can, test anything you can on a content playground of your own
4. Use Google Reader and get in the habit of reading these sites every morning:
5. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. But also know that what you put out there can be out there forever.
2 years, 12 months ago on Your Advice for Future Marketing & Communications Professionals
This post is excellent. I'd add 2 more:
4. It can improve your tone and refine your voice.
5. It makes good conversation (social currency).
3 years ago on Reading Fiction Helps Your Career
@Petya Glad you liked it, Petya.
3 years ago on Top 10 Guest Blog Posts of 2011
This is the best company I've been in since the KISS reunion tour! Thanks for letting me post on this fine site.
@KenMueller I don't think it's social media that is boring - it's more likely that talking about social media is boring. That said, look at all of us talking about it here! I don't think it's quite hit the level of TV and radio, but it is getting there.
3 years, 1 month ago on Social Media. Yawn.
I don't know ... are phones boring? It seems to me that the answer to the question is largely dependent on the conversation you're having.
Amen, Jay. The nicher the richer.
3 years, 4 months ago on To Build Blog Subscribers, Get Narrow-Minded
Exactly. Glad you posted this specific example because some people believe this doesn't actually happen. It happens a lot more than we'd like to think. I think you've added a great point that I didn't think of: the more you blindly have someone else manage an increasingly integral part of your marketing strategy, the less you learn about how to interact in the space and the further behind you become.
3 years, 7 months ago on Five Reasons the Intern Shouldn’t Run Social Media
Amen, Heidi. Thanks for dropping by. Just like any arm of the marketing department, it takes more than just one person (let alone an intern - regardless of their skills and brains) to operate.
Glad to hear that! @YasinAkgun
Absolutely, @Shonali There's the old saying that goes "the most important person in your company is the receptionist because they are the first person anyone talks to when reaching out to your company." Social media has changed the landscape and now whoever is running your social media campaign is just as important as the receptionist. Anywhere an employee connects with a customer is a huge opportunity for a brand. We understand that and treat it with respect in every context *but* social media.
Great comment, Shonali!
In my experience, I've seen interns treated 2 ways:
1. "Here's what to do" - These unfortunate interns are getting ripped off. They're being told to do tasks because they need to be done with no broader context. They are simply performing seemingly unrelated tasks on a to-do list. They perform functions for the sake of checking an item off a list. The only value they get from an internship is the bullet points they can put on their resume.
2. "Here's what we want to achieve and why" - This is the way I try to work with interns and it's the way for both sides to be successful. You give the intern some challenges to work with and explain how their particular project fits in the broader context of what the company is trying to do.
It presents the intern with the problem, explains the "why" behind the importance of the problem, and allows the intern to think critically about the best way to be successful. Collaboratively, the intern and supervisor arrive at a solution and the intern carries it out. This grooms the intern for potential work at the company, and gives the intern valuable working knowledge they can take anywhere. An intern who has spent time in this situation has graduated from the "intern" nomenclature and is ready to be considered a full-time employee.
I think that if a company is going to have interns work with them, they should only do it in scenario #2. Otherwise, just hire out temp help and get the rote tasks done. If you're bringing in an intern, you need to make sure it's a fair trade for both parties.
@Glenn Ferrell @ginidietrich Amen, Glenn. And if you find an intern who has these skills, this level of grace, a high level of emotional intelligence, etc? Hire them full time. They shouldn't be an intern. Right?
@lauracoggins I think you hit on a key point: "if you have those sorts of issues, I think you have more of a hiring problem than a social media problem."
Couldn't agree more.
The main reason I didn't even want to publish this post is because of all the good interns out there who might take offense. It's not their fault and I don't blame them for seizing an opportunity. Some of them are more qualified than a FTE "supervising" them.
In those cases, I flip the script and say this: Maybe these type of interns deserve to be MORE than an intern. Maybe they need to get offered a full time job with benefits. They sort of prove the point: the conventionally defined intern shouldn't be alone on social media. The exceptional intern that can pull it off? Probably shouldn't still be an intern!
@Darren Sproat She had wisdom beyond her years. Smart insight and lots of courage to say that.
Glad to have sparked a memory, Darren! She's probably a CMO somewhere now :)
@Shonali @lauracoggins It should be a fair trade where both sides get value. Interns get the experience, employers get the help. Both sides can teach, but both sides need to feel like they're getting something out of it. Otherwise, as you said, it's a rip-off!
@AllThingsJen Amen. It's unfair to expect the generation of "digital natives" to have a working knowledge of all things digital day one of an internship. Being young doesn't guarantee that they are "connected." And they shouldn't be. They are an intern - just getting started.
@bdorman264 @Shonali I wonder how the Executive Director would feel about incorporating social media into his or her own schedule? How about the rest of the staff? What about creating a strategy that asks each person already there if they can spend any extra time with social media? I think eventually being active in social media will be as commonplace - and expected - as answering email.
@jennalanger You guys are doing it right!
@WordsDoneWrite Right on! There's knowing what the tool does, and then knowing how to use the tool to get results. High-five.
@SuzanneVara Exactly. It needs to be (for the intern and the organization) part of a larger context. How does social media fit in to our marketing plan? What are the goals we are trying to achieve here? How will we represent our brand on each platform - social and otherwise?
Answering these questions - as a team - and then implementing a cross platform strategy is the ideal for everyone involved. Sure, the "intern" might help run any part of it on a day-to-day basis, but by no means are they alone, in a silo, Tweeting.
@OnlineBusinesVA You're far too kind.
@StephenJack Yeah, it'd be a funnier joke if it weren't true, right? It boggles my mind how often this still goes on. My question is: will this still be the case in 10 years? I hope not ...
@jennwhinnem Reading that one was the catalyst that finally got me to put this post together :) Thanks for the kind words!
@kamkansas Right on! "Hey, it's your first day at ABC Company! Now, put this t-shirt on and go introduce our brand to everyone you meet. Tell them everything about us and answer their questions perfectly." Outside of the context of social media it seems insane. I guess my point is (and what we're all agreeing to here is) inside of social media it is just as insane, when you stop to think about it.
@Steve_Law Exactly. Show them the ropes, don't just give them enough rope to hang themselves. Huge difference.
@ginidietrich @Glenn Ferrell Absolutely. In my days of being an intern I would have volunteered to run the entire company (hey, I believed in myself!) That doesn't mean it would have been smart for them to take me up on it.
Interns: This is a huge opportunity for you
Brands: This is a huge risk for you
@Glenn Ferrell Right? It's like saying to an intern: "Hey, you know how to use a phone?? Sweet! Why don't you call this list of prospects and pitch them our product?? What, you're not sure what to do? What do you mean?? You said you know how to use a phone!!"
It's insanity. It's reality.
@3HatsComm Brilliant! You're absolutely right. Just because they know how to use a tool (e.g. Twitter or Facebook) doesn't mean they know how to achieve business objectives with it. Amen!
But this sentence stands out for me as being ultra important:
"An internship is: on-the-job-training. It's about learning how to do something, under supervision and guidance of those who know how to do it and how to teach it. "
At the end of the day sure, it's good experience. It's trial by fire. BUT, it's a rip-off to the intern for not getting direct tutelage in exchange for their time.
@RyoatCision Great comment. Thanks for dropping by.
I agree with what you're saying here.
From the perspective of the intern this is a huge opportunity. Get great, hands-on experience and stories to tell at the next job interview. I don't blame them for jumping in head first - I'd do (and have done, in different contexts) the exact same thing. The experience is there, the caution tape is not: GO FOR IT!
But, from the perspective of the brand it's a huge risk. What happens if they don't know what to do? What happens if they say the wrong thing? What happens if they upset a customer? What happens if they misrepresent the brand? What happens if they accidentally Tweet thinking it's their personal account? What happens if they leave?
Too many unanswered questions to build the foundation of a strategy on.
Sure, tap the exuberance, let the digital native show you around, but by no means give them the keys to the kingdom and walk away. This is a team effort for many reasons.
Yasin - Thank you for your thoughtful comment.
I want to preface my response with this: The interns I've known have been amazing. They've been hardworking, they've been hungry for experience, they've had valuable perspectives, they were articulate, and they were smart. In short, they've been amazing people who are talented and were going to go on to do great things. The fact that someone would take on an internship - especially an unpaid one - shows that they are driven and ambitious.
This post isn't a swipe against the qualifications of interns. I think there are great examples of interns being awesome. You can find some of them in the other comments on this post.
That said, this post is not anti-intern. The crux is this: Interns are ambitious, hungry, smart, and talented. And, given the option to take the reigns on any project, most interns would sign right up. That's the point of the internship. They want to prove themselves.
I remember when I was an intern I would take on any project I could, regardless of scope just because I wanted to prove myself and get experience. That's happening today, too, and it's good. But that can't be the entire strategy. The intern can't go it alone.
It's unfair on the part of the employer to thrust an intern into the social media trenches - alone - to achieve real business objectives.
I think employers - strapped for resources, mostly - take the easy way out with social media by throwing a young, smart, ambitious person into the ring and call it a day.
That said, I'll respond to each of your points:
1. Interns do not live and breathe your brand yet. This isn't to say that interns can't, it's just not likely that they understand the brand culture as well as a veteran on day 1. It takes time that - by nature of being an intern - they haven't spent yet.
2. Interns aren't forever. You're right, it's not the fault of the intern. It's just a fact. Why hinge an important part of your marketing on a temporary piece? And if an intern does stay on for full-time employment, they are no longer an intern … see what I mean?
3. Interns stick too closely to the script. You're probably right on this. But whether they stick too closely to the script or veer too far, it proves the same point: They aren't comfortable enough in the brand skin to act natural and stay on brand. Not their fault but rather the fault of the management team that placed them into the situation in the first place. Don't strand them out there.
4. Experience. I'm not saying they are devoid of experience, but they probably have less marketing experience than veterans at the company. By no means should interns be banned from social media, they should just not be alone.
5. The pressure. Fair enough. I suppose doing this to an intern could give them some trial-by-fire experience that molds and hardens them for the rest of their career. I agree with you there. And I think the truly brave do have an opportunity in this situation, but again, I don't think it's great for the company.
Anyway, that's the spirit of all this!
@AngelaDaffron @ginidietrich Or handle an angry phone call from a customer. Dealing with people is one of the toughest skills to hone. Why have your least experienced person in charge of it?
RIght on, Diane. You wouldn't have an intern be your only representation at a trade show or conference, so why in social media? Thanks for the comment. @DianeRayfield
Though I have to admit that I've met some interns with better sense of grammar than me, you've got a good point. But I think that speaks to another "sin" of social media implementation: lack of quality control. That's a whole different post/rant/whateveryoucall it. Thanks for the comment, Dave. @davenicoll
Exactly, Brandon. Not if you expect to get results. To extend your analogy: if you put an intern on stage you might get a couple "oh that's nice" or "wow, that was good, for an intern" statements, but nothing that will blow anyone away or turn into business (usually). If you're ok with that type of reaction in social, then intern it up. If not? Invest the time of someone higher up in the org chart. Everyone wins. Thanks for the comment.
Thanks for letting us know - I'll pass the message along. @brandonchicago
Amen, my friend. I view it the same I'd view speaking for someone on the phone or at a conference. It's staged. It's not authentic. And it's slightly awkward. The beauty of this medium is that it allows voices that are typically not accessible to be easily accessed. Thanks for the comment, @KenMueller