Why you don’t want to give the intern control of your social media

Every fall, we on the communication faculty get to hear the stories of our students who have done summer internships. They go to all different kinds of media outlets and do all different kinds of things. One thing that we hear very commonly is that they are asked to maintain the social media accounts. This is a bad idea, and here’s why:

They don’t know your business. When they walk off of campus and in your door, they are newbies to exactly what it is that you do. This makes it tough for them to use judgement to tell accurate stories about you.

They don’t know your values. There’s a big, big gulf between the campus world and the “real world” we threaten our students with. If you’ve ever managed a new graduate hire, you know what I mean. It takes time (my opinion – a year) to really suss out exactly what an organization is about internally and as it faces its publics. Even if they tell the truth, it may not be the way you would want it told.

They don’t know your people. Stories that ring true come from people in the trenches. Best if they can tell the stories themselves. If they can’t, you need to have someone working with them who has enough rapport to get the real story. That’s probably not the intern.

They don’t know social media as well as you think they do. It’s natural to think that the digital generation gets the new technology better than their Gen. X managers do. They do in some ways – they are good at giving information in short bursts and figuring out what is amusing to their friends. However, unless all your audiences are a whole lot like their friends (your clients, employees, regulators, suppliers, etc.), they’ll make assumptions that just won’t hold up. One common one is that I can have “work Twitter” and “me Twitter” and as long as “me Twitter” has privacy control, we’re good. Or everyone will know that “me Twitter” isn’t me when I’m working. It’s a very different idea of privacy from what you and your audiences may think, and it can come back to bite you in some serious ways. 


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