Social Media is Not a Job

My fellow tweep and colleague at The SMB Collective, Michelle Quillin, tagged me in a blog post of hers recently. That blog post and a series of others was oriented to social media as a vocation for an intern. In particular, the topic of the post I commented on addressed “what hard-hitting questions would you ask a social media intern?”

What gave me pause was not the questions but the “social media intern” piece. Social media is not a vocation in and of itself. There’s been a bunch of discussion on this very topic, and I’m in the camp of consensus over “social media skills come from expertise derived from public relations and/or marketing.”

I’d never hire an intern to do social media at the outset, and here’s why:

  • Those who are engaging in social media and doing it “well” should have ~two years under their belt. I know for a fact that interns/recent grads may be awesome at texting and Facebooking to friends, but will have little strategy expertise to complement that.
  • Social media skills go hand in hand with public relations and marketing. We in public relations boast heavy expertise on content development and the strategy that goes into that message creation. No intern has that skill set without years of experience.
  • Prior to launching any social media exercise, I step back with a company to ensure a messaging framework is developed, approved, current, and in use. I do message mapping, and I’ve written on this topic in the past here. Tweets, Facebook content and LinkedIn groups need to push messaging that align with corporate communications strategy.
  • Writing skills are rarely taught in school; you’re either gifted and teachable, or these skills come with years of nothing but writing all day. There’s a need for writers out here, and often young people suffer without that skill. Being clever on tweets and Facebook posts (not to mention blogging) is something that builds with time. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. are also musts; because the texting generation is upon us, the lack of quality control in these areas is palpable (I’ve seen it).
  • I appreciate the knowledge a young person brings in areas I haven’t mined i.e. new social media apps, widgets, plug ins, platforms, sites, etc. etc. While it’s good to know about additional channels to piece into a larger strategy, a seasoned practitioner must synch the elements into place.

Is there a recent graduate who knows PHP and WordPress or other content management systems for websites? Now that’s where I’d hire someone on the spot; follow the money, kids!