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Officially calling BS on not hiring interns for social media management

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Hiring for social media roles

Our SocialFish consulting work is all about building capacity internally for organizations to manage the work of social media management. This year, we’ve seen a huge upward trend in associations hiring headcount for social media-related roles, which is a great sign that the industry is moving towards fuller integration of social media (as opposed to the experimentation of the last couple of years). We’ve helped the National Association of Childrens’ Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI), the National Society of Accountants, the Association for Corporate Counsel, and the American Society of Civil Engineers, for example, hire positions from interns to Social Media Directors.

Hire at the right level

One of the things we’ve discovered over the last two years of doing a lot of this hiring help is that we can officially call BS on the idea that you shouldn’t hire an intern to do your social media management work, because here’s the truth… a lot of this work is very administrative. This is true of associations as well as traditional businesses. Monitoring can be very tedious. It’s time-consuming, especially at the beginning. It takes a lot of organization. It takes a lot of time and effort to set up internal processes that make workflow, well, flow. We hear of plenty of executive-level people who just aren’t prepared to do the administrative tasks- which is 95% of social media management. Smart interns will know to use those organizing skills to absorb and learn as much as they can about the inner workings of the business.

The position should ideally sit in between all of your other departments in order to effectively create what we call a “service center.” Whoever is your social media coordinator (or whatever you choose to call the role) has to be able to make it clear that they are there to help other departments – not add work to everyone’s busy plate. One objective of the service center, for example, might be to centralize the flow of good association content from any individual department and connect it to content from other departments according to a smart editorial calendar that will keep the association’s value top of mind to your members without swamping them with spam (because let’s be real, your members consider at least some of your messages to be spam).

We’ve seen enough office politics and silos to know that generally speaking, it’s easier for a lower-level person to make this service center idea clear to everyone than it is for an executive level person to do the same.

The caveat: oversight

Having said that, of course there needs to be strategic oversight too; e.g. an executive level champion for the position, or a direct communication line to the ED or whoever at the top can make sure things are working as they should. The social media activity around the organization will need to be distilled into internal reporting that makes sense, that people will actually read, and that will allow every department to find the best and most strategic uses for their own social communications – based on overall goals. That can only happen in the right way if the social media intern is in regular communication with whoever at the top can help direct his or her activities. Just remember that the actual day-to-day work of social media management is not at the strategic level – it’s at the operational level. A top-level executive managing the organization’s Twitter account is NOT the best use of their hourly rate.

Skills to look for

What we’ve found is that almost every organization just needs “a body” to help them get things organized. A smart, organized, friendly person who is a good communicator. Look for the following skills (for interns, specifically):

  • In terms of educational background, the best candidates we’ve seen are Communications, Marketing, Journalism, or PR majors or graduates. They must have great writing skills, especially for the web (ask for blog posts and other samples) – meaning the ability to write clearly, concisely, and in a personable way.
  • They must have a professional and friendly demeanor – immediately or eventually, they will be handling a lot of your messaging.
  • They must be trustworthy, curious and open – they will be building relationships with your community. They have to be interested and willing to do that.
  • And most importantly, they must have a deep enthusiasm for social media. This includes a willingness to be continuously learning and trying things on their own, and always on the lookout for better ways of managing social media work – even if those suggestions might not be possible at the moment.

Sample job description

Here’s our standard, tweakable job description for an internship position. Feel free to use this! It doesn’t have to be long and complicated – the simpler it is, the more scope you have for hearing the candidate hone in on what he or she is most interested in and capable of.

Love to tweet? Are you a Facebook Fan? Are you LinkedIn? If that’s you and you’re looking for a paid [$15/hour] [summer] internship [40 hours a week, June – August], keep reading. [Org] is looking for a college junior, senior, or grad student majoring in communications, journalism, PR, new media or marketing (interest in association/nonprofit management is helpful, but not required). Assist our marketing and web staff in inventorying and tracking our social media outposts and content. Develop procedures to support our social media policies. Set up training for [org] staff on social media policies and procedures. Develop monitoring/listening procedures and responsibilities. Work with various departments to identify opportunities for us to employ social media and outposts to promote our organization, products and services. Help launch and nurture our private communities. Must have exceptional organizational skills, great writing skills, and, of course, solid social media experience, knowledge, and skills.

For an intern, use your local universities with the relevant graduate degree programs. A word of caution – don’t post the job on Craigslist unless you’re happy to wade through hundreds of resumes, 85% of which will be irrelevant.

Maddie Grant is author of Humanize and When Millennials Take Over, and is Founding Partner at WorkXO, a culture startup that helps forward thinking leaders in growth oriented organizations activate their workplace culture to attract the right talent, increase engagement, and unleash human potential through the Workplace Genome™ Project.

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36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Kami Huyse

    October 27, 2011 at 6:09 am

    To be fair, I think most people have been saying, don't hire an intern to mastermind your social media outreach. However, if you have budget for an extra body, I agree than an intern can be very helpful with the administrative tasks involved. As you say, oversight is a critical component to using interns since they are (by definition) a short-term employee. Continuity requires someone who will stay. So, they should not hire an intern to build and run the program. I stand by that opinion.

  2. Liz Scherer

    October 27, 2011 at 6:26 am

    I agree. And I disagree. I believe that there is inherent value in approaching the mundane administrative work in a strategic fashion. Without the foundation and skills, an intern may founder or even worse, set back the entire effort in a way that it becomes difficult to rebuild. You make some interesting points Maddie but I wonder if you are painting a black and white picture in a very gray space.

  3. Benn Rosales

    October 27, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Hi, Benn with AG here,

    I agree that there is nothing wrong with hiring support personnel in any department (as you state, there must be some champion on some level to support the process) that are interns or even part time summer workers. The problem here, being realistic, <em>at the onset</em>, is that hiring anyone for a term of 90 days is not an effective use of dollars when you consider that that intern will need to retrain someone else for the position if not retained permanently. This can become costly.

    Personally, I'd prefer to see associations (especially) make a stronger commitment to implementing a social strategy, or you get the throwing darts effect. The so called champion utilizing the intern as support for program implementation (that I know of) has never been at issue.

    What has been at issue are dabblers of social media hiring interns as a means to not make an investment in their own program, sharing their ethos via the social web- a cheap way to dip a toe at 1/2 way smiling is not a long term strategy, internally.

    • Maddie Grant

      October 27, 2011 at 3:31 pm

      Agreed, though trust me when the org sees how valuable the work is they usually hire them on permanently. 🙂

  4. Maddie Grant

    October 27, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Thanks Liz and Kami – it may be semantics. However, in the association space there are lots of organizations getting very hung up on not having budget for a social media director-level position – so they do nothing and fall further and further behind. We've placed a lot of interns – most of whom get hired permanently when the orgs see how valuable they are – and those interns made a huge difference simply because they were responsible for getting things organized.

  5. Tinu Abayomi-Paul

    October 27, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    I agree with having a person – intern or not- *manage* your social media administrative work. Don't think there's anything wrong with that OR with having them or a third party you hire tweet on behalf of your company IF – big huge seriously-stop-and-think-about-it IF they build real connections.

    Even as small as my company is, I still need people who will do things like clear out the DMs I don't want. I can't have software do it because there are things I want to keep. I need someone to go make a list of the top 100 blogs in a new area I want to start a niche blog in. I don't have the time.

    I don't think there's a "right" way for any of this stuff, as long as all parties involved have the appropriate level of transparency – IE don't tell me the CEO is tweeting if it's a temp. There are various ways that bring various results and we have to choose based on whether the results we end up with are the results we Want.

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Business Marketing

Bite-sized retail: Macy’s plans to move out of malls

(BUSINESS MARKETING) While Macy’s shares have recently climbed, the department store chain is making a change in regards to big retail shopping malls.

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Macy's retail storefront, which may look different as they scale to smaller stores.

I was recently listening to a podcast on Barstool Sports, and was surprised to hear that their presenting sponsor was Macy’s. This struck me as odd considering the demographic for the show is women in their twenties to thirties, and Macy’s typically doesn’t cater to that crowd. Furthermore, department retail stores are becoming a bit antiquated as is.

The sponsorship made more sense once I learned that Macy’s is restructuring their operation, and now allowing their brand to go the way of the ghost. They feel that while malls will remain in operation, only the best (AKA the malls with the most foot traffic) will stand the test of changes in the shopping experience.

As we’ve seen a gigantic rise this year in online shopping, stores like Macy’s and JC Penney are working hard to keep themselves afloat. There is so much changing in brick and mortar retail that major shifts need to be made.

So, what is Macy’s proposing to do?

The upscale department store chain is going to be testing smaller stores in locations outside of major shopping malls. Bloomingdale’s stores will be doing the same. “We continue to believe that the best malls in the country will thrive,” CEO Jeff Gennette told CNBC analysts. “However, we also know that Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have high potential [off]-mall and in smaller formats.”

While the pandemic assuredly plays a role in this, the need for change came even before the hit in March. Macy’s had announced in February their plans to close 125 stores in the next three years. This is in conjunction with Macy’s expansion of Macy’s Backstage, which offers more affordable options.

Gennette also stated that while those original plans are still in place, Macy’s has been closely monitoring the competition in the event that they need to adjust the store closure timeline. At the end of the second quarter, Macy’s had 771 stores, including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury.

Last week, Macy’s shares climbed 3 percent, after the retailer reported a more narrow loss than originally expected, along with stronger sales due to an uptick in their online business. So they’re already doing well in that regard. But will smaller stores be the change they need to survive?

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Business Marketing

Why you must nix MLM experience from your resume

(BUSINESS MARKETING) MLMs prey on people without much choice, but once you try to switch to something more stable, don’t use the MLM as experience.

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Discussing including MLM experience on a resume.

MLM experience… Is it worth keeping on your resume?

Are you or someone you know looking for a job after a stint in an MLM? Well, first off, congratulations for pursuing a real job that will provide a steady salary! But I also know that transition can be hard. The job market is already tight and if you don’t have much other work experience on your resume, is it worth trying to leverage your MLM experience?

The short answer? Heck no.

As Ask the Manager puts it, there’s a “strong stigma against [MLMs],” meaning your work experience might very well put a bad taste in the mouth of anyone looking through resumes. And looking past the sketchy products many offer, when nearly half of people in MLMs lose money and another quarter barely break even, it sure doesn’t paint you in a good light to be involved.

(Not to mention, many who do turn a profit only do so by recruiting more people, not actually by selling many products.)

“But I wouldn’t say I worked for an MLM,” you or your friend might say, “I was a small business owner!”

It’s a common selling point for MLMs, that often throw around pseudo-feminist feel good slang like “Boss Babe” or a “Momtrepreneur,” to tell women joining that they’re now business women! Except, as you might have guessed, that’s not actually the case, unless by “Boss Babe” you mean “Babe Who Goes Bankrupt or Tries to Bankrupt Her Friends.”

A more accurate title for the job you did at an MLM would be Sales Rep, because you have no stake in the creation of the product, or setting the prices, or any of the myriad of tasks that a real entrepreneur has to face.

Okay, that doesn’t sound nearly as impressive as “small business owner.” And I know it’s tempting to talk up your experience on a resume, but that can fall apart pretty quickly if you can’t actually speak to actual entrepreneur experience. It makes you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about…which is also not a good look for the job hunt.

That said… Depending on your situation, it might be difficult to leave any potential work experience off your resume. I get it. MLMs often target people who don’t have options for other work opportunities – and it’s possible you’re one of the unlucky ones who doesn’t have much else to put on paper.

In this case, you’ll want to do it carefully. Use the sales representative title (or something similar) and, if you’re like the roughly 50% of people who lose money from MLMs, highlight your soft skills. Did you do cold calls? Tailor events to the people who would be attending? Get creative, just make sure to do it within reason.

It’s not ideal to use your MLM experience on a resume, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. Still, congratulations to you, or anyone you know, who has decided to pursue something that will actually help pay the bills.

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Business Marketing

This smart card manages employee spending with ease

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Clever credit cards make it easier for companies to set spending policies and help alleviate expense problems for both them and their employees.

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Spendesk showing off its company credit cards.

Company credit cards are a wonderful solution to managing business expenses. They work almost exactly like debit cards, which we all know how to use, am I right? It is the twenty-first century after all. Simply swipe, dip, or tap, and a transaction is complete.

However, keeping up with invoices and receipts is a nightmare. I know I’ve had my fair share of hunting down wrinkled pieces of paper after organizing work events. Filling out endless expense reports is tedious. Plus, the back and forth communication with the finance team to justify purchases can cause a headache on both ends.

Company credit cards make it easier for companies to keep track of who’s spending money and how much. However, they aren’t able to see final numbers until expense reports are submitted. This makes monitoring spending a challenge. Also, reviewing all the paperwork to reimburse employees is time-consuming.

But Spendesk is here to combat those downsides! This all-in-one corporate expense and spend management service provides a promising alternative to internal management. The French startup “combines spend approvals, company cards, and automated accounting into one refreshingly easy spend management solution.”

Their clever company cards are what companies and employees have all been waiting for! With increasing remote workforces, this new form of payment comes at just the right moment to help companies simplify their expenditures.

These smart cards remove limitations regular company cards have today. Spendesk’s employee debit cards offer companies options to monitor budgets, customize settings, and set specific authorizations. For instance, companies can set predefined budgets and spending category limitations on flights, hotels, restaurants, etc. Then they don’t have to worry about an employee taking advantage of their card by booking a first-class flight or eating at a high-end steakhouse.

All transactions are tracked in real time so finance and accounting can see purchases right as they happen. Increasing visibility is important, especially when your employee is working remotely.

And for employees, this new form of payment is more convenient and easier on the pocket. “These are smart employee company cards with built-in spending policies. Employees can pay for business expenses when they need to without ever having to spend their own money,” the company demonstrated in a company video.

Not having to dip into your checking account is a plus in my book! And for remote employees who just need to make a single purchase, Spendesk has single-use virtual debit cards, too.

Now, that’s a smart card!

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