Who should handle social media work?

Take care who handles your social media work (courtesy _Nezemnaya_ on Flickr CC)Some food for thought:

One of the most retweeted items from the May 2010 PRSA Travel and Tourism conference in Aspen, Colorado was this tweet from @CoTravelGirl:

“One of the most frequent phrase[s] at #travelprsa: ‘Don’t give your social media program to your intern.'”

And yet, one young person who excels in Web communication for a city government tweeted in response:

“unless the youngest person is the best for the job…”

So, you don’t give social media responsibilities to the young person except when you should give them to the young person.

Bottom line: your organization’s best Web communicator may not be the person you expect, but if you want an effective presence in social media, you must be willing to train and use the right individual for the job.

Also ask this harsh question: if your marketing and communications person can’t handle the social Web, what does that mean for your organization, and for that person’s career?

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11 Responses to Who should handle social media work?

  1. One thing that I want to point out is that leaving it to an intern shouldn’t be a debate on if the company should leave their SM implementation to a young person or to an older person. Instead the debate should be about leaving your company’s voice and face to a person who is passing through, or to an employee that understands the heart of the company and is committed to the long term vision. That person may be an intern, but it probably isn’t. There are no ages exposed in fonts.
    .-= Wesley Faulkner´s last [post] ..Patrick Boivin does some amazing work. Check out his demo reel. =-.

  2. @CoTravelGirl says:

    Great points! Among the perils of live-tweeting a conference is the loss of nuance in pursuit of a 140-character soundbite. What I HOPE our colleagues were inferring about interns and social media is that a brand participating in social media needs a strategy, which is usually is going to be driven by someone with more senior experience. Simply knowing the mechanics of Twitter doesn’t mean someone knows how to build a brand voice, and apply that (or any social media channel) to a larger business objective. Too many companies jump in without a plan or strategy, hand it to someone with technical skills (IE, The Intern), and then are surprised when they don’t get an outcome they were expecting. I have rockstar interns, but would never expect them to be ready to build a strategy for national brands at this point in their career. And to your point, senior folks also aren’t going to be able to build a strategy if they haven’t experienced the specifics of how Twitter (or any network) is really used.

  3. @ergonomixpr says:

    I think the argument between an intern and a young hire can be settled with the investment that person has with the company. An intern is typically transient and would not be the most likely person to delegate to. However, a young hire that is invested in the company can specialize and really provide that human capacity in the stretch of technological filters and outlets.

  4. Sarah Rasmussen says:

    I’ve had the same experience and have talked with a number of colleagues who have also seen this first hand. Assuming that it’s the “young folks” who should be performing a company’s social media is an approach that won’t get you very far. Like you say, Angela, just because interns or entry-level employees understand the mechanics of Twitter/Facebook/choose-your-SM-poison does not mean that they understand the strategy behind developing a successful business-oriented SM program in conjunction with more traditional outreach. I’ve talked to a number of colleagues, both in social media and public relations, and we’ve all had the same experiences. It seems to be a challenge to find young professionals (2 to 5 years of experience) who understand how to use social media in a strategic fashion for an business/organization.

    And, just as you’ve both said, more senior professionals do need to understand how social networks work in order to smartly include them in their outreach efforts.

  5. Wesley,

    You nail it, as usual. “Long-term vision” and skin in the game. Plus, I love “There are no ages exposed in fonts.”

  6. Hi CoTravelGirl,

    Absolutely do not mean to quote your tweet out of context, certainly, but I’ve grown so tired of hearing perfectly intelligent people say, “I’m too old for all that” when they are professional communicators!!! Aargh. I’m 49. Give me a break.

    And oh, yes, STRATEGY. Integration with the rest of your work. Duh. 🙂

  7. Hi @ergonomixpr – thanks very much for your thoughts. Yep, just as Wesley said in his comment – “investment with the company.” Skin in the game.

    Hi Sarah – I appreciate your visit to the blog! It takes training for the entire organization; less experienced folks need to learn the Big Picture, and more experienced folks need to learn to grab these tools by the scruff of the neck and not be intimidated.

  8. Sarah Rasmussen says:

    Hi, Sheila! Thanks for the welcome. I think this is really an interesting topic, and I’ve heard it raised in lots of circles lately. I wholeheartedly agree with your summary of what both groups need to do. Thanks for your smart assessment of the issue!
    .-= Sarah Rasmussen´s last [post] ..MGA is Hiring! =-.

  9. Pingback: Tweets that mention Who should handle social media work? | Sheila's Guide To The Good Stuff -- Topsy.com

  10. Donna Hull says:

    It’s not a matter of age but a matter of capabilities. I know 70-year-olds who are great on twitter and 20 somethings who are not. I also agree with CoTravelGirl that a brand needs a strategy. Don’t turn an employee loose on twitter, or other social media (no matter the age) without some guidance. In the end, choose the person who is best at being social, using a written format such as twitter or Facebook.
    .-= Donna Hull´s last [post] ..And the Winner of the WikiReader is… =-.

  11. In my PRSA presentation, I told people to “Treat social media seriously: Don’t pawn off to youngestmember of team.” I stuck that in there because I have seen some missed opportunities happen because of it.

    In one instance, a newly hired social media manager for a major airline told bloggers on a press trip, “I only got this job because I’m young.” She then proceeded to ignore people during the trip when they pointed out obvious opportunities for her.

    On that same trip, a young employee with an international tourism board told us all proudly that “her tweets are private.” This, when her job description is online media manager!

    As people have pointed out above, social media needs to be part of a strategy – and when you are in travel, where conversations are already happening online about destinations and properties, that’s even more important.
    .-= Chris Gray Faust´s last [post] ..The PR/Blogger Relationship, cont’: Notes from PRSA =-.

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