On: December 1, 2011
You hear this a lot from businesses struggling with social media: “We put up a Facebook page and a Twitter feed and let the co-op student run it. But it didn’t really go anywhere.”
The argument, such as it is, is that co-op students are young, and young people get social media. Therefore a young person is best equipped to manage a corporate, government or not-for-profit social media presence.
Young people talk on the phone a lot, so should we let them take over all the contact centers too? Hell, might as well have the co-op students run Finance and Legal. Everyone else can go play golf.
Now, it is true that young people are heavy users of social media. But let’s not confuse using social media with managing an ongoing multichannel program.
There are no technical barriers to setting up a social media presence in places like Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Anyone can do it with a few clicks of a mouse.
The challenge in managing a social media program is fostering an engagement level that helps the organization achieve business goals, like selling more product or building a brand.
That means ongoing monitoring and analysis, content plans, editorial policies and, perhaps most importantly, mechanisms to feed social comments, sales leads or competitive insights into the organization so they can be acted upon and leveraged.
Social media can be a complicated business. It is a rapidly growing way for people to interact with the brands that matter to them. Today social media is not just about marketing or PR, it is about customer service, market research, sales and much more.
The social stream never stops.
Done well, it can help an organization achieve its goals. Done poorly – without strategy and consistency – it can harm a business in a variety of insidious ways.
So are you really going to hand the keys to your social media car to the co-op student?
All this is not to say a co-op student couldn’t be a valuable member of a social media team, of course they could. They’ve grown up in the age of social media and they may have lots to offer.
But social media is no longer a “nice to do” for most organizations. It is a mandatory. It requires real resources and real commitment.
You need to do it right.