Would You Let an Intern Plan a Major Event?

Let’s say you had a huge event coming up. Maybe it is a new product launch. Or maybe it’s a presentation by the company’s CEO to a group of Wall Street analysts. Would you turn the whole thing over to a summer intern? Would you let them plan the event, pull together all the applicable research, create the presentations and coordinate deliverables from various departments?

I am guessing you are thinking a flat NO. And, that’s exactly what you should be thinking.

Why is it then that companies let interns handle their social influence marketing?

More often than not I think it has to do with a generational gap in the thinking of marketing leadership. A department head who is out of touch with the rapidly changing world of marketing thinks — my daughter spends all day on Facebook — and that becomes the company’s social media strategy.

In early 2009, Pizza Hut launched its Twitter page and immediately posted a position for a “twitern” to run their social media efforts. It has been famously mentioned in books, articles and blogs as a perfect example of a potential marketing disaster. Thankfully, Alexa Robinson, the 22 year old intern hired to tweet Pizza Hut offers did a pretty good job. But other “twinterns” haven’t been so lucky. A twittering intern for Habitat, a home-furnishings retailer in the U.K., decided to use misleading tweets as the primary strategy for attracting followers. He used words that were being searched in relation to ongoing protests in Iran, such as #iran and #mousavi, as a means to get people who had been searching for information about the protests to the Habitat page and website. Habitat apologized, vowed to do a better job with their social marketing, and who knows what happened to the intern.

In most cases the people who are handling a company’s tweets and social marketing are doing so with little, if any supervision. And a great many of them are interns or kids fresh out of college who don’t even know the business or services they are supposed to be tweeting about. Gini Dietrich, who runs a Chicago public relations firm, says, “There’s a general perception that young people are the masters of all things social media. By letting an intern determine [social media strategy], you’re putting your brand and reputation in the hands of someone who has no experience…[and who has] been using social media in a personal, not business [way].”

Sounds rather scary, yet company’s continue to hand over the reigns of social media marketing to inexperienced interns without even considering the potential pitfalls. It’s like giving an unchecked megaphone to a perfect stranger and allowing them to be the voice of the company.

You wouldn’t let an intern plan a major company event. Don’t let them run your social media strategy.

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