Social media is becoming an increasingly powerful tool for business. If you’re looking for new ways to market your products or services or draw in new customers, taking advantage of the benefits of social media could make all the difference when it comes to staying ahead of your competitors. But what’s the best way to do it? For many businesses, hiring an individual or organisation to manage their social media is the best way to go.
But is it for everyone?
For the financially-conscious business, hiring a social media intern might seem like the obvious choice. Affordable and low-commitment, interns can offer short-term social media work at a low cost – and there are always young people looking for placements.
But what should business owners consider before hiring a social media intern? What are the pros and cons?
Why businesses use social media interns
So what makes businesses consider hiring a social media intern? The primary motivation is often financial – interns are cheap, as they are unqualified and looking for experience in social media marketing.
Many student interns will progress to enter the social media profession, as it is an emerging job market suited to the young person of today. This person tends to be very much au fait with online technology and social media.
Hiring young students undoubtedly reduces outgoings on salaries. The wage of a social media apprentice may seem negligible when compared with hiring a full-time, permanent staff member, and if you account only for the short-term impact, this may indeed seem like a smart investment.
One of the most common circumstances for hiring a social media intern is to assist an existing marketing team during a, particularly busy period. If, for example, you are a surf school that experiences a massive surge in interest approaching the summer, hiring a university student from May until September to do some extra social media posting and engagement is a great way to take the load off your main employees so that they can focus on long-term strategy and other more serious tasks.
The limitations of a social media intern
However, there are various limitations that businesses should consider before committing to hiring a social media intern.
The obvious drawback is that social media interns are usually young individuals at the very beginning of their careers. Because of their lack of formal training and industry experience, social media interns are usually unskilled. This means that they will require a lot of guidance and training to be able to understand and handle your social media plan effectively. If you want to hire someone to take on your social media strategy who you can trust to simply get on with the job independently and provide great results, a social media intern probably isn’t the right choice.
Interns require a great deal of hands-on management, and this means another employee taking time from the important tasks they’re paid to do to assist your social media assistant. When you factor this additional wage into the equation, and the hit that this mentoring time will take on their ability to execute revenue-creating tasks of their own, the financial argument for a social media intern doesn’t seem so compelling.
If you hire an intern for the summer, they will more than likely have to return to university come September, or will move on to a paid role after just a few months. This is fine if you’re looking for an additional helping hand to support your existing social media manager, but not if the intern will be taking the sole lead on your social media strategy. At the end of the internship, all of the time you invested in that individual may have been in vain if your social media intern leaves. You may then have to repeat the process and train another individual through the same intricacies of tone of voice, USPs and brand guidelines all over again.
Whilst some social media interns will be smart, proactive and autonomous, it is vital to remember that the majority are unskilled candidates without background experience in business. Gaining a modest following on your personal Instagram account is very different from creating a profitable social media plan for a business. To succeed in the latter, the candidate must understand how to foster brand awareness, fulfil SEO requirements, encourage customer engagement and ultimately, be able to create conversions off your site.
And perhaps most importantly, they need to be able to write. Think about it – would you let someone just out of school with no qualifications in English write your company brochure? No, so why let them loose on your social media?
The bottom line is, if you’re simply looking for someone to keep your social media posting ‘ticking over’, without any significant growth in return on investment, an intern is a perfectly viable choice. But if you want to maximise the potential of social media for brand awareness, content marketing and enquiries, it is usually better to hire an individual with industry knowledge and marketing skills to sit at the helm of your social media.
What are the other options?
Social media interns might seem like a cheap option. However, when you consider the revenue a skilled employee or experienced agency could create, the additional costs of hiring an intern far outweigh the benefits. If you want your social media strategy to be future-proof beyond the next few weeks, it is worth taking into consideration the other options available when looking for a social media provision.
A social media manager
For many companies, hiring a social media manager may be a more sensible alternative. An employee with previous experience in social media marketing for businesses is more likely to formulate and execute an effective long term social media strategy. Through working closely with your team every day, they will gain a greater understanding of your business ethos and aims. Plus, the training you put into the role will not go to waste, as the employee is more likely stay with the company and develop their role over several years.
However, this is an expensive option. The salary for an experienced and skilled social media manager will likely cost your business anywhere from £28,000 per year, and this is quite a committing figure for an employed member of staff – if your budget reduces or social media platforms change their algorithm, restricting success, there is no way of being flexible with the amount of money you are spending on social media, because you are employing a full-time member of staff.
Outsourcing freelance social media management
As more and more businesses are discovering every year, outsourcing social media management to an experienced agency is one of the best options on the current market. Although putting your business in the hands of an out-of-house team might seem intimidating, it shouldn’t be. Social media marketing agencies have a plethora of experience creating solid, profitable social media strategies for a whole host of businesses across many industries. They have the right pieces of software at their disposal and can become as accustomed to your business goals as any in-house social media manager.
Social media agencies also have significantly more experience than a single employee could ever offer. Outsourcing to an agency means you get a whole team of people working on your social media, all with different skills and expertise. You will have writers, proofreaders and editors (with English degrees) writing your posts, alongside professionals with years of experience in SEO and marketing. They will be on the pulse with the latest developments in social media strategy, and will be able to leverage their experience to create a tailored social media plan for your business.
Agencies are more results-focused than in-house teams because the success of their own business relies upon the success of yours. Out-sourcing your social media also means you can be more flexible, choosing packages based on your budget and goals.
Besides the benefits in terms of skills, outsourcing your social media is actually the most financially sensible approach. You won’t have a salary to pay, meaning significantly lower outgoings to maintain the same (or better) results. You also won’t have to pay for all of the expensive tools and software an in-house social media manager would need, because expert agencies also have all the design software, content distribution applications and analytics tools to get the job done.
One of the most important benefits of outsourcing your social media to an agency is the consistency they provide. No longer will you have to worry about no social media posts going out because your intern or employee was ill that day. With a team of professionals at your disposal, your strategy will be optimised at all times.