By Nick Guarracino I didn’t think so.
In fact, it probably wouldn’t even cross your mind. Yet, I continually see companies treating their social media marketing budget like the proverbial redheaded stepchild, entrusting what is arguably their most important media channel to some of the least qualified people in the organization. Not only short-sighted, it can be a downright dangerous practice, as you will see later in this post. Lets be clear, I’m not belittling hardworking interns, but ask yourself: Would you hand them your marketing budget to update your product packaging or come up with your new national ad campaign?
I’m not arguing the value of spending on a great TV spot for a brand, but I guarantee you those brands are trusting a clever team of professional (and expensive) creatives at a reputable agency to put that spot together. Even then, after all that work, most people will skip past the ad on their DVR, or have their faces buried in their second screen while that costly spot is airing. And where are all those eyeballs focused instead? Social media.
A Captive Audience
We’ve seen explosive growth in social over the past decade. We have metric after metric that proves consumers are spending greater chunks of their day in their social feeds, even getting their news from these platforms. Social networks are the primary form of communication between consumers and products. So where’s the disconnect for brands? Why aren't marketing budgets reflecting this social shift? Why do so many brands undervalue the most personal and targeted marketing channel in the history of communication?
The Perception of Social Value
For many traditional marketers, social media marketing still doesn't add up. That's because nothing about social media marketing is traditional.
It’s selling without over-selling. It’s branding without over-branding. It’s converting comments into conversations into loyalists into purchases. And most of all, it’s data, data, data. These are specialized skills--and not the kind of work that most interns are qualified to do. Agencies with dedicated specialists in social marketing know how to manage that delicate balance, how to mine data, and how to keep up with the ever-changing social landscape.
But Where’s the ROI?
I cant tell you how often I hear that question. Again, we’re not talking about traditional marketing, and therefore cannot measure its value in traditional terms. We’re building personal bonds with our consumers, one by one, that will make long term advocates for a brand.
Having a strong social strategy is key to connecting with savvy modern consumers who are jaded by traditional media channels. Agencies understand that every word and image you share with your fans is designed to elicit a response--nothing is left to chance.
Content is Advertising, Advertising is Content
The line between the two has been blurred, and smart social marketers have learned to use that fuzzy area to both enhance brand loyalty and increase sales.
In social media, eyeballs = dollars. If someone is on your page and interacting with your brand, you have a unique opportunity to engage them and solidify your relationship with that consumer, who will in turn share that with their friends, all in a very intimate dialog that no TV spot in the world can emulate. A professional agency will utilize all the digital tools and creative skills in its arsenal to build on this relationship click by click.
Best case scenario is your interns do a decent job communicating with your fans, answering questions, being pleasant and non-offensive.
Worst case? Some brands have learned the hard way. All it takes is one slip of the keyboard and you’re toast. Why would any brand risk that? Here are just a handful of examples of just how wrong this can go for brands:
- Syracuse University has violated NCAA rules more than once.
- Got a disgruntled employee? Let them run your social feed! HMV learned how beneficial that can be.
- Nokia dropped the “F” bomb in a tweet. Yes, it was a mistake and the brand had a sense of humor about it, but how did it happen in the first place?
Every day there are twice as many messages bombarding us as there were the day before. How do you get your message out in this sea of noise? It’s not a job for the untrained. It’s a lot of hard work, data mining, and research, but agencies that create quality content and unique campaigns know how to rise above the clutter and put the spotlight on the brand. They bring a team of dedicated professionals who live and breathe digital marketing strategies, all ready to put their efforts into making your brand stand out in the crowd, in much the same way your other agency partners are working on your ad campaign or that great, new TV commercial.
You don’t need to have a million bucks to do social right. But even a smaller budget trusted to a dedicated agency is a smart bet. Agencies know how to identify the right social strategies for your budget and demographics.
Interns are temporary. Agencies create guidelines and train their community managers on continuity and tone of voice so your consumers get a fluid experience regardless of which team member is monitoring the feed. Sure, it costs more than your interns, but the professionalism and security it provides make it money well spent.
The bottom line: Social media marketing is a specialized skill best left in the hands of professionals for optimal results. Your intern may have an Instagram account, but that doesn't make him a photographer. If he had a calculator, would you make him your accountant?
What has been your experience with interns in social media?