5 things to consider before hiring a student to ‘do’ social media

Have you noticed that your competitors are ‘all over’ social media?

It’s only natural to fear missing out, especially if your social media presence is unloved or out of date. The truth is that, for a lot of small business owners, social media isn’t something that comes naturally.

You may have had the training and tried to discipline yourself to keep it up to date only for something to ‘come up’ that results in you not logging in for months.

Maybe you’ve passed it over to one of your team only to find yourself chasing it at the end of every monthly progress meeting.

Perhaps you’ve talked to an agency that sounded promising but their fees blew any chance of a return on investment (ROI) out of the water.

So why not get college or university student to do it for you? After all, social media is for the young ones right?

The glamorous world of influencers and lifestyle bloggers has undoubtedly had an impact on the ambitions of undergraduates. This has created a surge in keen young marketers looking to gain work experience and placements in social media.

You might find the perfect candidate. A young person with their head screwed on, who’s passionate and knows way more about all of this than you.

Great! But before you go handing over your login credentials there are a few things you should consider.

1. Do you have the time to guide and train them?

If you’re taking on a work placement or hiring a junior member of the team, they are joining you to learn directly about work and the work environment through watching and learning.

It would be unwise and unfair to expect them to ‘hit the ground running’ and revolutionise your social channels. Even if they’re more than willing to do so!

Whilst they might understand how social media works, they won’t know how your business works. You’ll need to undertake the same onboarding process that you do for all new employees.

They’ll look to you for instruction, critique and confirmation. You’ll need to provide them with a brief and a set of goals so that you both know what’s expected and how it needs to be delivered.

You don’t need to be a social media guru if you know what is possible and what you want to achieve.

2. Do you know what you want to achieve?

If you don’t know what you want out of social media, how can your new employee be expected to succeed?

A successful digital marketing campaign is very often multi-faceted. Put simply, social media, when used well, supports the rest of your marketing efforts. This ‘marketing mix’ should be made up entirely of methods solely intended to deliver what you want to achieve.

For example, if you’re looking to generate sales or leads, you may consider paid advertising. If you want to establish trust and credibility you might choose to create content that positions your business as an industry expert or thought leader.

Social media offers you the opportunity to adopt a consultative approach to selling through direct engagement with your customers. It’s more than just a platform to share content, it’s about creating or contributing to a community.

3. Do you trust them with your customers?

If you agree that social media is about engagement, you’ll also agree that the person monitoring and responding to potential customers is essentially a brand representative.

You know your business better than anyone. If you’re entrusting your social media channels to someone else, it’s important that the person understands your business well.

They’ll need to be able to handle customer enquiries, provide advice on your products and/or services and correspond in a manner that is in keeping with your business’ ‘tone of voice’.

Encouraging engagement and contributing to an online community is a skill that is best learned through practice.

4. Are you willing to let them make mistakes?

Even if you know what you want to achieve and you’re confident that your new employee is capable of delivering, it’s still unrealistic to expect immediate results.

What they lack in experience should be made up in willingness to persevere and learn. The only way to learn is through trial and error. With experience comes consistency and success.

You can start them off by letting them know about your customers.

Ask your new employee to think about what your customers are looking for and to create content that will provide them with value (.i.e content that answers a commonly asked question, provides a resource that helps your customers make informed decisions or inspires them to action).

By offering valuable content instead of just asking for sales or leads you are more likely to see engagement. More engagement results in a stronger community and more credibility for your offering.

5. Followers don’t automatically mean results

Followers, likes, subscribes and mentions might seem like a good way to measure success, but the truth is that they can be misleading.

That’s not to say that growing your audience shouldn’t be one of your key performance indicators (KPI). It just means that it’s not always a reliable way to judge your return on investment.

A social media campaign, like any marketing campaign, should be targeted (i.e. you know you want to engage with). Some campaigns may be ‘laser focused’, to appeal directly with a specific group of people. Others may reach to a wider audience.

It’s important to consider the type of following you are looking to create. If you have a small following of customers that regularly engage with you, it is ultimately far more valuable than a large following of vaguely interested users.

In Summary

Social media is a public-facing media that many of your customers are using. You don’t have to manage the channels personally but, as the business owner, you need to be aware that the person that does is influencing those that engage with your brand.

There’s nothing wrong with taking on work experience, a placement student or a junior marketer. The low starting salaries and the opportunity for an employee to develop into a skilled member of your team may suit the needs of your business perfectly. But you do need to recognise that your responsibilities don’t end with their employment.

If you know what you’re looking to achieve, have a plan for how you’re going to achieve it then you’re well placed to give it a go. Just remember that by employing someone without any experience, you’re committing yourself for the long haul.

You need to be willing to give them your time and direction, help them to learn and allow them to experiment with new ideas. If you leave them to their own devices, it’s likely to result in frustration from both sides.