Is Hiring a Social Media Intern for Your Small Business the Best Idea Ever, or the Worst?

I always like to ask people what frustrates them about blogging and social media, and usually, they say the same thing.

It isn’t that they don’t like writing blog posts about their business.

It isn’t that they don’t love spending time interacting directly with fans and followers!

It’s that they hate, hate, HATE all the busy work.

And who can blame them? Busy work is awful. (I mean, that’s why they call it “busy work,” ya know?) But unless you just so happen to have someone willing to format your blog posts, create graphics and images, schedule your social media updates, and do all the other busy work that comes with social self promotion, you’re stuck doing it yourself.

Hiring a Social Media Intern

Wait…wait a second! That’s actually a GREAT idea! You SHOULD just so happen to have someone willing to do all that stuff!

In fact, finding someone to do this stuff is SUPER easy. (And it can be super inside-your-budget, too.)

Hiring an intern to handle your social media can make your marketing way more efficient (and way LESS annoying).

I know that the word “intern” can seem a little intimidating. Like you’re adopting a puppy, and all of a sudden, you’re responsible for this little creature that is both rewarding and an immense burden. (Though a good intern doesn’t lick your face or eat your shoes.)

But really, that’s not true at all. A smart, capable intern doesn’t really require any more oversight than an actual full employee. It’s just up to you to know what to do with them – and what NOT to do with them!

interns are not puppies!

So, how do you survive bringing an intern into the mix and trusting them with your social media?

1. Have a Plan for What You Want Your Intern to Do

There’s a big difference between the reasons you want an intern and the things you actually want them to do.

You might want an intern so that you spend less time on menial tasks, or so you have a person who can handle small assignments like data collection that you don’t really have time for.

But those aren’t job descriptions! Ask yourself what specific tasks you would want an intern to take on – and don’t say, “Uh, stuff.”

What processes are currently eating up your time – things that you could teach someone else to do for you? What’s your day-to-day schedule like? What specific task or process feels like a timesuck?

Answer those questions and write down everything you think of. Your goal? Create a list of the things you’re currently doing that someone else could do for you – a real, detailed list. When you map it out and put it on paper, you take the first step toward turning an idea in your head into a reality!

(And one more tip – write down EVERYTHING. You won’t necessarily want or need an intern that can actually do all of these things, but you can’t prioritize job duties until you know what all of the potential choices are.)

2. Don’t Give an Intern the Keys to the Castle

Hey, I get it – trusting someone else with your business is SCARY.

Your business is your baby, and you wouldn’t trust your baby with just anyone!

Fortunately, you don’t have to. Protect yourself and your business by giving only as much freedom as you feel comfortable with.

For example, we’re talking about social media right now, right? Say you hire a social media intern – you might not feel comfortable trusting them to actually write your company’s social media updates. (Especially not at first, when they’re just getting to know your mission, your voice, and all that fun stuff.)

So while YOU may still do all of the actual creative work, your intern can take over the other tasks that come with it later on – loading your updates into a scheduling tool, for example.

The same goes for blogging – you may find it best to go on writing all of your own blog posts, but you could task someone ELSE with doing things like creating images, formatting for WordPress, scheduling, and so on. (Not convinced you need someone to do all that stuff? Try tracking your time for a week – you might change your mind.)

This is one of the reasons it’s so useful to create that list of potential tasks for an intern – it allows you to determine exactly what you feel comfortable handing off, and which things you’d rather take care of yourself for the sake of managing your brand. Remember – on the Internet, a single screwup can do a TON of damage, so don’t relinquish more control than you’re comfortable with!

3. Give Clear Instructions

An intern needs clear, actionable directions

It’s easy to take for granted how much you just know about your own business.

You know what needs to get accomplished on a daily basis. You know what your own responsibilities are. It’s all as routine as brushing your teeth, or tying your shoes – NBD, right?

But to someone who doesn’t know your business inside and out, it’s nowhere near that simple! An intern needs clear, actionable directions – do NOT force anyone to resort to guesswork.

For example, whether or not someone has ever worked as a professional blogger before, they don’t know how you like your posts to be formatted until you tell them. When they “clock in” for the day, they don’t just know what’s expected of them unless they’re told. And if you aren’t giving them instructions, you’re leaving them no choice but to just make it up as they go along – and that’s not even close to being a good idea.

So what do you do? You draw up instructions on everything you expect an intern to do – EVERYTHING. Having it documented takes a little more work on your part up front, but ultimately saves you the time and effort of having to explain things over and over (and over, and over).

This is one of those times that a centralized info hub like Confluence comes in super duper handy – you can point anyone toward the instructions they need, whenever they need them! Here, for example, we document everything in super-specific, totally foolproof step-by-step guides, so somebody can come in with pretty much zero knowledge of our processes and learn how to do things to our standards.

 We document every process, so virtually anyone on the team can follow the instructions.

We document every process, so virtually anyone on the team can follow the instructions.

Does it take time? Sure – but it beats explaining everything again and again, and it REALLY beats things getting done the wrong way. (It’s also perfect for interns, who typically work on a short contract basis.)

And One Last Thing…

Remember when I said that hiring an intern isn’t quite like adopting a puppy? Well, there’s one way in which it is – it requires a LOT of responsibility.

Responsibility isn’t just a matter of protecting your business, either – it’s a matter of doing right by the people who help you make that business a success. And when it comes to interns, this can be an easy thing to forget.

There are plenty of benefits to hiring an intern as opposed to hiring a regular employee, but free, no-questions-asked labor is NOT part of the deal.

I always pay the interns who work for LKR – I typically hire one at a time, and they work just a couple hours a day on a several-month contract. If you don’t want to pay your interns like that, there are restrictions on what they can do for your company and TONS of legalese to deal with, so make sure you study up before you place a single ad.

Either way, you’ll find that hiring an intern to help manage your company’s social media can take a massive load off of your shoulders, and free up all kinds of time for tackling the projects only you can handle.

Got an intern story to share (either as a business owner or as an intern yourself)? Tips for finding the best person for the job? Even a horror story or two? Go on and share in the comments below!

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About Laura Roeder

Laura Roeder is a social media marketing expert who gives businesses of all sizes the tools they need to make their mark on the web. She is the creator of the social media scheduling software Edgar, as well as social media marketing web courses like Creating Fame and Social Brilliant.

Comments

  1. Small biz attorney says:

    Key points to consider: your state’s (and city’s) minimum wage laws. Unpaid interns are a big no-no unless you carefully craft your unpaid internship program. Also, a lot of business owners classify their interns as independent contractors when in actual practice the intern is an employee

  2. Done right internships (both paid and unpaid) can be legally sound and mutually beneficial. I’ve been teaching small businesses and solo entrepreneurs to create internship programs that are profitable and good for everyone involved for 6+ years. I find there are some common questions and “myths” like I can’t offer an unpaid internship it’s illegal OR I have nothing to offer an intern OR I don’t have the time to run an internship program but, the truth is, like everything else, it’s easy when you know how. To help, I created a free special course to walk businesses through some of the decisions they will need to make. You can check it out at getfreehelpwithinterns.com