Who’s managing your company’s social media?

S/he’s under the age of 25— so she must be a social media expert.

Social media is like the stepper machine at the gym. It’s always moving and hard to keep up with; however, if you build a fitness plan, you’ll be in good physical shape. Social media has evolved to become an essential tool in an organization’s marketing ensemble, and in their efforts to keep up with the commitment, more college students are being hired to manage social media who have no formal education in the subject. The mentality, “the intern can do it,” can be a dangerous mindset.

“You’d never give the intern permission to write the corporate press release to accompany an earnings announcement, so why are you listening to the 22-year-old who says ‘we’re going to do this social media thing because it’s cool,’” said Peter Shankman, founder of Help A Reporter Out and CEO of The Geek Factory, Inc., in his well-known blog. “Social media is not ‘cool.’ Making money is cool. Social media is simply another arrow in the quiver of marketing, and that quiver is designed to generate revenue.”

Yes, social media outreach requires a carefully designed plan, and a unique skill set to fulfill the plan.

What’s Your Approach?

Whether a company handles socially media internally or utilizes an agency, evok CEO (@evoklarry), Larry Meador, echoes the importance of establishing an organization’s social media objectives as well as using experienced and dedicated staff to fulfill it. “From the positioning and tone to the content and tools, companies must utilize top talent to develop a strategic plan and manage their outreach to customers. We see the difference daily.”

In fact, Meador has long advocated for the brands his agency represents to humanize themselves, no matter the media channel. “There is a deeper bond when you identify a personality for the brand and speak in the first person. The connections are that much more meaningful and authentic,” continued Meador. And it’s no different for his very own, evok brand. Blogads.com just reviewed the most-followed ad agency Twitter accounts that tweet in the first person or the third person, and evok topped the “I” category by leaps and bounds with the most followers (more than followers (more than 54,000).

The Big Picture.

Knowing how to utilize these platforms goes far beyond knowing the technical aspects of the mediums. A high school student can navigate a Facebook page quicker than many industry pros, but it doesn’t mean local high schools should be scouted for social media “talent.” To find social media excellence, the individual charged with Twitter or Facebook management must have a thorough understanding of a company’s voice, brand promise and issue resolution policies; a direct line to the public relations, customer service, operations and legal departments; and they must be a skillful writer. Whether a seasoned professional or a recent college graduate, they need to understand social media’s role within the integrated communications approach. Bottom line, they need to know not only how to use the platforms, but how to build a community within them.

Ready for the Commitment?

Stepping into the social media realm is a commitment too. Once taken on, it becomes a company’s child; meaning once you commit to having it, there are no nights off from “parenthood.” It needs constant care and attention. So, how much time should be dedicated to channels like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn? According to a Social Media Marketing Industry report, 59 percent say 6 hours per week or more; 33 percent suggest – 11 hours a week or more; and 15 percent recommend 20 or more hours per week.

Companies must have a personal heart-to-heart to determine the capacity of their internal teams to manage their social media pursuits. If social media is going to be useful, it cannot be put on the backburner or be at the bottom of someone’s to-do list. Whether it’s being monitored or not, social media doesn’t shut down, or go to sleep. It’s always awake, always active and always unpredictable.

The takeaway is, social media management should be viewed as an important skill set, just as any other role within a company. Just because a young student knows how to use social media for their own purposes, doesn’t equate to being in charge of representing your company on Facebook. Consider this, you wouldn’t hire a celebrity to handle your finances just because they know how to spend money, would you?