Since I started consulting back in May, I have met a disproportionate number of otherwise mature, competent professionals who allow the fate of their organization to lie squarely in the hands of a summer intern. A depressing number of businesses leave an increasingly important component of their branding and marketing strategy up to unpaid or underpaid amateurs. Full disclosure, I would benefit directly from business owners flocking towards educated, experienced, award winning professionals like myself. But I'm not writing this for me (well, not just for me).
The relational marketing industry as a whole can not be taken seriously until it's common knowledge that this is a job for experienced professionals. No person would grab a random kid off the street to be their hairdresser, so why do they hire their hairdresser's nephew to build their websites and manage their social media accounts? Unless said nephew was there at the dawn of the medium and adjusted his communications and marketing strategy accordingly, has years of relevant experience, or has recently completed a course in new media communications, user experience, or community management, what are they doing? The answer is, they're probably treating your social media account like they treat their personal account.
Just because a person spends a lot of time somewhere doesn't mean they understand how to do so in a professional capacity. Hiring a person to manage online presence, whether through the website, social media, or community management, just because they spend a lot of time on their own social media accounts, or just because they made their own website would be like hiring a person to be the global spokesperson for your artisan vodka just because they drink a lot. An appreciation for spirits should be an essential, but ultimately small part of the hiring decision.
More and more, the first thing people know about you is whatever they see on the Internet. Hiring a non-professional to manage this aspect of your brand is dangerous. It only takes a couple of minutes for a small mistake or issue to become a crisis, and if you're not working with a professional, they probably won't have a crisis communications plan, they probably won't know how to deal with hacking, customer service complaints, multiple browser interfaces, or how to implement and interpret analytics. These are skills you won't realize you need until it's far too late.
So please, for the sake of your business as well as mine, hire a professional to handle your online presence. At the very least, consult with a professional to make a social media calendar, style guide, and crisis communications strategy, and have someone you know and like in your contacts for when you really need somebody who knows what they're doing behind the wheel. If you're reading this, I want you to succeed online, and the first step is admitting you need the Internet.
Questions about what an professional online marketer looks like, or how to find them? Call me at 310-876-8538, I love talking about this stuff.