11 Feb

Social media for business and college students

There appears to be the impression among some business owners that the way to add social media to their marketing mix is to hire a college student. There’s an assumption that college students, because they’ve grown up with social media, possess the knowledge and understanding of how to use it and therefore offer a cheap alternative to working on something that is thought to be a pretty easy job.

As an adjunct professor, I can tell you that this couldn’t be further from reality.

Last month, I was introduced to a man at an event by a client of mine who mentioned the social media work I’d done for the company in the introduction. The man I was bring introduced to quickly and proudly shared that several months ago he hired a college student to “do his Facebook”. I instantly pulled out my iPhone and searched for his Facebook page (this in itself was a challenge as it was hard to find) to see how his brilliant student has done. He had 153 likes, no one was commenting on the page and the last post was a week prior.

While this was certainly nothing to be proud of and I went on to explain why what struck me as our conversation ended was the fact the he had such blind faith in the ability of his college student to manage something that could truly be an effective tool for his business. If I felt his view was unique I would not have decided to write this post- it’s not.

My students (the class is Social Media: PR and branding at Canisius College) are knowledgeable in using Facebook (some Twitter) and yes they did grow up with the digital world but most of them are by no means ready to manage social tools for a business without guidance. Here are a few reasons why:

1. For the most part, these students learn in a traditional environment. Meaning, they read, take notes, do assignments and participate in class. They do group assignments however, much of the kind of work they do does not teach the kind of accountability necessary for creating, coordinating and managing a social media campaign on multiple platforms.

2. Their knowledge in using social media is limited. My students come from the business, marketing and communications departments but many if them did not have Twitter accounts much less Google+ and YouTube.

3. They use Facebook and Twitter to talk to friends so their understanding is null as to how to use it for a business and they’ll likely default to posting push messages (unless they take a class like mine if course :))

4. They’ll likely have no idea about analytics so don’t expect to garner many stats.

I’m not putting down the students or finishing their value or potential contributions, but here’s my suggestion. If you want to save money, at least have a professional develop a strategy for you and make sure the student you have can manage the program. The professional can train your student and work in an advisory capacity to oversee the project to make sure you get the most bang for your buck. Whatever you do, don’t assume the generation that grew up on technology can run your social media campaign properly or effectively.

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