By now most entrepreneurs know the power of getting their business knee deep in social media: he who stays out gets shut out. However, using these tools as they were meant to be used is, without a doubt, a time consuming process. On top of this, we add the challenge of staying abreast of all the latest rules and newest tools and every twist and turn of the changing landscape of social media.

Now, if we spent our time on this, who’s minding the store?

We’ve heard it many times over, “I need to focus on my business, so I’ve hired a college kid to stay on top of the social media stuff”.  Sounds like a perfect solution, yes? You run your business and leave this new stuff to the younger generation, who appears to have quite a facility for it.  In fact, it’s very common to have the business owner turn their back on the whole thing, confident that they’ve installed the perfect solution.

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Allow me to deflate this pretty balloon. It’s a TERRIBLE idea for several reasons. First of all, college kids use social media FOR FUN, they are not marketing a business. Let me make this clear: social media is serious marketing.

I’ll concede that it may be acceptable IF you hire a marketing major, or even better, a digital marketing major, who is about to graduate and join the work force. It is not acceptable if you hire your partner’s kid just because he’s a sweetie and always on his smart phone.

Let’s look at two real examples of business owners who have learned their lesson the hard way.

A partnership of 2 expert realtors didn’t understand the first thing about facebook or twitter. They “hired and hid”, not supervising what was done. After a few weeks, they finally realized their college hire was simply taking the current open house announcement or newest listing and posting it on their fan page. That’s it, the full extent of the marketing campaign. In fact, there was perhaps one posting a week, but the partners were told with confidence that their facebook campaigns were under control. What about posting tips on getting your house ready for sale? What about giving advice on what to ask your realtor or how to find the right real estate lawyer? Many opportunities to touch the client were completely lost.

Another case involved a great business who simply got too busy to handle the postings themselves. Their college kid “specialized” in handling social media for several clients, so she was hired based on her level of expertise and experience. After a while, however, the owner realized that her business’ fan page had “liked” the pages of several other businesses she had never heard of! “What’s this?” she inquired, only to be told, that the “expert” had used the owner’s login credentials to go to her other customers’ fan pages and like them as well. Of course, it never occurred to Ms. Expert to let her boss know, or God forbid, ask permission.

So, if you’re considering hiring a social media manager, remember these tips:

1)       Learn the rules! You and your fellow stakeholders need to receive proper training on each social media tool yourselves. If you can do the work perfectly yourself, it will be difficult for someone else to pull the wool over your eyes. Knowledge is power!

2)      Craft your marketing plan. Now that you’ve been trained by an IT and/or marketing expert, write out your overall and quarterly goals, desired outcomes, timelines, and make sure every last detail is mapped out and on paper.

3)      Examine credentials. When hiring someone, make sure they have experience in running social media campaigns for a business, and then call that business for references. Find out what the results were, before and after they ran a social media campaign. Examine the twitter account or fan page yourself.

4)      Use common sense!  Would you get into the passenger side of a car driven by an eighth grader? Neither would I. So don’t place the success of your business into the hands of a kid.