It’s Time to Stop Blaming the Intern

Intern CartoonStop blaming the intern! It seems like every time there is a social media blunder or scandal people are quick to say “fire the intern” or “see what happens when you leave social to the intern.” People, it’s 2014. If you’re leaving social media up to an intern, you have only yourself to blame! There are professionals—even entire businesses and industries—devoted to doing social media. Delegating social media to an intern without structure in place is a business mistake and failure of leadership.

Clearly social media marketing has reached a point of acceptance into the mainstream. Nearly 90% of companies planned to incorporate social media into their marketing plans for 2014. When 90% of companies are planning to incorporate a tactic into their marketing strategy, it is unlikely that they are doing so without any oversight or plan. If they are employing social media as a tactic without oversight, perhaps they deserve to have a scandal or blunder. You wouldn’t just air a TV commercial without seeing it or reviewing it, so why would you blindly post on the public-facing internet?

It’s also worth noting that despite widespread blame, the majority of companies don’t even involve interns with their social media. According to the same survey just 25% of companies use interns for social media help.

With that in mind, let’s examine some recent social media mistakes and the immediate blame thrust upon an intern:

The Weather Channel Twitter handle recently sent a rude tweet to an influential person who was complaining about their mobile app. I don’t condone the rude tweet but the people rising to the defense of the victim of this rudeness quickly attacked a hypothetical intern. While this is just a single anecdote, it is pretty obvious that others echo this sentiment during social media crises.

@weatherchannel Wow, way to be a dick in responding to a simple request. You suck, social media intern.

— Grant (@NotSoNiceville) May 12, 2014

One of the worst social media blunders of all time came from US Airways. One of their staffers tweeted a pornographic photo to a customer in what is arguably the worst social media mistake to date. While US Airways never said whether or not the person behind the tweet was an intern, I doubt they would confess they had an intern doing social media customer service for them, the fact is they forgave the employee. It is important to realize that anyone and everyone is capable of making a mistake, not just interns.

With all of the “social media gurus” and “ninjas” out there it is unlikely that interns are the sole cause of these crises. Companies who plan to use social media should have controls in place to prevent such mistakes from happening but please let’s leave interns alone they have enough problems.