Top Five Mistakes with Onboarding and Managing Junior Social Media Employees

Gretchen Fox

December 27, 2016

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With the enormous demand for social media and content creation, marketing executives and business owners alike are bringing on more and more junior staff -- and rightly so. Young and hungry team members are great for organizations.

And since they are now digital natives, these young workers have a real, intuitive handle on social communications and can easily find their way around new technology in short order.

At our agency, we love and rely heavily on young social pros. We not only work with and train them but we mentor them, as well. We are always very excited to have their perspective, their insights, their take on youth culture and their boundless ideas. These are all extremely important contributions that should not be discounted; however, at the same time, there are some real risks that must be considered. Unfortunately, we are seeing a trend of businesses making very risky decisions with their new, very young teams -- and unnecessarily so.

There are some easy ways to take advantage of junior employees while protecting your business, I put together our top five insights for you here:

1. Hire staff with previous business experience.

It's important to understand that just because a person is a 'digital native,' doesn't mean s/he understands social for business. These are very different things. It's such a problem FastCompany recently published an article called Inside the Growing Social Media Skills Gap where CEO of Hootsuite, Ryan Holmes reports social media gaffes and blunders in the workplace are still routine.

Meanwhile, the real price of the skills gap often goes unnoticed�"billions of dollars in missed opportunities and lost revenue." Of course, if you want to hire a fresh out of college employee, great -- just be prepared for a steep learning curve and lots of mistakes.

And if you don't have the internal staff to provide the appropriate oversight, outsourcing senior executive-level support can help provide the guidance necessary. Just don't subscribe to the "even-my-teenage-nephew-can-do-this" mentality. He can definitely do something but I doubt you want that representing your business.

2. Ensure every person who touches your brand is equipped with a "social playbook" for your company.

I recently contributed to an article on Jobvite where I explain how key these are too new hires. I submitted:
"The trick is a playbook. We help our clients create their social media playbooks, but this is the key for any department. Playbooks should contain organization charts, philosophy, vision, branding guidelines, do’s and don’t's, tips, escalation procedures �" all the necessary resources and contact information. We recommend using the playbook as you would a textbook and have more senior employees go over with new employee. It’s a good idea to have a new employee sign a form saying they understand all the info provided to create accountability."

3. Don't skimp on training. I see this all too often.

Companies hand over the keys to their social channels to brand new junior employees who have no training whatsoever. This is a recipe for a full-blown PR disaster. And if you haven't trained your employees on social media, you have no right to fire them when things go wrong.

All employees (and especially junior employees) need to know exactly where the lines are when it comes to publicly representing your brand. Social media isn't new any longer, it's tried and true with best practices from content marketing to customer service to employee advocacy. Today, social training programs are readily available, easily accessible and affordable which means, there's really no excuse for not having one.

4. Keep an eye out for the "know-it-all" mentality.

One of the biggest blindspots for junior staff is that they don't know what they don't know. It takes experience and maturity to be able to see and admit your own weaknesses.

When I work with junior staff, I will ask them, "Do you feel like you have a good handle on the best way to create content?" With junior staff, the answer is always a quick and confident "yes!"

With senior staff, they take a moment, they think about it and say something more along the lines of, "We have been doing a pretty good job with what we have but we know we can be doing better." See the difference? Junior staff are much more likely to knee-jerk respond with assuredness vs. admit they don't know something in fear of showing a sign of weakness.

Teach them it is expected that they don't know everything and provide them with access to senior staff or outsourced resources to lean on. Ask them deeper questions.

Find out how they do something and why they think it's the best way. Ask them, where did they learn their process? It won't take long before you'll get the feeling that they don't want to answer these questions. That's your indicator they have more to learn.

5. Don't assume they have "social covered."

Just because they say they do (see above) doesn't mean that's true. Often times, junior employees see myopically and don't have enough experience to view your business holistically.

For example, do they realize an insight from a customer needs to go to your product team for integration? Do they know how to use social to contribute to the growth of your other channels or are they only focused on the success of their own domain? When I start off with a new client staffed by mostly junior employees, I uncover an enormous amount of missed opportunities while their boss has been mistakenly under the assumption that everything is under control.

Check in, get an outside consultant to do an audit, learn where your team members need to grow and create a roadmap to help them develop over time.

This is not all to say that you need to spend a lot of money hiring full-time executive staff. In fact, often quite the opposite. When I get head-hunted for executive social positions at big corporations, after a little digging, I can usually see that in fact, that's not what they need. They just need a little strategic consulting, some good team training and a bit of ongoing guidance. With just that additional support, the majority of the workload can be done by an army of inexpensive young labor without all the issues and risks outlined above.

And when the risk of not providing this support for your team is way greater than the cost for providing it, I fail to see why anyone would do otherwise. Don't you?

Click here to learn more about the WITI and MTO Social Media Certificate Program.

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