As a business owner who is in my 50s and has been working with social media and digital marketing for 12+ years, and helping write and create websites for another 5 or so on top of that, I find it challenging to see small businesses (and sometimes larger businesses) who think they need to employ young people (aka digital natives) straight out of school or university to handle their social media marketing.
What many don’t understand is that using Snapchat or Instagram or Tiktok to connect with your friends or even to build a following isn’t the same as using social channels to build a business and drive customers or clients to your website or location.
We are in a strange middle place right now I think, where older business owners know they should be doing some of these things, but tend to err on the side of caution (ie do nothing at all) rather than risk ‘getting it wrong’.
Or they take the plunge to get onto social media, but only invest enough to employ a junior staff member who they give the role to (usually along with way too many other marketing tasks, but that’s another post for another day.)
So what’s wrong with that?
Well thinking it through this morning, there are definite pros and cons. I’ve outlined some of them below.
The Pros for Employing a Digital Native
Generally if you take on a student or recent graduate to handle your social media accounts, this could be their first ‘real’ job, and they are likely to be happy to gain the experience and not have a high salary expectation. However there is often a gap between what your new employee expects and what you as an employer might expect, particularly if you see social media as something that should be ‘easy’ for them to do and don’t place a lot of value on their work.
You might not have the need for someone full time to do this work, and perhaps you don’t have enough other suitable work for a full time employee, so you might just want to pay someone a few hours a week to handle your social media channels. A younger person might also be happy to do this because it could fit in with other work they are doing, or around their course of study if they are at university or polytech.
Younger staff members who haven’t worked elsewhere can be great to fit into your business and be trained to work in a way that fits your company culture and way of doing things.
- Target Audience.
If young people are the main target audience for your products or services, for example fashion brands, trendy consumer tech, music, entertainment etc, then having someone on your team who understands what is trending, what hashtags to use, and has a good feeling for what their cohort will respond to, then this can be an excellent decision. In fact if you are in that kind of consumer product area, you probably should have more than one digital native on your team.
Another pro in using a younger team member without a lot of experience is that they are likely to communicate/write in a less formal or structured way (not old school corporate speak) and that can come across to your audience as a lot more authentic than very carefully edited or prepared content. So that again depends on the type of product or service you are selling and who your target audience might be.
The Cons for Employing a Digital Native
Creating an effective social media presence is about more than simply posting daily images and cute comments to your various channels – it is about having a clear idea of your business and marketing goals, who your target audiences are, and what your overall strategy is.
And then creating relevant content across the most appropriate channels to reach those audiences. That might also involve paid social media advertising.
Someone straight out of school or university may not have the understanding of business required to develop an effective strategy that will help leverage the investment of time and resources into your social media.
However, if you bring in someone from outside the business to create the strategy, then provide consulting support for your digital native to do the implementation, that can be an effective use of your available resources.
Social media posting itself is not something that people can study as such (well there is a lot of material online about effective social media approaches and implementation) in the form of a formal qualification, so the barrier to entry is very low. If someone has an interest in doing social media marketing as a job, they can start doing it with very little experience or actual skills.
However, understanding that one of the primary purposes of social content should be to drive traffic back to your website and/or to your sales channels is key, and to do that, your social media marketer needs to also be able to create quality content that will bring people through those sales channels and help build your brand and credibility.
One of the business sectors which has moved into the social media field and brought their content creation skills along with them is public relations.
PR consultants have frequently got decades of experience in understanding business goals, crafting content to help achieve those goals, as well as integrating with a range of activities from events to specific promotions, media liaison and more – all of which can be very powerful when combined with a comprehensive understanding of how to use social media.
They can also ensure that your organisation is well briefed on the impact of social media content for your business and how it should best be used – as well as helping to deal with any issues that might arise if, for example, you have to deal with upset customers for any reason, or the business is impacted by a situation like Covid or earthquakes or other catastrophes!
So if you are in the ecommerce or business to business space, you might want to use the skills of someone with more relevant experience.
Often this would be on a retainer or consultancy basis rather than employing someone inhouse full time, but there are plenty of options available.
- Handling Negative Responses
One thing to keep in mind is that social media is not just a one way process like old school advertising – you don’t just put up a post and then ignore any responses or comments that you get back.
Every social channel provides the chance for readers to engage with you, and your social media marketer should be monitoring and responding to those comments in an appropriate way.
This is where an experienced marketer will be able to respond appropriately, or ensure that any issues raised by comments are run past other members of your team to ensure they are addressed correctly.
So overall, what is your best approach? The answer is “it depends”. As mentioned above, if your audience is younger, and your products are consumer focused, employing a digital native can be a good option – especially if you invest in a strategy first and support your new staff member in the implementation of that strategy.
Or you might find it more cost effective to contract a more experienced marketer or consultant to deliver exactly what you need on a retainer basis – giving you more flexibility and helping to establish your brand on social channels, set up a content strategy and build your follower numbers. Once your channels are well established, you might then look at a cheaper resource to carry on the implementation work.
If you are working out what to do in your business and want advice, please do get in touch and see where we can fit in the picture for you – from consultancy to implementation (at competitive hourly rates).