Is social networking an assistant’s job?

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Back in the mid-1990’s when a certain writer worked as an assistant at a West Hollywood public relations firm, it was a simpler time. Sure, they treated me like something scraped off of Kelly Cutrone‘s high heel, psychotically had me Windex all glass surfaces on a regular basis, and generally worked me like a dog. But it’s PR and everybody else was treated the same way. Really, my tasks were pretty simple: fax mountains of press releases, pick up sandwiches from Jerry’s Deli, and master the art of streak-less glass doors. Occasionally, I would get to write some copy or do something creative, if I was lucky.

Today, I hear that assistants who want to stick around in marketing and public relations better have a black belt in all things social networking and social media marketing. Between brewing pots of coffee and running to FedEx, assistants are more often than not in charge of the company Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and Linkedin accounts. On the one hand, I think this a great way to introduce hungry assistants who want to get their feet wet in the world of marketing, while capitalizing on the knowledge of a genre they probably already know better then they know their neighbors. Social media marketing is flexible, so young creative types can really have fun and infuse the company pages with current stuff plus the kids have more energy to multi-task accounts all day long.
On the other hand, I really believe that social media shouldn’t be scuffed off as some menial tasks like, say, Windexing the planet. A biz’s Facebook page or Tweets give off instant impressions, so giving the responsibility to a newer employee who may not be familiar with the brand isn’t the wisest idea. We’ve talked a lot about how the messaging in your social networking should be consistent with all of your other advertising; so a person who speaks your language is ideal for the job of social media guru. This brings up the issue of control, too. If you’re “hands-on” (the nice way of saying micro-managing, by the way) with your social media, perhaps it’s best that you keep doing the tasks yourself.  That way there’s no crying conversations about Tweets that didn’t go out in the order you wanted them to.
Personally, I think having a collaborator in the position is the way to go. Working with somebody on social media marketing can only increase ideas and potential. It is really the ultimate brainstorming process that can be changed and updated all day long. Business partners who share the same brain and ideas make great social media tag teams. They can attack it with a synchronized approach.
If you do choose to give the responsibilities to your assistant, however, make sure you prioritize the importance and give them room to have fun with it. And pay them well for their efforts. After all, those glass doors don’t Windex themselves.

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