Social Media & Your Intern

Corporate risk-takers, gatekeepers and social butterflies

Bringing interns into your company is a smart move for you, your staff and the interns. They free up resources and give our future workforce hands on training, but handing over your social media strategy to an intern is stupid. Yes, stupid.

New Intern ??Your intern can be a powerful force within your social media strategy, but she shouldn’t be launching it or heading up the charge alone. Think of social media as your next super-important PR event. Your intern can send the invites, organize the press, food and other details – and even work the room – but do you want her as the guest speaker – working from a script you haven’t seen?

Social media is not a tactic – anyone can set up a Facebook page or LinkedIn channel. Social media is a company philosophy. It’s one piece of a larger marketing strategy that wraps around every single word that makes its way outside the doors of your business. It’s working close enough to your customer service team that you can smell the garlic they ate for lunch. It’s embracing the joy and frustration from your customers and acting on both.

Why can’t interns look after the job? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do they care enough to learn your brand fully before they move on?
  • Do they understand your overarching mission and vision?
  • Do they understand the marketer’s role in a Facebook conversation?
  • Do they “get” your target market?

While you shouldn’t let your intern run the social media show, there are some very good reasons for letting him/her into the game. If you’ve got an intern, free them from the photocopier and get them on Facebook – with these tips.

Interns are social butterflies

No offence to CEO’s, but you aren’t exactly the most excitable bunch. Interns, on the other hand, are passionate, energetic and eager to talk to people.

Maybe they’re just happy to be asked to do something more challenging than making coffee, but their youth and optimism make them people others want to be around. Sure, their tweets are like watching a puppy on Christmas morning, but you can’t fake passion – and your customers know that. They like talking to a company with a personality.

The flip side of that passion is that it needs to be channeled and monitored. Sometimes hourly.

Interns are risk-takers

When’s the last time you made a business decision because it “felt” right? Your intern still goes with his gut and jumps with passion. And cliff-jumping can take you places you never thought possible. Trouble is, it can also land you in the bottom of the lake.

Let your intern explore but be there to rope him in when he starts heading down a path you know will damage the brand. His willingness to explore is something too many of us lose – help him keep his firmly intact.

Interns are gatekeepers of information

Passionate GatekeepersWant the juiciest office gossip? Ask your intern. Her nose is more finely tuned than a pointer hound.

A week on your company’s social media channel and she’ll know who’s working with who and who’s always going to fly solo and who stole who’s idea.

Your intern still asks questions. She shares information (because she’s so happy not to be photocopying). She sniffs out the valuable information (and the dirt) that you can use to your advantage. Remember your social media maven had her first date on Facebook – she knows how to do this.

The downside? Because she’s so chatty, having a social media policy, training and monitoring in place is important. Your intern may need training on what to share and what to keep close to the vest. You’ll also need to help her sculpt the message so her voice aligns with your brand. If you’re marketing Land Rovers, tweets peppered with OMG and LOL may not be the message you want communicated.

If you’re considering jumping into social media and plan to hire an intern to “look after it” for you, think long and hard beforehand. Map out your strategy and implement a social media policy first – so everyone who tweets or facebooks on behalf of your brand understands the expectations.

And then have fun. Your intern can likely teach you a lot about brand engagement and navigating the sometimes tricky waters of social networking – and you can teach him a little of your business acumen. You never know, you might be mentoring the future CEO of the next Fast Company.

Got social media questions?  Follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook or connect with me on LinkedIn – I’m always on.

4 Responses to “Social Media & Your Intern”

  1. Ginger says:

    I disagree with your article. You make a lot of broad brush assumptions about interns that are just not correct and frankly, whoever wrote it seems threatened by the presence of SM interns. You’re essentially boiling interns down to an aimless, useless person that shouldn’t be put in charge of a company’s new PR vehicle.

    This could be said of any of those newly self crowned Social Media gurus who are just as new to the game. I have known interns that worked out better than “hired help” with social media campaigns and issues so really this article is just rooted in the fact that you all seem to be threatened by companies moving with interns vs hired social media guns.

    If someone comes on board as an intern for my company then before I do so I already know via the intern that they are a good fit and understand all the professional/social media goals I have planned out. Just because they are an intern and learning the ropes, that doesnt mean they should just be cast aside because they have the title, “Intern”. They may actually teach us a lot more by giving us a new perspective we hadn’t considered.

    • Julia Rosien says:

      Hey Ginger,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a detailed comment. I agree that I’ve made some pretty broad assumptions and that not all interns can be lumped into one basket. Every human being is different and we all bring our wonderful uniqueness to those around us. And I also agree that all social media strategists are not equal. Twittering at home in your jammies does not equal a sound strategy.

      I think if you read further through the article, you’ll see that I advocate letting an intern explore different ways to communicate in this medium. My last sentence actually speaks to the incredible value an intern (or as you so wisely stated anyone new to a company) can bring to your social media efforts:

      “Your intern can likely teach you a lot about brand engagement and navigating the sometimes tricky waters of social networking – and you can teach him a little of your business acumen. You never know, you might be mentoring the future CEO of the next Fast Company. ”

      My point is that an intern can bring a fresh approach to a company’s social media strategy – as you said: “a new perspective we hadn’t considered.” But s/he should not run it solo. Social media is not an afterthought or a maybe-we-should-do-this activity. Social media should be well thought out, measured and consistently tweaked to ensure you’re reaching your target market.

      Thanks again for stopping by and chatting – see you on Twitter!

  2. Great post, Julia. I’ve found undergrads to be pretty smart cookies (I teach at the University of Oregon, so I come across quite a few students in my day-to-day life), but lack of experience in business generally and an organization’s business/industry specifically means that we need to find ways to be “reverse coaches.” Last year I chatted with an agency principal in Portland about just this topic (and he deserves credit for the term, too.). You can check it out: http://www.prosintraining.com/2009/04/balancing-reverse-coaching-role-as.html

    • Julia Rosien says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Kelli, and sharing your insights. I hope your article helps companies see how much value young people can bring to the corporate culture!
      See you on Twitter!


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