All too often these days I hear the phrase “Social Media Intern” and it’s driving me bonkers. Don’t get me wrong – I think internships are invaluable when it comes to career development. In fact, a recent poll by NACE shows students with internships earning higher starting salaries than their non-internship-having peers. I also know that social media is a natural fit for many students seeking internships in media these days. After all, they are a generation of Netizens, right?
What bothers me about the way I usually hear “Social Media Intern” uttered is – of course – the context. All too often in this restrictive economy, the temptation is to take the “as yet un-budgeted” emerging media tasks and expect them to be adequately accomplished by unguided interns in a “desperate struggle to keep up with the Joneses” sort of way. This serves neither the intern nor the emerging media well. The key – as indicated in the title – is in the preparation.
The reason the average “my social media plan is to hire a social media intern” strategy doesn’t serve either well is that interns benefit most by working with mentors in their field. If there is nobody around to learn from about how to do social media strategically – the intern is missing out. Likewise the social media suffers. Working and planning social media is not that far from working “traditional” media. There are vendors that need deciding between, contracts that need finessed, and internal and external stakeholders to keep happy and most of that takes experience.
So please, hire some social media interns. But make sure there is at least somebody around (an external consultant perhaps?!) to help make the experience an extension of their education and not just afterthought motivated cheap labor.
Sure, you can throw some breaded, diced, frozen catch-of-last-month in a deep fat fryer and have fish for dinner. But sushi takes some doing – and that, some would say, is a difference well worth the preparation.