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7 questions to reflect on before hiring a college intern for social media

Originally posted to the ChatterBachs blog: 7 questions to reflect on before hiring a college intern for social media

Wait! Don’t hire that college intern for your social media needs… not just yet, at least.

First: Stop, and reflect on the following questions:

  • What do I know about their use of social media? Sure, they have a Facebook profile and a Twitter account, but how are
    they using them? Deciding on a place to meet for the game or a movie is
    not the same as having social media experience.
  • Taking it one step further… is their use appropriate? What does their use of social media say about their character, values, and judgment? If they can’t positively represent themselves, how well will they
    represent your organization and its mission? I’ve heard more than one
    example of where college interns in social media have made huge errors
    in judgment and the organizations they were working for paid the public
    relations consequences.
  • How is my organization already using social media? In other words is there a social media team already in place? Or would
    the intern be solely responsible for our company’s social media
    presence? What would I be looking to this college intern for? What
    responsibilities would they carry? What is it that we’re not already
    doing? Is there already someone on staff who could take this on? Do we
    need to train someone or outsource this responsibility to a firm that
    specializes in social media?
  • What do I know about their writing skills? We all know that abbreviations can be necessary or even expedient on Twitter or
    Facebook, but is that the only way they can communicate? If you asked
    them to write a blog, could they create one that is professional and
    adequately reflects your organization?
  • What do they know about my business or organization? If the college intern is only going to be with you for a semester or for
    the summer, how much do they already know about your business or
    organization going in? How quickly can they get up to speed?
  • What do they know about my industry or sector? Does their college major give them a solid foundation of knowledge in this
    arena? Have they had other internships (with my organization or
    elsewhere) that might contribute to success in this role?
  • What are their objectives with this internship? Take a step back, and become their advocate. Would this internship help the
    student progress with their educational and career goals? If not, why
    are you offering this internship opportunity?

Hopefully, now you’ve thought through this issue more fully and are better informed. You may come to the same conclusion you started with as a goal: to hire a college intern. Or maybe you’ve decided to go in a different direction. Either way the process will have been worth it.

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Julia Tanasic

That is excellent Jay. Good in-depth thinking about the outcome for both sides. Here a couple of my comments:

1. Motivation. Being an intern and being an employee is a big difference in terms of motivation and ultimately work performance. While every intern can feel excited and enthusiastic about a new task, team, job and work environment, knowing that you are rewarded not only monetary wise once an employee, but also regarding status, weight of responsibilities, achievements for your team, your colleagues and the external network is usually a very different cup of tea. It will lead to better outcomes, and lastly will increase effective and committed work performance.

2. Potential. Before hiring an college intern an employer should know where the intern’s potential lies. Maybe his/her strengths could not be revealed yet, because of time constraints, limited resource access, no effective supervision or a lack of guidance. It is important to develop a feeling about what is possible and where is room for unique performance while being patient about issues that need some work. Again, where can the employers influence smooth out the bumps and where can the intern play out the strengths to shine?

3. Guidance & Mentorship. Ultimately here the question lies with ‘Is the Intern adaptable and flexible through supervision, guidance, mentorship and integrity to embrace and become part of the organisation’s culture?’ Becoming part of an organisation’s culture is a transition period. It does not only include that the intern is working harder now, is being more committed, raises expectations constantly and exceeds them, it also involves a constant employers commitment for mentorship and leadership. To teach, to explore, to share, etc. Personal advice, caring and leading ultimately makes the difference.

Sarah Vroman

Thanks for the great post. It is imperative to stop thinking of social media as a cheap, disposable way of communicating and instead start to form some solid strategies around how to use these highly effective communications tools. You wouldn’t let your intern manage all of your Press contacts, so why would you let them run a program that can reach thousands, if not tens of thousands, of your customers?

Dory Dahlberg

Super post. The questions regarding knowledge of the business and industry are key, especially in government. An intern may have no problem posting updates and monitoring our accounts, but getting valuable and accurate information out there requires an understanding of what our many departments do. Engaging subject matter experts and garnering useful content from them can be a challenge but already knowing what they do and how they do it makes the process so much easier.

Jay S. Daughtry, ChatterBachs

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. Julia, the additional framework you have provided is invaluable. So glad you contributed! Sarah, all I can say- excellent points!… especially with regard to “cheap, disposable way of communicating” and the extensive reach- or potential reach- of social media. Dory, your additional insights on knowledge of business or industry point to the practical and real-life aspects of day-to-day engagement with the public. Tricia, are you trying to get me into a fight with interns everywhere?! 😉 Seriously, it would be interesting to have a discussion with them to get their take on my blog post.

Shannon Donelson


I absolutely love this post! I was a social media intern for two summer semesters during college and as a recent graduate interning here at GovLoop I completely agree with your statements.

Although my social media skills became what they are now from the knowledge and experience I gained as an intern, I will say that I always had a motivation to learn and would hope that I brought a eagerness to dive in and learn more to the table.

School can only teach a student so much, they have to have the drive to take their skills a step further and put it towards something great!