12 lessons learned when interns do your social media

Social media interns
With colleges out and students looking to make their mark or start a career this summer, here comes a rite of passage: Putting interns to work doing social media marketing for your business.
After all, who knows more about social media and spends more time on social networks? What business doesn’t want people to “Like” them on Facebook? Why wouldn’t it be a great idea?
It rarely is. As both an owner of a digital marketing agency and MBA faculty at Rutgers CMD who teaches digital and social media marketing, I hear it from both sides. Interns, who generously give of their skills and time, don’t get much from the experience. People who hire them then say they tried social media for their brand but not much happened.
Do businesses get what they pay (or don’t pay for)? Here are 12 lessons learned when interns do your social media marketing.

  1. HAVE WITH A BUSINESS STRATEGY: Having interns do your social media is not a business strategy. Giving them a  focus on the desired business results is a much better place to start.
  2. TO BUILD AN AUDIENCE ON THE INTERNET TAKES TIME: The internet is one of the most effective and profitable places to build an audience but it doesn’t happen overnight. Thinking the work of interns in a few months can change the course of your business is probably not going to happen.
  3. KNOW WHO TO ATTRACT: Social networks are great for building relationships that couldn’t have happened through normal channels like email and the phone. Having followers on Twitter or a robust Pinboard on Pinterest doesn’t matter if your audience is on LinkedIn. Relationships that lead to sales can’t be created until your customer is clearly defined.
  4. IDENTIFY ADVOCATES: There are many case studies of businesses where social media played a pivotal role due to advocates who made strong, authentic recommendations. Louis Pasteur said, “chance favors the prepared mind.” The odds of advocates influencing your business are much greater if you spend time looking for who they are.
  5. CREATE A “VOICE” FOR YOUR BRAND: Social media marketing is different from traditional marketing. It’s a conversation, not a monologue. Intern shouldn’t be expected to know the dialogue you want to make happen. You need to tell them.
  6. HAVE PLENTY OF RELEVANT CONTENT: After your product or service, relevant content is your most valuable asset. Interns can’t  make this up, you have to provide it at the outset with the establishment of key topics. Then, they can help you develop a content calendar.
  7. MAKE SURE YOUR WEBSITE IS A DESIRABLE PLACE TO VISIT: People like to business with people they know. If your social media efforts starts to show progress, your audience will want to get to know your better. Don’t disappoint them with a website that doesn’t live up to the quality of your social media content and conversations.
  8. INTEGRATE SOCIAL MEDIA WITH OTHER MARKETING INITIATIVES: Social media works, but it works much better when it’s integrated with all the other marketing efforts and each are supporting one another.
  9. HAVE A SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY: Every business should be guided by standards and values. If a real social media example helps, GM has a blog called Fast Lane. It’s written by their senior executives. Their social media policy is one companies big and small can learn from and we can all learn from GM.
  10. CREATE AN ACTIONABLE SCORECARD: It’s more important to learn than to be right. If you’re wondering what a “Like” has to do with sales create an actionable scorecard of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that you can look at regularly, provides insights and helps you take action.
  11. EMPHASIZE WHAT’S WORKING AND PULL BACK ON WHAT”S NOT: Some initiatives will work better than others so spend time interns have generously given you pursuing what’s producing results and de-emphasize what’s not.
  12. VIEW TIME AS YOUR MOST VALUABLE, NOT YOUR MOST EXPENDABLE, COMMODITY: Many businesses start their journey with interns viewing their time as something that, for a limited duration, is expendable. There is a different way to think about it. That is, given what interns can do with the right direction, the time they’ve given you is invaluable because it’s capable of producing extraordinary results.

Are you having interns do your social media marketing this summer? Do these lessons help teach you how you should be putting them to work?


  1. gregjarboe

    Great post, Rob. This is one of those “I wish I’d said that” columns. Perfect timing and practical advice.

  2. robpetersen

    Thanks Greg. Appreciate that. You’ve given me some great “I wish I’d said that’s” when I’ve sat in on your classes. Glad to have one to pass along to you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *