Note from Jimmy Hua: Social media is such a new field. No one really knows how it works, and what it really means. We all have some sort of idea, but nothing solid. It is definitely a good time to be defining the field. Each company has some sense in what they are looking for and below are some of those things.
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As well as looking good on your resume and netting you college credit, interning in social media can offer you incredibly valuable experience in the world of work, where social media experience is becoming ever-more important.
However, competition for good placements can be fierce, so it’s important to know what companies look for in a social media intern, so you can focus on improving or highlighting those skills.
From big companies, small businesses, non-profits, educational institutions and commercial ventures, we talked to the people who recruit social media interns to find out just what it is they want in a candidate.
If you’re a recruiter with a few pointers on what you look for in a social media intern, add your ideas in the comments below.
Q. What Qualities Do Companies Look For in a Social Media Intern?
“When I’ve hired interns to work with brands I strove to find ones that had a passion for the web, especially in the social media arenas.” Jonathan Sexton, CEO, Socialgladiator.com
Good Communication Skills
Kelly Lux, the Online Community & Relationship Manager at Syracuse University & Syracuse University iSchool, puts “good communication skills” at the top of her list of desired qualities in an intern. Being able to communicate well is valuable in many areas, but in the social space it’s essential.
Nicole Ravlin, Partner, at PMG Public Relations echoes the sentiment. “We want to know that their communication skills are sharp,” says Ravlin. “So we evaluate the content that they are putting out there.”
Solid Writing Skills
The ability to string a decent sentence together, to get a message across in your writing, or be able to communicate in short-form writing are all important qualities, as well.
Dan Klamm, Outreach & Marketing Coordinator at Syracuse University Career Services, looks for “solid writing skills” in a candidate, and he’s not alone.
“To me, someone with a good sense of wit and charm in their writing is appealing. Some of the best brands in social media have that combination and it’s attractive to users,” says Sexton.
Top-Notch Social Skills
Although taken for granted by many, it can be argued that social skills can’t easily be taught, so if you’ve got good ones, then make a point of showcasing it, as social panache is attractive in a social media intern.
“I look for social people to begin with, whether that’s internal at the corporate office or from the local campus, I want people who are already socially active in their own spheres,” says Jonathan Sexton.
Klamm agrees. “When I’m hiring a social media intern, I look for someone who has a strong personal network. I place emphasis on ‘a strong personal network,’ because I really want the intern to be able to leverage his/her connections to generate buzz around the messages that I am trying to communicate.”
And working well with others is another quality that will appeal to employers. “We are interested in people who will fit in with the group. We often have students recommend others who they know would be interested, and that they feel would be good team members,” says Lux.
A bit of enthusiasm for the social space can go a long way, and it will help show any potential employer that you’re going to be active in your role, rather than need constant chivvying.
“Students who are actively involved on campus and ‘connected’ are very attractive to us,” says Lux.
“We look for those that are incredibly enthusiastic about the space. There are so many new developments each day that we would expect an applicant to do their homework and know what is happening in real-time, that day,” says Danielle Ellis, Digital PR Evangelist at The brpr Group.
“And not so much as ‘do your homework’ as to know what is the latest because you love it,” Ellis explains. “Enthusiasm for the space is number one. The rest can come. Enthusiasm can quickly turn into social media addiction, which we do not frown upon here. We are all addicted to our Twitter handles and ‘checking in.’ This is what provides us with the stamina to keep up with an industry that changes minute-to-minute.”
Q. What Experience Do Companies Look For in a Social Media Intern?
“Professional experience is not necessary, and not even realistic as this space is so new.” Danielle Ellis, Digital PR Evangelist, The brpr Group
“I want to see that they are already using basic tools on their own (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.),” says Ravlin, who suggests having a personal blog set up is also a good way to convince employers of your good communication skills.
Lux looks for the same thing. “We look for someone who already has a presence in social media, either active on Twitter, blogging, etc.” Although as representatives of the university, her interns also have to project a positive presence. “There are plenty of students who are active on social media but who would not be appropriate as representatives of the university,” reveals Lux.
It’s a point that people are becoming more aware of. By now we’ve all grasped that sprawled-naked-drunk pics aren’t a great idea on social sites, but taking that further, be aware that your past tweets can all be evaluated, so you have to decide a level of sensible self-censorship that won’t make you look unattractive to potential employers.
“If I can see that the applicant has been active on their social media handles, handling themselves professionally, that is a huge plus,” says Ellis.
“Basically I make sure they’ve been on the Internet once or twice,” jokes Sexton. “And obviously I look for their knowledge of social media, especially in their personal networks. I look for that individual who ‘gets it’ or is already branding themselves and they may not even know it.”
Q. What Makes a Good Social Media Intern?
“A good social media intern is going to be much like any other intern, or other staff member — ability to work under [their] own direction. Show initiative, ideas. Ability to execute. Creativity.” Toby Storie-Pugh, Executive Director, Flying Kites Inc
“Someone who is creative, good at coming up with ideas — willing to take an idea and run with it without a lot of micro-managing by me, has tons of enthusiasm for what they are doing and is always looking for what we can do next,” answers Lux.
And of course, says Lux, you have to be prepared and willing “to work hard, at a moment’s notice, at all hours of the day and night.”
“A great social media intern is someone who can think outside-the-box and help brainstorm new ideas,” adds Klamm.
Nicole Ravlin considers a good social media intern “someone who wants to learn and be part of a team.”
“We work in teams at PMG to build social strategy and then help clients execute. If an intern is truly interested in learning how we approach things and participates in the process it is a win-win. That participation, desire to contribute and being part of the team is key,” says Ravlin.
“It is also great for the intern to take what they actually did, turn it into a portfolio piece, and show it (not just talk about it) to a future employer.”
Social Media Internship Job Listings
Every week we put out a list of social media and web job opportunities. While we post a huge range of job listings, we’ve selected some of the social media internships from the past two weeks to get you started. Happy hunting!
- Social Media Campaign Associate at Tuvel Communications in Potomac, MD.
- PR/Marketing Internship at Howcast Media in New York, NY.
- Meatheads Social Ambassador at Meatheads Burgers and Fries in Chicago, IL.
- Social Media Marketing Intern at NYTimes.com in New York, NY.
- Interactive/Social Media Intern at Sponsorship Insights Group in Los Angeles, CA.
More Jobs Resources from Mashable
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