If you’re a TV watcher, chances are you’ve seen Jack in the Box’s most recent commercial, which playfully pokes fun at social media interns.  In the clip, a young, bubbly young intern is clearly excited to be a part of the Jack in the Box brand, but is perhaps a little wet behind the ears when it comes to working for a large company.  Her enthusiasm is tempered at the end of the commercial by the brand’s fictional CEO, Jack Box, who asks her to make some photocopies using a machine that she mistakes for a “tanning bed.”

This is all commercial gold, but the real brilliance in the clip is in the way it calls attention to a very real question that businesses of all sizes are asking. With the end of the school year upon us, and many eager young adults looking for summer jobs and internships, many businesses are probably wondering whether bringing a social media intern into the fold is a good idea.

Why should my brand get an intern?

Many businesses benefit tremendously from internship programs.  For small businesses especially, interns can offer an affordable piece in the social media puzzle. Brand management really is a lot of work, after all, but many businesses are already spread pretty thin.  They need help with their social platform, but they’re still growing and can’t break the bank bringing that help in.

A social media internship can be a good fit for a young adult looking to gain exposure in the business world.  As digital natives, these would-be interns already have a natural, some might even say preternatural, ability to connect and engage in the social sphere.

The right intern will already have a very good idea of what their job entails and how to go about doing it.  Just look at the Jack in the Box intern, who knew the product her brand was focused on, what was trending, what hashtags to use (#FaveFlave), and how to use additional media such as candid photos to bolster social presence—all this while carrying on a conversation with the CEO of the company!

Maintaining message control

The natural concern many brands have when entrusting an intern to something as visible as social media is message control.  Your intern may know how to make things happen online, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to automatically know what your brand is about.

This means that you as a manager have a very short time to show your intern the ropes of your brand.  Your intern is going to be acting as your brand ambassador for the summer, and it’s up to you to make sure they buy in to your brand message if you want to drive authentic engagement.

Defining the role of your intern

It’s easy to laugh at the intern’s lack of practical knowledge about common office equipment in the commercial’s final punch line.  However, Jack is demonstrating his own lack of knowledge here in the way he interacts with his intern, ignoring the importance of her role and giving her a task clearly outside of her job description.

Whether interacting with an employee or an intern, defining and honoring roles is important.  It’s clearly not unreasonable to ask your intern to make copies.  Even if their primary task is social media, interns should expect to perform other tasks.  They need exposure to what office work entails after all, and this is a great way of showing them the ropes.  Just make sure that they understand these other duties, and that you’ve shown them how to be successful in their performance.

Passing the baton

Remember, internships are temporary, like rentals.  Once the summer is over and your intern has gone back to school, someone else is going to have to pick up their duties.  Otherwise, it won’t look good for your brand if you’re active on social media for a summer and then suddenly your presence plummets.

Many businesses have their interns write up a description of their day-to-day processes before they depart, making it easier for someone else to step into the role once it’s vacated.  I might suggest taking this a step further and building a system of reverse mentoring into the process.

In reverse mentoring, the intern trains the manager in their job—in this case, social media best practices.  This brings value both to the intern by allowing them exposure to the higher ranks of a business and to management by providing them with essential knowledge of what going social truly entails.  With such knowledge and processes in place, the transitions resulting from the coming and going of interns will largely be mitigated.

Does your business have an internship program?  Are you considering one?  Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!

 

Cheryl Burgess (@ckburgess) is a digital and social brand consultant, blogger, and speaker. Her knowledge of business strategy, passion for creative expression, and marketing technology helps businesses achieve the remarkable. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.