Interns are an important part of the team, you’ll be more successful with them –but should not be the core business leader — supplement with seasoned business managers.
I remember being a bright eyed intern during college at Silicon Valley’s premiere web startup Exodus Communication. Filled with enthusiasm some of my seasoned management took to me to learn about how to best understand the web –which was clearly my passion.
Fast forward to 2009, with many companies dabbling in social technologies, it’s easy to assume that social is the domain of the young. In fact, I’d doing research on social media skills for an upcoming report, and am hearing of more cases of brands handing over the social media strategy to interns –I think that’s a bad idea.
While they’re certainly heavy adopters (our data proves this) –it’s not limited to the youth only, take for example this report I did on the active Boomers. Using low cost interns are critical in getting an often unfunded skunk-works project is a good way to get the program up to speed in house –but relying on them for strategic corporate communications is a risk.
How to Use Interns In Your Social Programs:
- Lean on Interns to learn about technology: Although I’m no longer an intern, I’m one of the younger analysts at the firm, I like&ly represent a new type of behavior that’s emerging in the industry, I’m the first of many to come. When it comes to interns, companies should understand their behaviors and best practices with tools. Allow them to become the tool experts: setting up accounts, rebranding tools, experimenting in a safe place, and teaching others. Let them master the hammers, nails, and tool chest.
- Pair interns with senior management for reverse training: The folks from Edelman have a program called ROTNEM (the opposite of mentor) that started off with the Chicago office pairing young bright interns with slower seasoned management (tip from Edelman’s Erik Wagner)
- Develop strategy with senior management: Here’s a critical bullet, don’t turn over the strategy of the program to an intern, ensure that you’re developing plans with business goals in mind that align with the rest of the organization as you put resources and your brand name on the line. Partner up with senior management that’s graduated from the ROTNEM program that ‘get it’ ensuring you’ve top down support, and bottom up tactics. While interns may be master of the toolchest –senior management still owns the architectural blueprints.
- Give interns a safe place to communicate: Companies often want to suppress the voices of this next generation, often resulting them spilling it their friends in public locations like Facebook. Be like Cisco, who created an internal community for Gen Y employees who were given a safe, sanctioned place to communicate.
- Get real data: Do not use interns as your model for going to market. They are not representative as a larger segment, and individual personalities won’t always represent the whole. Don’t be like Morgan Stanley who embarrassed themselves by publishing a report on Twitter based on the opinions of one intern —which resulted in Time Magazine saying to “Toss”.
Interns, like every other type of employee set you have are an important part of your company. We must include them, plan for them, and cater to them as the represent our next generation of workers, buyers, and partners. Use them to understand then model their communication habits, as they grow, include them in more strategic elements of planning.
Developing a social program is like building a house: You’ll need experts that understand the tools, but also leaders that craft the blueprints. –often these are two different types of employees, understand who and when to lean on for both needs.
I’m wrapping up my report on “How companies should organize for social media” in a few weeks, and collaborating on a report with Zach Hofer-Shall (a digital device aficionado) on a “Comprehensive community checklist” and am going to start work on a research report exploring the social behaviors of Generation X, and how brands are reaching them using social media. (see my body of research)
I’m probably the youngest of the Gen X generation (people define the age groups differently, but the behavioral traits and beliefs are perhaps the most telling) and we’ve a unique way of growing up with Transformers, GIJoe, My Little Pony, Reading Rainbow, Regan’s Just Say No, and of course Michael Jackson (when he was black). We also grew up with technology: Nintendo games and “↑ ↑ ↓ ↓ ← → ← → B A”, boomboxes, Sony Walkmen and of course MTV and VH1 –or, at least that’s all that comes to my mind during my growing up experience.
Fast forward to 2009, we’re establishing ourselves in the workplace, becoming the successful professionals as we enter the early or mid-career phase of our lives. Yet with maturity comes the big “R” of responsibility: family, kids, the access to disposable income. As this generation, my generation, moves into the prime light, brands are also recognizing the importance to reach us, so I’m seeking your help to submit information.
Seeking Case Studies of How Brands Reach Gen X Using Social Media
I’m seeking examples from brands or agencies that have case studies of how brands have reached Generation X (my Generation) by using social media. This doesn’t have to be a formal PDF, but it’s most helpful if you include URLs or screenshots, a problem definition, a goal, and then measurable quantitative results. I’m seeking these within the next two weeks so by June 15th will be the last day to email me at jowyang at forrester.com.
For Discussion: How Would Gen X Behave If We Grew Up With Social Media
Oh, and to kick off a conversation, how would Gen Xers behave if we had the internet when we grew up, rather than in just the last decade and half? From turntables, cable tv, to compact discs, we mainly grew up as consumers of technology and media –not creators. We grew up with technology as consumer products, yet in many cases, these devices were not connected, not networked, and not tied together through the internet or wireless technology (we were often ‘nodes’ not networked). Do you think Gen Xers would use it differently than Gen Y? Would we be as willing to share all parts of our personal and social lives as some of our younger counterparts? You can learn more about how different generations around the globe access social technologies using our social technographics profile tool, love to hear your thoughts.
To best see what’s coming next, it’s helpful to examine the next generation workforce.
Right about now it’s spring break, and that means that some students finally have enough time to shake off the late night party buzz and think about their careers. I know this, as I’m getting more emails from students and college professors that are teaching our young minds about social media, marketing, web marketing and other related topics.
More than ever, they need to think their career through as they’ll be competing for entry level positions with more qualified individuals. In my opinion, where they lack in experience they can make up with enthusiasm and perhaps even more relevant. What would that be? Being digital natives, they’re born with technology and specifically, the web in their hands, this could be more natural to them than a CMO. (take a look at their technographics, they lead in adoption)
Perhaps they’ve seen this list of professionals that are either corporate social media strategists, or community managers, or want to work at a social media vendor, interactive agency, or are enamored with the thought of working at a top blog like Techcrunch, RWW, or Mashable.
Let’s kick off a dialog, one that can both help students understand a career in this space, as well as help future employers understand what to look for.
Students and teachers, let’s hear your thoughts:
1) Are you interested in a career in social media, or a related field? What attracts you?
2) What are you doing now to get skilled, experienced, and educated in this field?
3) What will you look for in an employer? What would make you not want to work for an employer?
4) Feel free to leave your contact and school info
Professionals and Employer, let’s hear your thoughts:
1) What attracts you to the social media space, why do you do this for a living? Sure, you may not have ‘social media strategist’ in your title, but you’re certainly involved.
2) How should students prepare for a career in this social space?
3) Please give your title, industry, and number of years working, followed by number of years (or months) in the social space
I hope we can both learn a bit from both of us, heck, perhaps some may find some job or internship opportunities.
Update: LinkedIn has this site for students who want to build their career.
Above: The Social Technographics of Baby Boomers. Need to understand more about technographic ladder? read this handy key.
I recently published a report on how baby boomers use social technologies based on our social techngraphics research. While my parents aren’t yet on Facebook, you’d be surprised on how their adoption of social media –they aren’t luddites by any means. With the president of the United States using social technologies for campaigning and his ongoing administration, Boomers retiring and wanting to stay in touch with their digitally expressive children and grandchildren, and with a recession causing need for all of us to connect to each other –expect an increase in social technology adoption across many generations.
If you’re a Forrester client, download the full report, or read my discussion with the New York Times. Sarah Perez, who does excellent coverage at Read Write Web has some additional thoughts and provides some suggestions on what it means (be sure to read the comments)
When I saw the data, I was surprised by the social technology adoption of baby boomers, would love to hear your perception and opinion on this.
Update: Some really don’t like the findings and insights, and have extended me a virtual finger, and I’m pretty sure it’s not this one. Finally, someone gets the fact that we’re not banging on boomers, but instead showing that social media extends beyond teens. Thanks Laura.
My living Grandmother won’t read this post, unless my mom prints it out for her and hands it to her in person –actually a common practice in my family.
A few weeks ago, I had a phone conversation with Grandma, we talked of politics, and how many companies would not hire Asians when she was my age, and of course, my favorite topic, the internet.
She still lives in a print world, but is very aware of the online world, and ask me to tour her through the internet when I see her. According to social technographics, she’s an ‘inactive’ when it comes to social media, and that’s ok with me.
She loves to see me in print, and stumbles across my name in her newspaper reading? I rarely touch news ‘paper’, as online is far faster, and much more interactive; “you can’t doubleclick paper” I tell her.
Perhaps one of the things that she has over me is wisdom and experience, one observation she’s had over the years is that she’s noticed that “newspapers are getting thinner”.
Despite the generational differences that we have, we’re still the same, we seek information, news, and opinions about the greater world.
Today is a special day, one that I’ll always remember, like every Oct 31st, today is her birthday, Happy Birthday Grandma, I’ll call you in a bit.
Sixth graders, are just 10 years from the workforce, I wonder if we’ll be ready.
I’m now in Dallas, about to speak to 250 marketers (then do workshops) who all work for a company that’s about to ramp up their social marketing activities and put community first. Brands foster communities is a trend we’re seeing, just as Oracle boldly launched it’s Oracle Mix Ideas which allows anyone to submit comments right on the corporate website.
On the flight over here from SF, I sat next to a young lady (mid 20s) who is a teacher to sixth graders (12 year olds) in San Antonio. As I almost always do, I shifted the conversation over to the internet and she shared with me how this next generation of digital natives is coming at us fast and strong
The Sixth Graders:
All of her sixth graders were literate, although not all of them had computers at home, so she couldn’t issue mandatory web assignments.
Many of them used the internet for research, she allowed them to cite wikipedia as a supplement–but they had to cite other websites.
Many students turned in their ‘papers’ as digital blog posts on blogspot.com.
The art of writing in cursive is deteriorating, many of the students could not read her cursive writing, soon it may go the way of shorthand.
The sixth graders would often groan and roll their eyes when asked to do a writing assignment –yet when she listed off the internet as one of the methods they could produce the project, they quickly got excited –and lightbulbs went off.
Plagiarism is still an issue, but she and her colleagues have sophisticated ways of checking papers by copying and pasting them in Google, or using proprietary software.
I asked her if she sees an increase in web technologies as they get older, and she says “yes, soon the parents won’t restrict and monitor their usage, as they go to high school and college”.
I asked her if this helped them to be more or less social, she replied: “Both. They still are shy in class presentations as kids are from any generation, but they express more of their personal being online”
During tests, if the students didn’t know the answer to the questions, they would write “IDK”.
Now this certainly wasn’t a scientific study, but I’m sure you can find stories like this from sixth graders all around the United States, and perhaps around the world. Give them a six years, and it’ll be interesting to see how their online behavior impacts their college admissions: “10 percent of admissions officers from prestigious schools said they had peeked at sites like Facebook and MySpace to evaluate college-bound seniors. Of those using the profiles, 38 percent said it had a “negative impact” on the applicant, according to Kaplan Inc”.
If you have experience with the modern day sixth grader, I’d love to hear your observations in the comments below, if you don’t have any stories to tell, forward this to someone who can.
Warning, if you ask me any questions, and I’m unable to respond with a good answer, I may just respond, “IDK”