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Insights From Interns: Lessons Learned From A Social Media Intern

Work / 10.24.2019

Tara Volz / Content Coordinator

7 Things No One Tells You About Being a Social Media Intern for a Digital Marketing Agency

I know what you’re wondering: Did I have to make coffee runs as an intern?

The answer is yes… kind of.

In 2018, I landed a social media internship at Red Door Interactive – a digital marketing agency located in downtown San Diego, California. At the time, I had just rounded out my first year of post-graduate studies at San Diego State University and wrapped my previous year-long social media internship for a small start-up beauty company.
 
For those wondering, I graduated with my bachelor's degree in English from Florida State University in the Fall of 2016 before setting my sights West to pursue a master’s degree in Communication. Although I'd love to brag about how I landed an internship in an industry I always dreamed about, the truth is I never imagined myself in this field. Probably because it didn't exist.
 
As a confused undeclared freshman starting college in 2013, Instagram was only three years old and YouTube was still primarily used for watching music videos. Somewhere between then and now, those initial social media butterflies like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram became social businesses requiring new subject matter experts to help brands successfully navigate this evolving digital landscape.
 
Enter Red Door Interactive: Red Door (or RDI as we call it internally) specializes in social and content marketing comprising a robust client list including exciting brands like ASICS, Cannondale, Shea Homes and more. To truly deliver the results our clients need to maintain a healthy and successful social media presence, a great deal goes on behind the screens. Want to know what it's really like to work as a social media intern at a digital marketing agency? Here are my 7 top takeaways that might help you decide if social media or agency life is the right fit for you.

1. Get ready to become fluent in agency jargon.

As a millennial, I grew up with the assumption that there are two types of dictionaries – Webster and Urban. During my first week working a Red Door, I quickly learned that there is a third dictionary (and one I needed to keep close by) – Agency.
 
Ping. Bandwidth. Timesheet. SOW. LOE. WTF?! Marketing jargon varies at every agency and believe me it's going to take time to learn every nuance and acronym. My biggest advice is to refrain from using words you don't know. If you can't Google it, tap a neighbor and ask. Co-workers are your greatest resources and more than willing to offer help.

Need a head start on marketing industry terminology? Download our Marketing Jargon Dictionary today!

2. Social media requires a robust tool belt.

Working in social media at an agency means you’re publishing content for multiple clients on multiple platforms every day. Efficiency is the name of the game to keep operations running smooth. During my first week at Red Door, much of my time was spent getting familiar with the types of platforms at my fingertips.
 
There are four main categories of tools used day in and day out by the social team at our agency:
 
Scheduling: Sprout Social, Hootsuite, and Buffer are great for scheduling content for multiple clients across a variety of social platforms.
 
Tracking trends: WGSN is global trend forecaster for home goods, fashion, beauty, lifestyle, technology, and more.
 
Social Listening: NetBase is a heavyweight social listening tool that can track brand conversation online and transform those insights into concise data points.

Reporting: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all have reporting features built into their platforms. However, for more granular insights Red Door leverages Domo, Google Analytics, and Sprout Social.  

But don’t expect to be an expert in one day. The road to proficiency is paved with practice and patience. To help get you started, listen to our free crash course on the significance of social listening.  

3. Publishing live? Always triple check before hitting send.

Think of how many times you've ever published a tweet, a Facebook post, an Instagram picture. The number is probably in the hundreds, even thousands. While the process isn't rocket science, believe me, the wrong social post for the wrong client can definitely backfire. There are three aspects of every social post that I like to check before ever hitting send:
 
Spelling. Yes, I know it sounds obvious, but little mistakes can happen even after 3 rounds of review.
 
Profile: As I previously mentioned, agencies manage several brands’ social channels at any given time. It’s extremely important to make sure you’re logged into the right account before posting that #tacotuesday selfie onto the wrong Instagram story.
 
Links: Is it tracked? Is it shortened? Does it lead to the right landing page? After a few link mishaps myself, my nightmares are now filled with multiplying tabs of 404 errors.

Trust me, you will make one of these errors if you pursue a career in social media. In fact, major brands have published their mistakes into the Twittersphere over the years, which only validates that proofing (and then proofing again) matters.  

4. Community Management is ‘The Wild West’ of social media.

You never know what you'll come across online. It doesn't matter if you're tweeting about privacy laws or national donut day, there will always be people ready to debate about whether Krispy Kreme or Dunkin' serves the best glazed donut of all time. You're debating this in your head right now, aren't you?
 
Community management is sticky business. You've got to know which conversations to respond to, which ones to ignore, and which ones to hide. You know that saying ‘no press is better than bad press’? I disagree. Negative conversations on social can tarnish a brand's reputation. A vigilant eye and excellent communication skills are necessary tools of the social media trade.

See how major brands like Taco Bell and Netflix are winning consumers over with community management.  

5. Reporting is always required.

Think a career in social media is just about aesthetic Instagram feeds and viral Twitter memes? While creating content is half the job, the other half is understanding how content performs and using insights to inform social and content strategy.
 
As an intern, I was pushed to dive deep into the brand's social performance. Engagement rates, click-through rates, audience growth, etc. Social reports give value to your work and allow clients to visualize the evolution of their social channels. Luckily, there are tools to help you calculate metrics, but just realize analytics and mathematics are far from behind you if you want to pursue a career in this field.

Here’s some extra tips for learning how to be an excellent translator when listening to social media data.  

6. Coffee runs are real.

You know that scene from The Devil Wears Prada, the one where Anne Hathaway is running in office heels fetching Meryl Streep's grande hot soy decaf light foam cappuccino? Fortunately, that's not the type of coffee run I'm talking about.
 
Red Door Interactive might be a data-driven agency, but human connection is the fuel behind its 17 year-long success. From "Get-to-Know-You" meetings with department heads to "Coffee-Buddy" outings, as an intern, I gained relational experiences that transcend 9-5 work life. Starbucks runs are a great excuse to deepen personal relationships with your co-workers or other interns and an even better excuse to get your PSL fix on a Monday morning.

7. Mistakes will happen. Embrace them.

You won't be perfect. You won't know everything. And that's okay.
 
I experienced my fair share of social media mishaps during my internship, from grammatical errors in Tweets to an unscheduled Facebook post. And while I thought it was the end of the world at the moment, looking back I realized these mistakes were part of the learning process. Remember, improvement comes when setbacks are fueled by progression, not regression.
 
Whether you're about to graduate from college, pursuing a post-graduate degree, or simply looking to bolster your resume, internships are excellent opportunities to learn from experts in and out of your specialty. Agencies especially, allow you the opportunity to cross-collaborate with other departments. You might wind up leaving with a different passion than what you began with. That’s okay too. Change is the catalyst for evolution.
 
And if you've made it this far and want to know what happened after the clock struck 5 p.m. on the last day of my internship… we'll you're reading this, aren't you? I'll leave you with one last piece of advice bestowed upon me during my undergraduate years from Cuban American journalist, news analyst, and author Cathy Areu. In speaking to students about professionalism, she advised, "present yourself each day for the job that you want, not the job that you have." 
 
Show up early. Be adaptive in your learning. Deliver quality work you are proud of. Companies often leverage internship programs to discover unique talent and groom emerging professionals for full-time positions. If you're interested in internship programs offered at Red Door Interactive, you can follow our social channels (@reddoorinteractive) for updates or keep up with Red Door’s career page.

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