Take it for granted if you will, but when it comes to applying for a summer job or internship, it is still a selling point that we college kids know how to use Twitter. “Social media internships” are cropping up all over the place, tailor-made for us back-of-the-lecture-hall Facebookers by every adult who’s heard that Internet thing the kids are talking about is the marketing tool of the future.
My own interview for a social media position went a little like this:
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“Do you know how to use Twitter?”
I didn’t actually have a Twitter account at the time. I also didn’t have more than a vague understanding of what a hashtag was — trending? Hadn’t heard of it — but I wasn’t worried. Learning a new social media network is like switching from automatic to stick shift, minus the part where it’s difficult. And I did learn, fast. A week before my first day of work, I got my own Twitter account to figure it out. A little Wikipedia and we were in business.
Sorry. You get this. As Rich Gilliland ’13, a social media intern at the Yale Publishing Course this summer, pointed out, social media is just second nature to our generation.
Still, dear reader — you who may well score a job based on your presumed media savvy — there’s something empowering and a little frightening about being given access to a company or organization’s most direct, immediate communication with consumers. I had approximately twelve followers when I began my internship; when I received the keys to the company Twitter feed, an additional 10,000 people were listening. Not a huge following when compared to Lady Gaga’s cult of 13,000,000, but enough to change the way I approached tweeting, at least from nine to five.
The first thing you realize is that while you will undoubtedly catch on to the mechanisms of Twitter quickly, basic understanding of the medium does not a professional Twit-master make. There is a whole slew of corporate Do’s and Don’ts to learn, and learn we did. As Eitan Fischer ’13, a communications intern at a nonprofit physicians’ committee for responsible medicine, noted, “There’s knowing who’s following you and getting into their minds. And then there’s really squeezing the most good that you can out of the social media outlets — and that takes skill and knowledge.”
Whether you’re the smart-ass college student running the company Twitter or a trainee under a twenty-something internet savant, constantly think of how your readers will perceive your blasts. Julia Cortopassi ’13, who spent the summer contributing to the Twitter and Facebook feeds at Rent the Runway, learned that the company uses the outlets as a humanizing tool, converting happy customers into brand evangelists eager to turn their friends on to the high-end clothing rental site.
But while a low-controversy company like Rent the Runway does not run much risk of being un-liked and un-followed, groups with a more divisively political slant can alienate followers with a single misinterpreted tweet. Even the most radical of groups tend to be wary of straying far from the party line, lest they offend certain demographics.
Fischer said that losing fans was just as much a concern as gaining new ones. This requires much more thought and effort than a standard personal Twitter, he said — 70 employees’ worth of effort, including that of a designated “social media strategist.”
What would @GretchenWeiners do?
Some individuals publish only their own witticisms and thoughts on Twitter, never quoting or retweeting. Some are funny enough to get away with this; they gain popularity as an event unto themselves. Company Twitters are all about mentions and retweets — to a point. Only follow back or RT another company or person if they will advance your company’s standing and if what they have to say is relevant. Think like a social climber: who do you have to be nice to for people to see you as a powerful cool kid? I like to think of this summer as a celebration of my inner bitch. I mean, it’s what I was paid to do — or not; LOLZ #unpaidinternship.
The list of relevant and influential users differs based on what kind of company you work for. The Twitter team for Elizabeth and James, one of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s clothing lines, replies directly to every single consumer that tweets about their new @ElizandJames purchases. And they want photos! This kind of approach gives a friendly, “we care” face to the company, creating the kind of evangelists Cortopassi described. (Side note: I personally followed @ElizandJames only until their saccharine replies became too much to bear. I really don’t need to see another selfie of some girl in her new sunglasses. Sorry.)
On the other hand, high culture institutions like the Met have less to gain by replying to every user who mentions them; follow backs and retweets are reserved for influential figures only.
When I or anyone on my team mentioned a specific person in a Tweet, we always checked to see if they had a Twitter so we could tweet @ them. People love being mentioned in a positive light, and it puts you on their radar. If they weren’t following you before, they are now.
I came back from summer vacation with the horrible habit of signing everything “xx”. The double bisous has become the standard signoff in the fashion industry, in everything from email to Facebook and Twitter. Every office has its own little nitpicks when it comes to formatting tweets. At mine, <3s and double exclamation points are encouraged!! It shows we care <3 xx
Otherwise, the social media interns of Summer ’11 recommend keeping tweets to 125 characters or less for easy retweeting. If you’re posting a photo or video, begin your tweet with “Photo” or “Video,” because people are dumb. Weigh each post’s utility: is linking through to Fox News’ decimation of your left-wing agenda worth it, just because they’re Fox News? When linking to an article you found through someone else’s Twitter, be polite. It’s more about the mention, and plagiarism is never cool. Consistency and frequency is key. And always, always use hashtags!!
Hear me, humanities majors: tweet often, tweet well. Take these hints to heart because God knows you’re not getting a job based on your performance in Major English Poets.