All posts by aaronu

10 Social Media Tasks for Summer Interns

internIt’s that time of year when companies are looking to hire interns to do the menial tasks typically relegated to its entry level employees. When I visit many companies, the interns do little more than flip through magazines (“coverage searches”), cold call media (“pitching”) or conduct multiple Google searches for their clients (“research”).

But what if a communications team actually used its interns to learn more about this social media thing everyone’s talking about? Here are ten ways I might consider putting summer interns to work:

1. Social Media Overviews: Instruct each intern to create a 30 minute presentation on the social media platform of his/her choice that includes an overview, how its used and how your business might participate. There’s a good example here.

2. Competitive Analysis: Ask an intern to build a full social media profile analysis of a competitor or client. This might include what platforms they use, how they participate and some metrics do determine how they are successful. There’s a good example here.

3. Account creation/customization: If college students learn anything during their four to six years of higher learning, it’s how to create a social media profile that will attract attention. Allow them to create and populate some of your executive’s social media accounts. Then, set up some time for the intern to teach the executive about the platform. For example, if it’s a Twitter account, the intern could select a user name, fill in the bio, create a custom background and begin following relevant people in your company’s field. This post from TwitTip has some important considerations for building a business profile on Twitter.(NOTE: The intern should not participate on behalf of the executive, but set up the account and introduce the platform as appropriate).

4. (Social) Media Research: Which social media platforms are your main media contacts using? Are they blogging? Using Twitter? Do they want to be contacted through any of these by your company? This is a long term project, but might be really helpful to some of your colleagues who are apt to “pitch first and ask questions later.”

5. Template creation: If your intern knows Photoshop or another design program, it might be fun to have him/her create customized templates for your firm’s Twitter pages or a logo/avatar for your company’s employees. You can find Twitter background templates here and here are some awesome Twitter backgrounds for inspiration.

6. RSS building: I’ve said before that an RSS feed is one of the most important tools for any communications professional. If you’ve never taken the time to set up an RSS reader to monitor social media activity around your brand, your client or your industry, this is an awesome task for an intern. Once it’s set up, though, you have to use it! Here’s a good place to start.

7. Blog monitoring: There are hundreds of millions of blogs, and probably hundreds that reference your brand or industry. So how do you choose which ones to follow? I’ve written about this before, but perhaps your intern can conduct some research and report back about the most important blogs in your niche.

8. Blogging: As you may have heard, Pizza Hut is hiring a Vice President Twitter intern for the Summer. While I wouldn’t necessarily entrust an intern to develop my company’s social media strategy, I might like them to post about their experiences on my internal or external blog. Not only will it showcase another side to your company, namely that you’re empowering your interns, but it also provides your team with important feedback about the internship. It gives future interns insight into what they can expect as well, which could be good or bad depending on how you treat your interns!

9. Web Analysis: When it comes to e-commerce, usability and design, my guess is that most web savvy college age students have seen their fair share of websites. Invite your intern to provide an in-depth analysis of your corporate site. Is it easy to find your press room? Are their high resolution product shots easily available? How many clicks does it take to make a purchase? These are just some of the factors that consumers are interested in. A fresh set of eyes from your target demographic might be useful.

10. Video: The communications professional of the future will have a very different skill set than many of us have today. They will likely be well versed in most type of online media, have some ability to manipulate images in Photoshop or Illustrator and most likely know how to edit video. If these are skills your company values, then let them start by recording a couple of interviews with executives and editing them together. Even if they’re not perfect, the point of an internship is to learn, and these are already proven skills that will benefit both the intern and the company.

Finally, I’m going to add getting coffee to the list. Yeah, it kind of sucks. But if they’re already doing even one of the above tasks, is it really too much to ask for a good cup of coffee as well? It’s just part of paying your dues.

So what types of tasks do your summer interns perform? Would you trust them with your social media research or activity?

Photo credit: adpowers

Twitter Case Study: Motrin Moms

This weekend, there was a bit of excitement on Twitter as outraged moms around the world responded to this advertisement by Motrin:

The tone of the ad is conspiratorial. It’s supposed to be a mom talking directly to other moms who can identify with the the pain caused by carrying around her baby in various types of slings attached to her body.

I have not carried around a baby so I have no idea whether or not it hurts. But so far, I’m convinced by the ad. I mean, an extra 7-15 pounds (is that what babies weigh?) attached to my hips, my front, my back…I would imagine that would hurt after a while, no matter how ingenious the contraption.

Apparently, I’m wrong. And that, my friends, is where the value of market research comes in. And if you don’t do the research, that’s where the true value of social media comes in.

Apparently, there are many moms who have carried around multiple children on their back, their hips, their front. They were not in pain. In fact, quite the opposite. They are not happy with the Motrin ad campaign, and they want you to know about it.

Over the weekend moms on Twitter united in voicing their displeasure with the Motrin ad . They used "#motrinmoms" as the tag for the threaded conversation, making it easy for people to follow.

In less than 24 hours, this video was created as a response to the ad that intersperses the Twitter conversation with images of moms carrying their children in many of the states mentioned in the ad. It’s pretty powerful:

Also, you can see that the story was picked up by mainstream media as well and will likely appear in print tomorrow or the day after.

Motrin’s website was crashed by the traffic, and has yet to recover. Not good.

What’s surprising to most people is not that there was outrage over an ad that didn’t resonate with its target audience so much as the lack of response from Motrin (or its parent company — Johnson & Johnson). Either they are not monitoring some of the most important conversation channels for their target audience (mommy bloggers) like Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere, or they have not empowered their advertising, public relations or communications teams to respond immediately.

This is far from played out. There are probably some who will argue this is being blown out of proportion. In some ways, I might agree. But let’s look at some initial lessons:

LISTEN : People are talking about companies and brands every day on a variety of platforms. It is the responsibility of the marketing and communications team to monitor these conversations, whether or not they choose to participate. While its not possible to follow everything, even the most simple tools (RSS, Google Alerts) will catch things like this.

BE TRANSPARENT : When you make a mistake, apologize to the community and learn from it. This is an opportunity for Motrin to better understand its audience and to begin a conversation that probably should have started long ago.

There are many more, and I’m sure we’ll all learn from how Motrin handles this in the coming days.

Further reading: Mommy Bloggers Assimilate Johnson & Johnson , Forbes , Pistachio

Who is your blog’s audience?

Photo Credit: felipe trucco [Flickr]










At the conclusion of my social media workshops, there’s always one or two people that approach me and remark that they’ve never seen someone present with so much energy. I tell  them that it’s because I am so passionate about my work, and I’m glad that it shows.

It’s true, and it’s the same reason that I write this blog.

The bloggers that I read are pretty plugged in to the social media community, and I am certainly not writing for them (although of course I hope that my commentary can sometimes lend a new perspective to their thinking here). And this isn’t a destination for daily social media news and updates. If that’s what you’re looking for, check out these.

After seeing that indeed, people who participate in the workshops I lead are reading this blog for more information about this space, I think that my core audience is communications professionals who are just beginning to explore social media.

So if you’re reading this, here’s what I think I know about you:

  • You are between 30-50 years old
  • You are a male or a female (just threw that in to see if you’re skimming)
  • You are a seasoned communications professional
  • You have been tasked with integrating social media into your communications plans, or perhaps you just want to learn more about this space so you can provide strategic counsel to your executives

Please do me a favor and leave a comment on this post. Let me know a little bit about you so that I can do my best to ensure this content is relevant to you.

As always, thanks for reading! Tags: ,,

Facebook In China As A Community Organizing Tool

“Wen Jia-bao is my homeboy,” shouts one of the comments on the wall of Chinese Premier’s Facebook profile.

Portolio’s Daily Brief reports that Premier Wen has garnered more than 50,000 supporters in 30 days, primarily in response to his handling of the situation following last month’s devastating earthquakes. The profile, obviously not created by the Premier himself, displays his image as well as some publicly available information about him and relevant URLs in a mix of English and Mandarin.

Now the Party probably doesn’t rely on Facebook as a barometer for how their policies are received by its citizens, but perhaps a future generation of leaders will.

One of the opportunities here is to listen to the feedback from constituencies. It might seem obvious, but I doubt that many government agencies are doing this. Yes, they are monitoring these networks, but for security reasons, not for feedback.

But a lot of good can come from listening. Some companies are already seeing the value of this. It’s time for governments to do the same in a much more transparent way.

And if they’re smart, they’ll check the pulse of the population in other large Asian social networking communities like, Friendster or Hi5 as well.

What do you think? Am I way off base here?

Steroids As The Social Media Holy Grail


I am watching ESPN and shuffling through Google Reader. Here’s my deep thought: when Barry Bonds (allegedly) used steroids, it was bad.

We all agreed on that.

But when we talk about social media tools, referring to the robustness of a a new application as “like X on steroids” is perhaps one of the greatest early adopter endorsements it can receive.

Some examples:

My favorite, though, is Andrew Shue, founder of CafePress describing the company’s community as, “a Tupperware party on steroids.”

So while actual steroids are bad, steroids as metaphor are, in fact, quite positive. Thank goodness I don’t have to kids to explain that one to! Tags:

Graphic: Facebook Application Categories

There are 23,160 Facebook applications, according to a recent post by Flowing Data with figures supplied from Facebook.

The overwhelming majority of these apps fall into the category, “Just for Fun.” In fact, less than 1,500 fall are categorized as “Business”:


If you’re a company looking to establish a presence on Facebook, know your audience. They want to be entertained.

PS: Back when there were only 4,000 applications, I wrote a post for my company blog outlining what I thought were the 29 best Facebook applications for PR professionals. Overall the list is probably still pretty good, but I’d add the ‘Blog It’ app that was recently released by Six Apart for good measure.

Do you use Facebook for pitching or do your clients? If so, which applications do you find most useful? Tags:

Just Because I’m Not Posting Here Doesn’t Mean I’m Not Busy!

I realize that I haven’t posted to this blog in over a month. My intent is to start using it as a platform to discuss the issues that I am passionate about, but my client work comes first and there’s plenty of that to take care of right now.

In the mean time, you can follow my online activities on a new social media aggregation service called FriendFeed. I like it, but not a lot of my friends or business associates are using it yet. Are you? If so, leave your URL in the comments and I’ll add you.

By the way, I’m in San Jose today! Check out my Twitter feed for updates during my trip.

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