What’s the value of a Social Media Intern?

There’s a new kind of digital marketing job recently spotted around LinkedIn in the past week or so. Social Media Scapegoat is the unofficial title (the official titles vary and use much softer and coercive language)

The JD is essentially that of an entry level social media person, but with the italicised condition in the footer that discloses the true agenda behind this position. If anything goes wrong or something or someone fucks up — your head is automatically the first on the guillotine, and all that will be known of you or your legacy is your anonymous obituary in a Mumbrella article.

The trade-off could seem fair — as an entry level social media intern you manage to break the experience paradox (“You’re telling me I need experience to get experience?”) and you soak in the atmosphere, perks and wisdom of people busily around you doing “real work”.

In return, you can look after the company blog, you can come into laboured ideation sessions to offer a ‘fresh perspective’ and by simple statistics you can single handedly lower the average age of a top heavy staff list.

I’m calling it the Fuzzy Dunlop role.

But of course a Social Media Intern doesn’t need to be this cloak and dagger. If we thought of young people in entry level positions as detectives think of informants we might see more value arise from the arrangement. Several plot lines in The Wire taught us that a detective is only as good as his/her informant — could the same not be said of a companies and entry level positions?

A good informant carries instinctive and unbiased knowledge of a world the rest of us don’t have time to live in. We’re too busy doing “real work” to make sense of emerging trends, new technologies and behaviours in the way we need (and sometimes want) to.

The value of a good intern is much more than jargon-busting or lip-service to trends; it is insight into a rapidly changing world; it’s exchanging a little of your time for a lot of theirs; it’s moulding, mentor-ing and curation of new talents. It might not be likely that much of what your informant gives you will ever make it to client court — but it could be an idea that leads to a bigger idea. It could be an insight which simplifies a strategy, it could be a case study which frames a pitch, it could be technology which solves an executional problem. Piece-by-piece and lead-by-lead a good company/intern relationship will ensure we all stay at least one foot in the future — even if it is all weird, terrifying nonsense.