How to stand out on social media during your internship

By on August 8, 2013

This is one in a series of posts offering quick internship advice by students wrapping up their summer programs. Read the whole series here.

Social media can make or break an internship. If the person reviewing intern candidates scans your profiles and finds embarrassing Facebook photos or profanity-laden tweets, you’re probably not going to hear back. Two strikes if you tweet once a month.

On the other hand, using social media skillfully is an easy way to grab the attention of people in the newsroom who otherwise might not notice you. And as an intern, the bottom of the food chain, you want all the positive attention you can get.

Here are four ways to ensure you stand out on social media during your internship.

1. Interact with staffers

Just following them isn’t enough. It’s crucial to prove you understand why it’s called social media. Talk to reporters about their stories, share links relevant to their beats and maybe even drop a few cheesy journalist jokes. Don’t forget to follow the executive editors, too. I made the mistake this summer of not doing that until almost halfway through my internship — and they noticed.

2. Create Twitter lists

Before your internship starts, build a Twitter list of essential people in the community you’re covering. It should contain the accounts of police and fire stations, businesses, politicians, universities and anything else worth regularly monitoring. You could also create separate lists for each beat.

There are several perks to doing this: You’ll walk into the newsroom already familiar with the community’s key players, and you’ll also immediately prove you’re adept at social media. Other staffers might follow the lists you’ve built, raising your profile even more.

Also, your news organization may already have created lists, so be sure to subscribe to them before your first day.

3. Social media doesn’t stop at Twitter and Facebook

Live tweeting is so 2010. While on assignment, use Vine, Instagram and SoundCloud to add color to your coverage. Your news organization might repost your content to its own networks, thus potentially exposing it to thousands of people.

4. Check social networks a limited amount during the day

No one wants to be remembered as the intern who wasted away hours on Facebook during work. However, it’s our responsibility as journalists to keep up with what’s happening in the world. Increasingly, social media is the vehicle for that. I recommend doing a five-minute scan of your social networks about once an hour to ensure you’re aware of any breaking news. If your editor doesn’t seem happy that you’re browsing Twitter, just explain yourself.

Andrew Gibson, a Colorado native, is a rising senior at the Missouri School of Journalism, where he studies multimedia journalism and serves as president of the ONA Mizzou Student group. This summer, he’s interning at the Orlando Sentinel as the interactive/online intern. When he’s not drooling over code or analytics, he’s probably watching the Denver Broncos win or drinking lattes. Get in touch with him at @AndrewGibson27 or