During the last live session of Social Media for Social Good Academy, there was a lot of discussion around work study students and social media interns.
What kinds of projects should they work on?
How to make the work meaningful?
How to best use their unique perspectives, skills, talents, worldviews?
A word on unpaid internships – don’t do it. Not only does this cheapen nonprofit work overall, it perpetuates the false notion that marketing and communications is something that just anyone can do for free. More importantly, unpaid work is inequitable and discriminatory to those who can’t afford to work for free.
I have a few ideas for nonprofit social media interns, having been a nonprofit intern myself as well as having managed them through the years:
- Come up with a list of 50 accounts to follow on Instagram, and why.
- List out popular hashtags by industry, locality, and cause area.
- Create Instagram Story content and graphics using Canva.
- Make a measurement spreadsheet and pull in data from Facebook Insights, Instagram Insights, etc.
- Collect stories from program staff to turn into social media content.
- Research what other nonprofits in the area or working on the same issues area are doing on social media – what works, what falls flat, and why?
- Make a Twitter list of journalists and thought leaders to follow.
- Compile a list of 25 LinkedIn profiles that the nonprofit should connect with.
- Collect verified statistics on the issue and the cause and create graphics to post with Canva.
- Write a blog post about the next normal for nonprofit social media – what should the organization pay attention to, and what’s on the horizon?
To get even more ideas, I posed this question to the Nonprofit Social Media Storytelling Facebook Group, and also on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Here are some of the responses:
- Select an important moment for organization (awareness week, event, fundraiser, etc) and share goals. Have the intern create a list of potential themes, hashtags and engagement ideas for a campaign. Once approved, have them create content/posts, graphics, etc for campaign. We love to see the ideas that come from this especially the creative ways to engage on social.
- What is the next platform we should be on and why?
- They could also work on looking at your current strategy and suggesting some new content ideas for engagement. Fresh eyes and creativity is the #1 benefit of an intern in my opinion
- A good first assignment is researching hashtag holidays for use in repurposing organizational website information (this also serves to give them the opportunity to get familiar with the organization while looking through the website while you can then identify what their skill set may be)
- Who are your most engaged people on your pages? Are there FAQ that come up a lot that you can compile?
- Internships are supposed to provide a learning experience rather than just work experience, so I’d want to have an intern think about overall strategy rather than just produce and post content. Dig into the data and come up with actionable ways the org can boost engagement, raise more money, convert more followers to email subscribers, or whatever goals make sense. Are there better times of day or types of content that the audience responds to? Are the platforms in use the right platforms for the audience and the types of outcomes the org wants to attain from their use of social media?
- I’d have them study up on best practices, real world examples of success, and common pitfalls, then propose a Social Media Policy for the organization, as well as create a companion toolkit (content calendar, templates, brand theming, et al)
- In addition to the creation of content, I found that allowing them to *schedule* out posts is an EXCELLENT use of intern time, as if an intern is only with you one or two days a week, they can schedule content for the entire week and weekend. They can also help contextualize metrics based on engagements, etc. Also: this activity is skill development in that they can hone when posts are most likely to get engagements, what type of posts (including video or images) drives engagements, and how to better match the purpose of an organization to external audience based on the social media channel being used. Having the intern walk away with a social media strategy that they can add to their portfolio of accomplishments is a huge win for the intern as well as your non-profit.
- Ours translate articles and information into images and videos for social media. We have Powtoons and Canva. They do not get the keys to posting. Social media audit.
- I love having interns do stories! They are so creative and are so willing and able! We have 2 right now that are doing daily posts with me. They create content and help me fill up the calendar. One of them is really interested in learning more about video editing so she and I spend time every Thursday on editing video content.
- Create example schedule. Scheduling is one of those weird easy-seeming things that can actually be overwhelming. Thinking how they would schedule out a strategy would be beneficial.
- We have interns use social media kits provided by organizations like SAMSHA to create posts for special awareness events like Prevention Month. This includes images, hashtags, accounts to tag, etc.
- Create a weekly series of 5-10 posts such as Wake-Up-Wednesdays or Throwback Thursdays using our organizational info, messaging and pictures.
- These are great ideas! I think I saw mentions of this already, by creating a content calendar helps better organize deployment as well as align strategy.
- Sourcing UGC and/or stock, engaging with new accounts or followers on IG, helping to develop a content calendar (this will probably take some training/guidance), mini photo shoots to help fill in your content gaps (think creative flat lays with props, stop motion animation, IG Reels, etc), IG Stories, A/B testing content or posts, etc.
- Ours depends on the goals of the intern and what they want to be able to learn and talk about their experience with us. Depending on their direction we set them up for a learning and professional development experience that will have as targeted career value as possible. We’re mindful that using their time as free labor undervalues and holds back our own profession. We are concerned that the world will continue valuing marcomm work in the NGO sector as free and cheap because we do it with intern’s “free” time.
Where to find interns? Here are a few places:
- Post on LinkedIn and share on your nonprofit’s official social media channels, Facebook Page, Twitter, Instagram.
- Ask for referrals from family and friends.
- Post on career websites and internship boards.
- Attend job fairs.
- Reach out to local schools and colleges.
- Post on local outlets like Craigslist and community Facebook Groups or Pages.
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