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An Alternative to Paying Your Social Media Interns

University social media department takes a different approach

January 3, 2019
 
 

“At @UFsocial we do not pay interns. We also don't expect our interns to work, we expect them to have fun.”

I've known Todd Sanders by way of Twitter (and other social networks) for nearly eleven years. We've never met each other in person and yet I've always thought that we would have epic conversations if we ever did meet up.

Near the end of last year, he tweeted out the “fun” comment above in response to my “Dear Universities, Pay Your Social Media Interns” post.

As the Director of Digital Communications and Social Media at the University of Florida, Sanders is a highly respected leader, creator, humorist, and thinker for all things related to social media and higher education. The first time I featured him on this blog was eight years ago when he was the "student affairs web guy."

His tweet sparked my curiosity and a brief email exchange took place in which he outlined how fun, not funds, is the focus of the social media internship program within the UF Social department that he leads.

Part of the Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing, UF Social “manages all flagship University of Florida social media accounts including Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, [and Giphy]. The team also consults with colleges and departments on social web strategy and hosts gatherings of campus social media managers.” In short, UF Social represents a massive learning/work opportunity for a social media intern.

According to Sanders, the internship program at UF Social is “like a club” and “interns help out with ideas and execution, but no heavy lifting or ‘job description’ type expectations.”

Within our email exchange, Sanders made it clear that his department doesn't expect [social media] interns to work. Whilst there are likely many interns at the university who are doing social media work for pay, the laidback atmosphere at UF Social is more about fun, experience, and a flexible level of participation.

“[O]ur interns aren't held to a schedule or deadlines, just show up when you're available and have fun (our job is to make it rewarding for them to show up, even though we can't pay them - and that's about getting experience working in our environment and seeing how projects come to life).”

Students who wish to receive academic credit for their internship do have that option. Although, “only 3 students have chosen the credit route out of the 50+ who have been social media interns,” Sanders wrote.

In some ways, the UF Social internship program sounds more like a student organization. A great experience without necessarily the formal work commitment that an internship entails.

In the spring semester, UF Social will roll out a new initiative. The department will focus on a series of “social [media] workshops” with the goal of establishing a “community of social media content creators who tell our stories better than we ever could. These trainings will be the start of that and we plan to also have them for faculty and staff.”

 

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