Hiring for college credit. Be a Twintern.

Help wanted.

That’s how the post appeared. If you looked at today’s edition of the New York Times, there was an article where Pizza Hut is looking for a social media intern. Basically they’re looking for someone who knows social media & is very familiar with Twitter. There’s a couple of issues that I have with this, especially in light of recent events (Ashton Kutcher & CNN’s race for 1 million followers, Oprah’s foray into social media & especially the Domino’s pizza fiasco), that I find troubling and downright at odds with since they’re relying on an intern to communicate what’s going on in their company.

Just what will a current college student be required to do?

To attend advertising shoots, product meetings and other corporate events. “They’ll be our social media journalist, chronicling in 140 characters or less what’s going on at Pizza Hut,� said Bob Kraut, the vice president for marketing communications at the company. The Twintern must also play social-media defense, monitoring Twitter for any mentions of the brand and alerting superiors whenever anything negative about the Hut is being said. 

So rather than giving the responsibility for monitoring your brand across the web using social media tools like Twitter search, Google alerts, Technorati, Del.icio.us, etc., you would resort to leaving the brand quality in the hands of a 20-23 year old? Granted, it seems that by having your “twintern” play “social-media defense” will make it seem that the company is slightly more authentic and original – an intern/student wouldn’t necessarily have the stale corporate voice or PR training that most communication folks in-house would. However, rather than making it seem that the intern is doing the work  and reporting behind the scenes, wouldn’t it be more prudent to have in the job description that the intern would be helping someone out with this? To me this job posting cheapens the position. Having read this over, it seems that Pizza Hut has no one that is in-house willing to take on this responsibility. Who knows if this is true?

If a intern twitters for company management, does anyone read it?

Another exception that I have with this position is that the company will have the intern do the behind-the-scenes reporting. Should that not also be the case of management to show that they are at least human and transparent? If you take another succesful company, for example, like Zappos, you don’t see an intern twittering about certain conferences or events. Rather, you hear candid and informative news and quips from their CEO Tony Hsieh. Also, any other employee that is attending an event tweets from their own account and you can see the different perspectives it is. To me, this falls into a gray area. Luckily Pizza Hut didn’t put in the ad that the “twintern” would be communicating through the Twitter account of Pizza Hut – that would almost make it seem that they want to hire a ghost Twitterer, which isn’t a great thing in my opinion.

Think about it though. If you’re interested in what’s going on with Pizza Hut, would you be interested in an intern’s perspective about what’s going on at corporate events or marketing promotions or even advertising shoots? Another issue that then is raised up is how much liberty & freedom do these “twinterns” have in pushing out their tweets? Will Pizza Hut tell them what they can and can not publish, aside from the trade secrets and other confidential information, of course?

Be creative in your application.

What is rather profound is that Pizza Hut is one of the first companies that I’ve read being quite receptive to receiving applications in non-traditional format. So don’t bother sending them your resume. Instead, be creative. Show them that you know how to use social media to promote yourself and I’m sure that will be a great case study on how you can promote Pizza Hut. Think about it this way…if you can be creative in how you sell yourself using this form of resume 2.0, then it should be a sign on how you might highlight the company. 

Don’t be like Pizza Hut in adoption of these tools.

“Once there are a lot of people using any form of media, large advertisers such as Pizza Hut gravitate towards it,” said Bob Kraut, the vice president for marketing communications.

This is probably a bad idea. Yes, it does seem to make sense to take advantage of the tools on hand if there are a great number of your customers on board, but you must also be more proactive and have someone examine what’s going online and if you think that there’s a chance that it will hit big, then take advantage of that. You have sites and applications like YouTube, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, LinkedIn, Viddler, Utterli, etc., so why not at least check those sites out while they’re still young and monitor to see if you’re being tagged or blogged about? Social media is not about being reactive. It’s being proactive. Do you issue press releases after someone talks about you? No. You want your name out there at all times showing your best side. That’s what social media will do for you. Talk to your customers and then if something bad happens (god forbid), you’ll be well versed in the tools to avoid having your own custom hashtag like #amazonfails. You’ll be better than that.

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."