5 Ways Interns Can Help You Scale Quality Content

If you have been paying attention to the content marketing world in recent years, you know there has been a massive shift by Google toward high-quality content. Creating data-rich blog posts, infographics, and other educational content is critical in the post Panda world.

However, this work typically requires a significant investment of time, money, or both, leaving a lot of marketers struggling. Today’s post looks at how adding interns to your content marketing team can help you create the high-quality and high-converting content that Google loves, without spending a fortune.

Why Interns Work in the New Era of Content Marketing:

Similar to full-time hires, contractors, or agencies, interns come with their own set of benefits and challenges. Fortunately, there are a few key reasons why interns work well for content marketers:

Interns Are in Supply

With 80% of students interning at least once in college and 50% interning twice or more, the intern talent pool has never been better. Also, despite the common misconception that internships are just a summer thing, students actually seek internships year round, with over 40% of internships taking place during the school year.

Content Marketing Offers Invaluable Experience

A key selling point for any internship is a strong learning experience. Blog writing, landing page creation, and link outreach campaigns may seem like tedious but essential work to you; but for students, this is a golden experience in an emerging marketing field that still isn’t being taught in school.

Interns Optimize for Training Rather than Cost

While interns should never be seen as free labor, interns are by definition looking to trade upfront financial return for a learning experience. Our data shows you can hire top-notch marketing, sales, or social media interns for $10/hour, and you can hire top-notch graphic design interns for just $15/hour, all of which are far cheaper than hiring professionals of similar skill-level.

You Don’t Need to Get Married Just Yet

Since interns are short-term employees, you can hire them to help you experiment with new or small marketing campaigns, without the burden that comes with hiring full-time employees or expensive contractors.

Building a Winning Content Marketing Intern Program:

One of the biggest fears we hear from employers is that hiring intern(s) is going to be a drain on time and resources. While it’s true that a poorly-structured program can be a distraction, if you put some preliminary effort into hiring the right students and structuring your program in an organized manner, you can avoid most of the major pitfalls.

Here are a few critical tips for starting your own program:

Money Matters

While it’s likely there are interns willing to work for you for free, should you hire them? Probably not.

Not only is it against the law for most for-profit companies to hire unpaid interns, but also there is a lot of data that shows that candidate quality, conversion rates to full-time hire, and program success all drop significantly with unpaid hires.

On InternMatch paid positions see an average of twice as many applicants, which in itself can make or break your intern program.

Why pay your interns

Front Load Your Intern Program’s Educational Components

A great content marketing intern team needs an internal champion who loves to teach. This is someone who, on the first day of the internship, is willing to dig into the weeds of your interns’ projects, answer their questions, and point them to resources they can learn from. If you don’t have someone who likes working with students, you might not want to start an intern program (as without proper guidance, students will struggle).

That being said, teaching and managing is not a huge burden. We have found that, with a good process in place, interns can be trained and managed with just 3-5 hours a week committed.

Hire within Your Means

There are benefits to having a lot of interns, each completing different assignments at your office and collaborating with each other; but you should start small so you learn best practices before hiring 10, 20, or 50 interns.

A great tip is to hire a few interns during the fall, winter, and/or spring. Then extend summer internship offers to the best students from each batch to ensure you have some well-trained intern leaders for each summer internship class you host.

Get Rolling

One of the best parts of an internship program is that, once you’ve had a few intern successes, you can really accelerate your hiring. Smart students tend to hang out with other smart students and will start referring one another to your company. The result is that recruiting gets easier as you hire more interns, and soon you will have a pipeline of smart talent coming directly into your content marketing team.

5 Ways Interns Helped Scale Quality Content:

Interns aren’t right for all campaigns. Their sweet spot is working on projects that have:

  • Structure
  • Can be easily taught
  • A degree of creativity and customization to amplify the campaign’s impact.

Here are five inbound marketing campaigns where we see companies having a huge amount of success in leveraging interns:

1. 500 Startups: Using Interns to Scale Blog and Resource Content

500 Startups is a prime example of a company that had a huge amount of success using a content marketing intern. Over the past three months, their intern, Vi Tran, was prolific in writing articles for the 500 blog. As a fully integrated team member, she was able to go above and beyond what a normal hired gun could do, interviewing the accelerator’s team members, reporting on the accelerator’s events, and launching creative campaigns like the “Co-Founding Love” series.

This is exactly the type of great marketing content that works in the post Panda update SEO world. In addition, she generated content on other platforms like Quora and Twitter. Above all else, Vi despite still being a student, is a phenomenal writer.

2. Udemy: Scaling Ad Design and Landing Pages

If you haven’t read it already, Udemy wrote a great article on the Kissmetrics blog about Facebook advertising. They emphasized that the ad picture is the most important part of a Facebook ad; but they also noted that rotating new ads frequently, as well as creating compelling and unique landing page designs, are both also critical to success. What they didn’t mention is that one of the strategies they have employed in the past is using interns to help create the volume of ads and landing page designs that have made them such a Facebook advertising powerhouse.

3. InternMatch: Sales Interns to Help with Backlinks

At InternMatch we practice what we preach and have had some unique success with interns putting together link-building campaigns. This past summer, we ran a campaign called Mastering Summer Internships that shared a weekly blog post with tips and tricks on how students could master their summer internships. Then we had a sales intern call and speak to universities about the value of sharing this information with students, which led to a number of high-quality backlinks to the campaign. The chart below shows just how successful this campaign was in growing a number of our top internship keywords over this past summer:

InternMatch Keyword Rankings

4. SmartRecruiters: Building a Brand with Intern Guest Blogs

When SmartRecruiters was still a small six-person team, David Smooke joined them as a marketing intern tasked with building their social media presence. As part of his job, David reached out to tons of HR blogs (small and large) to do guests posts to help build their brand. Furthermore, he helped the CEO, who had extensive industry connections but not nearly enough time to create content for all the blogs that wanted to write about SmartRecruiters. As a result, the business covered a lot of ground for a small team, and David was later hired on board as a full-time employee. He is now their Director of Social Media.

5. KISSmetrics: Experimenting with New Content Strategies

One of the most important aspects of growing a successful content strategy is trying out new things that are likely to fail. Sometimes it can be incredibly hard to take full-time employees off of already running marketing campaigns to dip their toes into this new water. For this role, an intern is perfect; and this is exactly what Kissmetrics did when launching GetDataDriven.com. By hiring a talented marketing and engineering intern, Kissmetrics was able to open up a new site that could act as a laboratory for all kinds of optimization tests that could be later implemented on their other products.

Closing:

Ultimately, most of your marketing campaigns will not require a rocket scientist to execute. There are a slew of fantastic resources available to help teach anyone how to create innovative content, land guest posts, and close deals on new links. Often, the hard part is finding reliable people who are driven and passionate to execute on your day-to-day content needs. Frequently, an intern is a perfect fit.

Not to mention, if the intern does a fantastic job for you, then you might have also just discovered your next marketing hire.

About the Author: Nathan Parcells is the CMO of InternMatch.com, a site that helps students find internships and helps companies find amazing interns. His writing has been featured in VentureBeat, The Washington Post, and Forbes. Nathan loves helping companies figure out unique ways to attract and utilize interns. Feel free to contact him with any questions at nathan@internmatchcom. Any Kissmetrics readers who want to hire an intern can get started with a 30-day free trial on InternMatch.

  1. I take the chance to publish an open position for 1 intern at Datafield. Job description available in the post (thanks Kissmetrics) for making our life easier.

  2. Excellent article, but how much should an unknown charge for this type of work, because if you need to recruit your costs always go up, anyway seek talented people helped me a lot and especially recent graduates who bring ideas, fresh and motivation.
    Excellent article thanks for sharing.

  3. There are time when I learn more from my interns than they learn from me. Their questions and comments give some new perspectives. These sometimes turn into new strategies. It is a win-win situation.

    • Hi Marianne,

      Thanks for sharing. I feel exactly the same way. When you hire a student who is the right fit it is incredible how much enthusiasm, hard-work and unique feedback they can bring to the the table. Always sad to see them take off after a great internship, but we have had many come back to work at our company, or who we referred on to another company where they are already doing great things.

      Cheers,
      Nathan

  4. Great post. You need lots of good articles, blogs and social media posts to make it all come together and start building that trust. The intern route can work provided, as you say, you find the right one and build the proper relationship with him/her.

    I find it increasingly time consuming though to look after all my niche sites and am spending more and more time managing them. Have you found a way “around” this? I found this service that’s being developed by a couple of guys and although they are just in development- it may be worth a look? The address is:http://www.massivenichemarketing.com

  5. Really great post, with some great tips. Especially the point on education. The truth of the matter is – whoever is running your social media or content strategy should be one of your most knowledgeable employees, whether they are full-time or an intern. They are going to have to know your business, your industry (and in an agency’s case, your client’s business and your client’s industry), as well as best practices, ethics, etc. If it’s an intern running your social, your blog, then you’re right – you need strong leadership teaching them and helping them along.

    Also, make sure to check out Spoke Marketing’s Sprockets Program – http://www.wearespoke.com/sprockets.php They hire interns to basically RUN pro bono campaigns – strategy, project management, design. Invaluable experience.

    - Danielle, Online Marketing Manager at Atomicdust

  6. …. Sorry, meant to ask. What are your thoughts on agency’s hiring interns to work on behalf of clients?

    As social media marketers, we tell businesses they shouldn’t just give social media/blogging to the interns. So we ask they to pay us to then in turn give it to our interns?

    Just something I’ve struggled with (ethically) and would love to hear others thoughts.

    - Danielle, Online Marketing Manager at Atomicdust

  7. Hey!

    Great post with very useful tips.and yes If you really want to grow of your business and want to make your brand popular than internet marketing is prime factor in today’s world.

  8. hey Nathan Parcells !
    Great post. yeah you are absolutely right that interns can help for creating something innovative. and can do better than previous generation. because this generation is too much fast and they have more insights comparatively.
    Thanks.
    Matt

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