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Hello, world! My name is Laurelin Ontai, and I am GDD Interactive’s one and only intern this summer. I recently graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in advertising and a minor in business. I am an aspiring digital strategist who loves all things digital marketing (social media, SEO, content creation, oh my!), and I’ve been having a blast here at GDD. Through this internship and past internships (by the end of the summer, I’ll have done a total of six internships during my college career), I think it’s safe to say that I’m basically the intern expert. So I’ve complied a list of all the wonderful lessons I’ve learned about #ThatInternStruggle:


You’re Gonna Mess Up

You’re an intern. Despite what others say, this is, in fact, your first rodeo. It’s a new company with processes you’re unfamiliar with. You’re probably still a college student. Stuff happens. Maybe you formatted a blog incorrectly or maybe you sent that email meant for your grandmother to a client telling them how much you love their cookies. Whatever it may be, you’re only human and, considering you’re an intern, you’re probably a human with little to no experience in your field.

The important thing about making mistakes is to identify the problems and learn from them. For example, when I first started this internship, I would sometimes post to my personal Instagram account instead of the client’s. For a while, it seemed as though I had become quite the connoisseur of luggage, gardening tools and side tables. Though it seems like a non-issue as the content would just need to be reposted on the proper account, it did have an effect on the number of likes we got because it ultimately wasn’t posted at the optimal time. After this happened once or twice, I realized that I wasn’t logging out of accounts after I was done using them, which was the reason for the wrong account posting fiasco. So now I always triple-check before posting things in places they do not belong.

The thing about being an intern is that your supervisors know you’re not perfect. It’s not cause your supervisor thinks you’re stupid (I mean, most likely …), it’s just that he or she knows you’re the new kid on the block. You don’t know the company. You don’t know what you’re doing. All you know is that these peeps decided that you’re qualified for this position, more so than the suckers you totally owned in the interview process.

The fact that they chose you for this internship means a couple of things. First, they think you can contribute from the experience and qualities that you have, and second, they believe they can help you excel in your career goals. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, as long as you’re fixing the mistakes you make, that is. You’re gaining insights that make you a better employee, which makes you more hirable in the future and provides your company with higher quality work.

The main point being, life’s too short to be too hard on yourself. So soak up the experience, learn from your mistakes and take advantage of those work perks. (Yes, I’m referring to GDD day.)


social media intern


Online Community Management: Expect the Unexpected

As they say in Monty Python’s famous Spanish Inquisition skit – “NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!” – so it goes for online community management. Nobody expects … well, pretty much any of the crazy stuff that goes down on social media (trust me, I’ve seen some interesting things and met some interesting people). Expect the unexpected when it comes to online community brand management. For some reason, people say goodbye to any kind of filter when they’re on Facebook and have no problem telling you how much they hate you and your brand and your entire family. But no matter how many times they tell you you’re a failure, it’s important to always treat the customer with the utmost respect. Treat him or her online just as you would in person. Trust me, the customer always feels appreciated when you treat them like a person.

One of the main benefits of social media for a brand is to make that one-on-one, real-time connection with your everyday consumer. It makes sense for them to run to social media whenever they have a bad in-store experience. But how you react can be a make-or-break moment for whether the customer continues to patronize your brand. For example, one time I had a really bad experience with an airline brand, so naturally, being a social media person, I tweeted at them all about my grievances. Long story short, they got real snippy with me, and on that day, I made a solemn vow to never fly with them ever again. Looking back, yeah, I may have acted a little crazy, but we all get like that sometimes. All I needed was for this airline to tell me they’re sorry and that they’re trying to fix the problem, and maybe even give me a virtual hug. Instead, they lost a valuable customer.

Your job as a social media manager is to gain customers, not lose them. Kill ’em with niceness. For example, one time on Twitter a customer tweeted at our client mentioning that she planned to throw a surprise birthday party for her grandma on Labor Day and she was thrilled when we wished her grandmother a happy birthday. See? It’s moments like these that make your heart sing. It just goes to show that they way you approach the digital interactions you have with customers affects the perception of your brand.


twitter customer interaction success


The purpose of social media community management is to serve your brand’s customers virtually. Whether it be responding to a complaint, helping find a product in store or simply telling someone thanks for a compliment, it’s always important to remember that you are in customer SERVICE. No matter what gets thrown at you, remember that you are there to serve the customer.


You’re Smart. Deal With It.

Hey man, I only speak the truth. Like I said earlier, they picked you for a reason. You are THE CHOSEN ONE. So go for it. If you have an awesome idea, tell someone about it. Interns are allowed to have opinions, too.

One of the many cool things I got to do while at GDD was help with developing Nepali Tea Traders’ digital marketing plan. We had a “lockdown” at GDD and tossed around ideas about the brand as a whole, campaign possibilities, etc., all day long. As an aspiring digital marketing strategist, this was a pretty awesome experience. Nepali Tea Traders is a really cool, philanthropically-minded client, and it was great to be able to voice my ideas and opinions in the initial planning stages of their digital marketing strategy. One thing that has made my GDD internship so different from others I’ve had is the ability to really take charge of whatever project I’ve been given.

So just do you. Be the awesome, amazing, bright shining star you were always meant to be. OK, this is getting a little bit like the coach from “We Are Marshall,” but you get the point.

It’s OK to be bold. It’s even OK to mess up sometimes, as long as you figure out what you did wrong and fix it. Being an intern is one of the only times that you have a job that you know ends soon, so why not make the most of it while you’re there?

So those are my tips, my lovely interns. Work hard, be nice and have fun. Keep calm and intern on.

This post was written by Laurelin Ontai, GDD’s summer 2014 intern.