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twintern

noun [countable]

a person, especially a student or recent graduate, who is employed to promote a company by using social media such as Twitter and Facebook

twinternship

noun [uncountable]

a job taken by a student or recent graduate which involves promoting a company by using social media such as Twitter and Facebook

'"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.'

New York Times 19th April 2009

'Pizza Hut 'Twinternship' Available … While it may look like some kind of prank and serves to continue the "twitterification" of the English language, Pizza Hut is hiring a 'Twintern' for the summer.'

Marketing Pilgrim 20th April 2009

If you're an avid user of social media, and can't think of any better way to while away your free time than a good long session on Facebook or Twitter, then becoming a twintern could be an appealing employment opportunity. Imagine the dream scenario of tweeting as the main activity of your working day, and even being paid for the privilege of doing so …

Large international companies are beginning to wise up to the use of social media as a powerful promotional tool, which can be harnessed as an instant, direct way to communicate with potentially millions of customers in real time. Why not then put someone young, cheap and well-versed in the art of social networking specifically in charge of interacting with this massive pool of tech-savvy consumers?

sometimes more formally referred to as brand advocates, twinterns can wield a significant amount of influence on company image, and not always in a positive way

A twintern is usually a student or a person who has recently completed their degree and is therefore anxious to gain professional experience. Twinterns are recruited by companies specifically to spread the word about brands and services on Twitter or other social media platforms. The word twinternship is also used to refer to this as a work placement, paid or unpaid and usually for a fixed period.

Instead of the usual activities that interns get lumbered with – photocopying, making coffee or other tasks that no-one else really fancies doing, twinterns have an opportunity to do some very high-profile publicity work, networking with millions of potential customers, and having their productivity assessed in relation to the number of 140-character bursts of PR they can churn out each day.

Sometimes more formally referred to as brand advocates, twinterns can wield a significant amount of influence on company image, and not always in a positive way. Tweets can carry the same weight as an official press release or attract even more attention, and yet a twinterns's activities often go largely, and perhaps unwisely, unmonitored by company bosses. In 2009, former UK home-furnishings retailer Habitat attracted unfavourable publicity when its twintern sent out misleading tweets including keywords relating to protests in Iran, so that people who searched for information about the protests would see company ads instead. Episodes like this have led some companies to allocate the job to employees with a higher level of responsibility and experience.

Background – twintern

The terms twintern and twinternship first hit the spotlight in 2009, when restaurant chain Pizza Hut became one of the first companies to officially employ someone in this type of role. Pizza Hut's first twintern was 22 year-old US marketing graduate Alexa Robinson, who was so successful in the job that she boosted Pizza Hut's Twitter following from 3000 to 13,000 in just a few weeks, later being given the official title 'tweetologist' and allocated a full-time position.

As a blend of intern/internship and Twitter, twintern and twinternship represent two further additions to the ever-increasing collection of Twitter-inspired words. Love them or loathe them, there's no doubt that so-called 'Twitterisms' have captured the imagination of language users, and though many of these inventions only make a fleeting appearance in our vocabulary, the playful combining potential of 'Tw' seems likely to be a creative feature of English for some time to come.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 26th February 2013.

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