Trusting an intern with social media is like trusting a kid with your credit card

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Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

By Chris Manley, CEO, Engenius

Do you remember getting an allowance as a kid? Some friends I knew had to earn it — they had specific chores that held a specific dollar amount once completed. Other friends just got $5, $10, or (gasp!) $20 from their mom or dad every week, as though it was payment for existing. Either way, most of my friends growing up earned an allowance.

It always fascinated me how each of my friends spent that cash. For some, they had what I call “shiny object syndrome.” They saw something they wanted; they acted quickly; and they bought it. They rarely had money left over. Some developed small habits that drained their allowance fund rather quickly — like the guy who bought a Mountain Dew every day from the vending machine. I can only imagine how hard caffeine withdrawal was for him years down the road. Every now and then, there was a kid who saved diligently and spent wisely — with a bit of an ethos and common sense to their budgeting strategy.

Once I got to college, I kept seeing the same thing. Some friends would blow every dime to their name on beer every weekend. Others maintained the shiny object syndrome, acquiring a car with an expensive payment they could barely afford. Yet again, there were a few who saved diligently and spent wisely.

Often, I raise an eyebrow when I see a company or colleague hire a college intern to manage their social media. Typically, the rationale goes something like, “Well they spend so much time online; I figure they know how to do it!” Occasionally, the rationale is that interns are cheap labor — sometimes free.

Using this reasoning for entrusting a 20-year-old college student to take over your business’s public reputation is akin to giving a youth a $20 bill every week and entrusting them to always spend it wisely: Occasionally it may work, but normally there will be hard lessons learned.

Companies routinely invest tens of thousands of dollars on brand development (whether outsourcing it to contractors or doing it internally). This helps a company understand its target audience, develop buyer personas, and carefully craft its messaging to specifically reach their target demographics — becoming a finely tailored custom suit. The people developing this brand have years of education and experience.

As we’ve witnessed in recent years, social posts can go viral very quickly, even if deleted, and not always in positive ways. One misstep in a tweet can cause months of expensive cleanup. One poorly worded Facebook message can lead to swift declines in revenues. One inappropriate Instagram post can lead to abrupt resignations.

Our social profiles are windows into our companies for the world to see. They have enormous power to spread our message far and wide in the blink of an eye. They also hold an enormous potential for liability and error.

Use caution when relying on inexperience to entrust your company’s entire reputation and, by extension, future on an intern. Be careful and be cautious. One ill-advised tweet could be the unfixable rip in your finely tailored custom suit.

Chris Manley is the CEO of Engenius, a marketing firm specializing in helping businesses navigate digital marketing through strategic web design, search optimization, and digital advertising. You can contact him at chris@engeniusweb.com or by visiting www.engeniusweb.com.

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