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Ghost Tweeting: The Real Phantom Menace

I just found out my favorite celebrity contracts their Tweets and I'm so sad....

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[ Social Media]

One of the coolest parts about  my job is the fact that I am always up to speed on the latest and coolest stuff in the world of search, social media and things of that nature. Over the course of the past decade, there have been no shortage of things to keep my eye on. That’s one of the cool parts of my job. What makes it interesting however is not necessarily the emergence of these new tools and/or technologies but how they end up being used.

I’ll give you an example. A couple of weeks ago at SES Chicago, our own Abby Johnson had a chat with Liana Evans about the concept of ‘ghost tweeting’. Ghost Tweeting is the practice of having multiple people twittering on the same account. Earlier in the year, Guy Kawasaki kind of got the search marketers buzzing about this a little bit at SES New York when he admitted he employs people to post updates on his Twitter account.

So you have Twitter, growing like crazy, immensely popular… then you have marketers like Kawasaki doing something a little differently with it. What happens? Well, it doesn’t take long before people start to point and say things like; ‘he’s doing it wrong’ or ‘that isn’t how you’re supposed to use it’ and when folks really want to climb up and stick a flag in that moral high ground, they question the ethics. They’ll call it unethical. They’ll call it amoral. Why, I have no doubt that a few of them will even say it’s contributing to global warming. The nerve of this guy… um, Guy. Twittering in such a way. It’s unnatural.

Do you think ghost tweeting is a problem or a bad thing?  Let us know in the comments.

Now on the one hand, I can’t argue the rationale used when critics will say: it has his name on the account. It has his picture on the account. Therefore people assume that he is actually doing the talking. True, true and true… but so what? If you follow Guy, do you follow Guy because, gosh, he’s just so awesome and having a look at what he’s thinking every hour or so is just the high point of your day? Or, do you follow Guy because you like the articles, ideas and links he posts? I suppose if your Guy following is a product of the former, then, yes, you might reasonably be expected to feel somewhat disillusioned to learn that his hand may not be directly on the wheel of some of those updates. Then again, if this is the case, I would submit that you might need to talk to someone about adjusting your meds. Here’s a little revelation for you: the people you follow on Twitter are not your real ‘friends’. They are people who feel like they have something interesting (or not) to say and that somewhere someone might find what they have to say interesting enough to read it. That’s it.

Twitter ethics? Please. Morally responsible Tweets? I mean really people. I follow Kawasaki myself and have no problem suggesting you do too because he frequently has updates I find interesting for some reason or another. Does it matter that he isn’t personally typing or finding the updates? Not to me. Not even a little. He is employing people to Twitter things on his behalf and I assume, if nothing else, if they were Twittering things he didn’t agree with, like, or find interesting himself… well, he’d go get somebody else to do it. If the updates weren’t interesting, I would just stop reading them… or unfollow him altogether. Being upset because you find out Guy isn’t personally typing updates into his Twitter account is akin to seeing Michael Jordan out somewhere and being upset because he’s wearing something other than Hanes and drinking something other than Gatorade.

Was Twitter originally designed for marketers? No probably not. Again, so what? The Internet was created as a communications tool for the military. Was it designed for people to be able to order stuff from Amazon and play farm town? Was email designed for newsletters? Was video designed for porn? Ok, I’ll give you the porn thing maybe, but the rest of it? No, I don’t think so. The best internet tools are the tools with the broadest range of applications. If you have a good tool, invariably someone will use it in a way that was previously not considered or maybe even intended. Does that make the new application somehow wrong or evil?

As for ghost tweeting, I suppose it comes down to basically what Liana is saying in the video. It’s about the expectations of your followers. If they are following you because you are ‘you’ and ‘you’ are Tweeting about you (which is just creepy)… you may need to do your own updates. Otherwise, if the people following your account seem to be engaged and interested in what you are putting up there, then what in the world difference does it make as to who pushed the update button?

So where do you stand on this whole ‘ghost tweeting’ thing?  Sound off in the comments.

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  • http://twitter.com/wiredmike Mike

    If Tweeting on behalf of an organization or company I think Ghost Tweeting is certainly acceptable. I think if you are following an individual that’s different. The tweets should be done by that person or a note made that it was actually coming from someone else on that users behalf.

  • http://www.thewritestuff.be/ Michael

    I work with two semi-celebrities. Neither of them are really into social media things, but I have worked on projects for which we had to prime the pump a little for them. I don’t like it, as I feel if this is a personal name Tweet, it really should come from the person or have it billed as “from the office of…”. But it was a case of throw in a few Tweets on their behalf or not be there at all. In both cases, I don’t think they will keep up the Tweeting or even Facebook replying.

  • http://whoishollypowell.com Holly Powell

    I have no issues with ghost tweeting. CEO’s have executive assistants who write memos for them; sign memos, etc.

    What is the difference?

    I say outsourcing is smart! Anytime you can leverage your time to work on the more important aspects of your business–

  • Guest

    Personal tweets should come from the individual. Guy is an arragorant person who thinks he’s above everyone else. Like’s he’s important enough to have others tweet for him – please give me a break – Guy’s a Zero!!

  • http://www.iacinvestigations.co.uk/blog Ian Harm

    An informative and amusing article. I agree. I personally follow people because I am interested in what they have to say not because of who they are. My aim is to inform myself and learn not to be a groupy. It makes no difference whether they employ someone to do it so long as it is interesting.

  • http://officialsafetyandsecurity.com Official Safety and Security

    Just because everybody is doing it, doesn’t make it right so that argument doesn’t sit well with me. What does make sense is that if the Twitter account is set up in a business name then it would be totally appropriate for anyone within that company who has been authorized to do the tweeting to tweet.

    Such is the case with my Safety and Security web site listed as “Safety and Security.” It should be assumed that anyone within my company who I delegate the responsibiity to do the tweeting for my sales and special offerings will be writing for me, the CEO.

    However, if the Twitter account is set up as a personal account, then it should be assumed that the one tweeting is that person and no one else. If someone else is doing the tweeting then it builds distrust in the relationship that has been established even though it’s just a cyber relationship at best.

    Thanks, Guy, for opening up this topic.

  • http://www.simplyusmusic.com Roe

    People who bother themselves with the lives of celebrities deserve the disappointment of finding out they’ve been reading the words of a nameless ghostwriter. I mean, if you really spend any significant time of your waking hours checking up on Lady Gaga’s most recent tweets, you’re setting yourself up for a big let down anyway. It’s like buying a tabloid and then when you get to the story you saw on the cover finding out that it’s nothing like they made it seem.

    Unless the people you’re following are actually providing you with interesting or useful information, Twitter is just a disgusting waste of time and bandwidth, in my opinion.

  • http://chickmelionfreelance.blogspot.com Carla of CHICKMELIONfreelance

    Wow there have certainly been some very diverse opinions and no doubt the lines are very grey in all new frontiers. Things do find a balancing point in the end though do they not?

    I would like to ask you what your opinion is of Crowd Sourcing. A Press Release from PR WEB (Fri Jan 8/2010) hit my desk and an organization was announcing their ability to sell internet marketers Facebook Fans and Twitter Followers.

    Since we can’t do a live link here’s are some exerpts just to give you a feel on the subject:

    “…announced today that Facebook users can now purchase fans for their pages and have their website link or phrases posted on Facebook users walls. …”

    “…launched a market price of $0.25 per Facebook fan or Twitter follower and $1.00 per Reddit vote, to compliment the other 18 social sites where it makes voting markets. …”

    Out of curiosity and anyone else reading this who would love to rant… what is your take on this?

    Hit me up with your thoughts

  • http://www.lexolutionit.com Maneet Puri

    The concept of Ghost writing or in this case, Ghost Tweeting i.e. the practice of having someone else write/post on ur behalf is not new. In fact, it is one of the most age old practices of the industry and as people have started making a shift from print to the web, the concept has taken a new form as well.

    I agree when you say that… What do you care who makes the posts as long as you are served rich and interesting content. After all this is the reason why you are following the person ain’t it? And its really not the case of impersonation because the person is not offering any personal opinion that you might be looking for.

    I feel ghost tweeting is an extremely effective Twitter practice that not only enables to enhance the quantity of Tweets but also maintains quality. Instead of a single person scanning the web and getting you good content, there will be multiple people using their efforts!

  • Soukspecial

    Pardon me is someone has already mentioned this I could get through all 70 comments…

    Guy is a writer, speaker, leader, marketer, brand, among many things more. I commend him for aggregating interesting content whether he finds it or not. As the author mentioned in so many words, ultimately he is the editor of this content, so as followers we come to know his interest and style – fine. Please, Guy and your army of tweeters, tweet away!

    In terms of what Guy actually post I think is valuable too. I would suggest, which I am sure the Twitter folks have covered this, offering various types of accounts, one of which could be a Ghost Twitter account that would be disclosed for all to see. When the account holder/primary, in this case Guy, directly submits a tweet it should be labeled as such. The anticipation of a “direct tweet” has its own and definitely new rewards if twitter went in this direction. Guy? Twitter?

  • http://super-geekreport.com KevinSuperGeek

    I would have to agree it is sad, when you believe that they are really the celebrity’s tweets. You could, however, have the same response to whatever a celebrity says. Do you think that an anchorperson writes their own material? Are those the President’s words in a speech?…of course not. I was taken back when I met a very prominent celebrity up close. In my mind I had made this guy out to be a great, and funny individual. In person he was so far from that…I can’t even tell you. Rather than being cordial, funny, and witty…he was mean, rude, and arrogant. So much of our thoughts are related to how “we want people to be,” not what they really are like. So…don’t be discouraged. Read the tweets as if they were them, and don’t spoil the magic. Let the suspension of disbelief truly occur.

  • F. Dude

    Hired pens? Old news. Think of Kawasaki as a publisher, and his brigade as editors and writers. The value of his or anybody else’s blog or tweet feed isn’t about who or even what, it’s about how. The delivery method, the style. And that is exactly why Twitter is the most boring.

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