Ghost Tweeting: Who are you really listening to? Do you care?

In many of the online forums I frequent debate rages over the practice of “ghost tweeting”–communicators who work either within a corporate environment or on a contract basis to maintain the accounts of their bosses or clients. It’s the type of activity that has been going on for years in the corporate and political world. As director of corporate communications in the energy and health care industries, I’ve frequently been the “voice” of CEOs, executives and other spokespeople. It’s common and accepted practice, at least among communicators and those they speak on behalf of… But, what about the “uninformed public” and often misinformed media, particularly “citizen journalists.” Do they know who they’re really listening to and who they may be quoting? Does it matter?Somehow the practice of “ghost tweeting” feels different from the tradition among corporations and politicians to have communication staff people speaking and writing on their behalves. It certainly raises all sorts of interesting issues and perspectives. Here are some examples:

“For years PR people have written quotes that are attributed to their organization’s CEO/senior leaders. The difference is that the traditional news media was essentially complicit in the fiction that these things were actually uttered by the source in question — the only nod to reality being the qualifier ‘said in a statement’ or ‘said in a press release.’ The difference is that now we are speaking directly to our constituents, in a medium that places a premium on authenticity.”

“Do US presidents write their speeches? Do Senators write their own op-ed essays? Do CEOs write their own articles? Not very often. Why? Because 1) they don’t have the time to do it themselves and (2 Many aren’t good writers. That’s why companies hire PR firms to write white papers, case studies, articles, videos and other marcom materials.Why should Twitter be exempt?”

“Let’s get to a serious ghost tweeting dilemma: Are TO’s tweets by a ghost. If so, should the NFL still fine him? Are TO’s tweets via ghost or brand or hootsuite schedule an ethical dilemma for the NFL?”

Interesting. So, here’s a tantalizing question (IMO). Are reporters quoting tweets, posts and comments they find through social media channels and attributing them to the identified poster when they may, in fact, be attributable to a ghost? If so, what implications does that have–for spokespeople, for the media and for unsuspecting consumers? Here’s a blog on the issue.

What do you think? Is ghost-tweeting okay? Why/why not? How about corporate “ghosting”?

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The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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