The American Marketing Association recently published a report titled, Social Media Ethics Shades of Gray: GhostTweeting and other Dilemmas. In it, Wayne Hurlbert, host of Blog Business Success on www.blogtalkradio.com, says that hiring a ghost is a grievous error.
“If you’re pretending to be someone else or pretending to be an organization that you’re not, then all trust is lost. People prefer to do business with those who they know, like and trust and if you remove those factors from the social media world by trying to shade it into gray areas, you will not succeed.”
This seems like good advice, but let’s get real. Your average company doesn’t write their own press releases, they don’t write their own copy for a TV ad and they probably didn’t even come up with their own tagline or logo. No one, not even consumers, cry foul when a company hires an expert to handle their marketing, but for some reason, this logic doesn’t cover Twitter accounts.
I’m not saying anyone should out-and-out lie to consumers. If your Twitter account features a celebrity spokesperson, then that celebrity should be tweeting – even if they have an assistant actually hit the send button. But most business social media accounts are set up as an entity and not as a person. It’s Twitter.com/Gap, not Twitter.com/GlennMurphy. As a consumer, I’m there for the deals, so it really doesn’t matter to me if someone sitting in the corporate office typed in the words or if a WAHM from Boise is doing the deed.
Still, marketing mavens everywhere say no to ghostwriting. Valerie Maltoni put the question out to her Linkedin contacts and posted the results on her blog, Conversation Agent. Several of the respondents returned to the same issues of authenticity and personality. Many take the stand that social media isn’t really about marketing, so the same rules that allow you to hire a marketing company don’t apply.
Not everyone was against the idea, though. Those on the “pro” side, said that outsourcing your social media to a ghostwriter makes sense if you don’t have the time to properly nurture your accounts, or if you’re new and don’t know where to begin. Everyone agrees that under any circumstance, the company must ultimately take responsibility for what goes out over social media, making sure that it is consistent with the brand and is delivering the right message.
The AMA report is right about one thing. Their experts say that social media is about conversation and that is all the more reason to hire a ghostwriter. Social media marketing isn’t just posting a tweet a couple of times a day. It’s about responding to Facebook comments, approving or banning Twitter followers, wading through pages of Tweets in order to find reTweets that will connect your company to important decision makers. It is about giving your company a human face, even if the face has to wear a mask while doing it.
Your turn. Do you think it’s ethical to hire a ghostwriter for your Twitter or Facebook account?