A Little Birdie Told Me…

Is it ethical or unethical to tweet under someone else’s name?

Todd Defren, on his blog PR-Squared.com, addresses a specific instance of tweeting under false pretenses.

In this particular case our tweeter is a corporate executive who is renowned in his field. He is twitter-literate and his pages houses a pretty hefty fan base. He tweets regularly about the happenings in the company and beyond.

HOWEVER

He is going to be an integral participant in a company trade-show. He will be very busy at the trade-show, but he still wants his twitter page to update his followers on what is happening at the conference.

Said corporate executive asks others to tweet under his name, as if they are him.

Is this ETHICAL or NOT?

This is a prime example of Ghost Blogging, which is when some one blogs (or tweets) under another person’s name. This can apply to anyone from government officials (like Hilary Clinton) to entertainers (like 50 cent). So what’s the big deal?

If you choose to participate in Ghost Blogging you risk losing your on-line credibility. When you write for followers you develop a type of relationship with them, and if you lose their trust then you lose their loyalty. Dave Fleet offers alternatives to this possibly ethical dilemma:

  • Have more than one author in the first place. That way, if a situation arises when you’re unable to blog, it grants responsibility to the other author(s)
  • Include a disclaimer! If you audience knows you’re not the one writing from the get-go, then there’s no room for a breach in trust

Barry Schwartz, a participant in Search Engine Roundtable thinks that sometimes Ghost Blogging is implied with certain people who tweet, such as President Obama himself. The difference to him though, is that it’s a common cynicism that we all have to know that it’s not really him tweeting or updating his status on Facebook.

Author of The Art of the Start, Guy Kawasaki, is an example of another professional who is guilty of using ghost-tweeters. Social Conversations addressed this issue in their article The Ghost Tweeting Debate & Measuring Social Media. They acknowledge that Guy Kawasaki is a very busy professional in his field, and that it should be common sense that he wouldn’t have the time to maintain and update his own Twitter on a daily basis. After all, it has to be difficult to be a famous author, managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, and columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine, and still have time to manage a well followed Twitter page.

The issue with this particular situation is that he, like so many others before him, did not make it publically known that he was not updating his Twitter page, and it wasn’t until Dave Fleet accused him of this until this information was known.

So what do you guys think? Is it ever okay to blog as someone else?

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6 Comments

Filed under Lisa Shea's Blog

6 responses to “A Little Birdie Told Me…

  1. Michelle Ackerman

    Lisa,

    You made some valid points on if it’s ethical or not to “tweet” as someone else. In my opinion, I believe that it is unethical. Even though that person might have a ghost writer or blogger and the person is telling him or her what to write, I think that it is in some ways letting your audience down. The reason why they are following you is because they enjoy reading your tweets or posts. I agree with the fact of writing a disclaimer or saying that you have two authors in the first place so that your audience knows it isn’t you. I understand that people are busy and don’t have time to do certain things, but make sure you take the necessary steps that will not lead to a situation that could have easily been prevented.

  2. Hi Lisa,

    I agree with Michelle. If a tweeter is upfront from the beginning about who is actually writing the tweets, then I think it’s okay. Other than that, I don’t think it’s fair to readers who loyally follow someone only for them to find out it’s not the actual person they want it to be. Social media is most effective in reaching an audience when the source is trusted and credible. People want transparency; they don’t want to be lied to.

  3. I don’t see the point in “Tweeting” as another individual. It would build a false sense of trust and credibility with the online readers if they thought the content was coming from a different person. The person doing the Tweeting should have their own page to share their ideas and experiences instead.

    I agree with David Fleet’s ideas to help eliminate the ethical issue of Tweeting as someone else. They are simple ways to not betray the audience.

    People who are too busy to incorporate social media tools to connect with their publics can have personal assistants and staff that should be acknowledged for their work and ideas.

  4. Chelsea Brooks

    I agree with your post and all the comments. I think it is unfair for someone else to blog for you. I know that I would be disappointed and possibly stop following that person if I found out they weren’t who they said they were. A disclaimer at the beginning, however, would might alleviate this problem. If the blogger/tweeter doesn’t tell you that he/she has a ghost blogger, it’s almost like lying and they would lose trust and loyalty in their readers.

  5. But where do you draw the line? Do you guys think it’s okay for high-profile people like Obama to have someone else tweet on his behalf? Why?

  6. Sarah Bruton

    I think that if someone is going to temporarily write for you, that you need to make it known to your audience. Letting your viewers know why you are covering this story instead of the usual individual may help understand the material that they are reading. Writing techniques can be different which can throw some people off, so for me I’d like to know that there is someone else that has written a particular post. I also find it important for that individual to address the facts that he also supports the same ideas as the person he is temporarily working for.

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