Last week one of my clients decided to follow Guy Kawasaki’s Twitter feed. Kawasaki is a former Apple Fellow and current venture capitalist and technology rock star, with over 300,000 Twitter followers. However, my client almost immediately unsubscribed, because he got a flood of commercial messages that didn’t sound like they were from Guy:
This got me thinking about a prominent topic in the communications industry — the ethics of so-called “ghost tweeting.” How real do you need to be with your tweeting?
I’m in a number of PR related LinkedIn groups, and this topic was debated in a long comment thread last June. In the PRWise group, Amy Dean asked about the ethics of having others tweet under your name. It generated a lot of comments — here’s the link but you need to join group to view.
In May 2009, Amy had written an article for Businessweek in which she called out Guy and others for using ghost Tweeters. (Here’s the NY Times on the topic as well from 2009, also mentioning Kawasaki)
I believe Twitter is used and perceived differently depending on the market — consumer or business to business. In the consumer world, Twitter is seen as just another one-way, distribution channel to often huge numbers of followers. Fans are desperate for information about Brittany or Ashton or 50 Cent, and don’t really have an expectation of interacting with those stars.
But in a b2b scenario, being genuine is more important. That may sound counter-intuitive at first. But people do business with other people they know and trust, and increasingly social media is a way to “know” someone you’ve never met. Social media can communicate a person’s expertise and trustworthiness.
Another factor is the size of the audience. None of my clients are looking to reach hundreds of thousands of followers. The set of influencers they want to connect with are usually much smaller, and relatively well defined.
So when you do connect, it better be genuine. There is an expectation from followers that this really is the person advertised as owner of the account, and that the tweets received will correspond to the advertised source.
There’s nothing “wrong” with viewing Twitter as a one-way, broadcast channel. It’s just a tool after all, and yes it can accomplish that function. But in the b2b space, it can deliver much more if you invest the time to keep it real.
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