August 20, 2009 by Tamara Rice

With the rise of Twitter, business executives are under pressure to maximize this instant (and mass) social networking medium to leverage their influence for the good of their companies. Many, like Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh (@zappos), use Twitter both to build community within their corporations and to market their businesses (and, let’s face it, their own names and personalities while they are at it).

Checking phone

However, with this trend, another phenomenon was birthed and now flourishes: the Ghost Tweeter. For those not familiar with the term, here’s a quick explanation. You’re a very busy CEO. You don’t have time to tell your followers what you are doing 15 times a day. Or, perhaps, you simply suck at one-liners. You can’t “micro-blog” via Twitter, because you didn’t get to where you are chatting or learning texting lingo, you got to where you are by being a financial wiz with ideas and leadership skills — among them, the gift of delegating. So, when you feel the pressure to tweet, you hire a ghostwriter to do it for you.

Ghost-tweeting is, by most accounts, about as respected as seducing an intern. Some call it smart, others call it lying, but don’t ever put ghost, Twitter and a CEO’s name in the same sentence unless you mean it. (See the comments about AOL founder Steve Case here. And, one more time, for the record, we didn’t mean to imply the rumor was true.)

Business Meeting

One alternative to ghost-tweeting is having various employees tweet openly under the company name — which works for Jet Blue airlines (@JetBlue) CEO David Barger. The brand is promoted, the business gets a personality, and the CEO doesn’t have to bother tweeting himself or using a ghost-tweeter.

Youth Specialties CEO Mark Oestreicher once dabbled in Twitter, but gave it up when he realized how much time social networking was taking out of his work days. “I loved Twitter while I was using it,” he recently told oDesk, “and did feel there was some benefit to my organization.  But, ultimately, I found that Twitter (along with Facebook and my blog) were stealing too much of my time, focus, presence and creativity.”

Oestreicher went on to explain that since he pulled the plug on social networking, those four important elements have returned to his daily life as a CEO. Like Jet Blue, Youth Specialties currently relies on the company tweets (@YS_Scoop) to build the brand and communicate.

Is it the same thing, for followers, as getting tweets from the CEO herself or himself? Maybe not. But the average CEO may not be able to juggle active tweeting without taking away from her valuable time and energy.


So, is ghost-tweeting — provided no one ever knows it isn’t you — the way to go? After all, in the publishing world, ghostwriting has put many an autobiography on the best seller shelf at your local bookstore and no one seems to mind.

The answer, it seems, is that for now some form of tweeting on behalf of the company is an important part of marketing in today’s world. But the pros and cons of actual CEO tweeting might depend on who you ask.

Note: For more CEOs to follow on Twitter, see our 25 Entrepreneurs and Businesses You Should Be Following on Twitter.


How is your company using Twitter? Interested in learning more about companies leveraging the power of social media? Let me know in the comments!

- Tamara

Tamara Rice

Freelance Writer and Editor

Tamara Rice is one of several freelance writers on the oDesk Blog team. She joined the oDesk marketplace in 2009, after more than six years on staff at an award-winning national magazine.

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  • http://wearyourtiaratowork.blogspot.com/ Lorri Wyndham

    I do not believe there is any situation when it is OK to let someone else pretend to be you.

    If a CEO does not have time to be active is Social Media, then delegating and monitoring the activity is defintely a preferred alternative.

  • http://www.veteranselfdefense.com Nelson From DC

    GHOST-TWITTERING…Come on now. Dont have someone be you. Whats the point. I think that once people find out its not you you will loose followers and respect.

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  • Tamara

    Ah, yes, Greg. You should read the article. I think you’d like the outcome–and the conclusions CEO Mark Oestreicher came to after engaging in Twitter.

    There’s no question it’s good business to be on Twitter (well, I guess there are some businesses who might not benefit from it).

    However, in the real world, it is probably unproductive for most CEOs–or any high level executives for that matter–to tweet actively themselves.

    It’s an interesting topic. Keep the opinions coming!

  • Jerrold

    Along the same lines, here is a directory of executives on Twitter: http://www.twexec.com

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/gregwilliamslighthouse Greg Williams

    Haven’t read the article yet (and I will) but my knee-jerk reaction is this: corporation heads are corporation heads because they know how to delegate, manage, and get the most efficient use out of an employee’s time. Plus he knows he’s an employee as well.

    Unless there’s just some nihilistic buzz about letting the world know play-by-play about your life, spend your work time doing your job. Assign someone the position of Twittermeister and pay them to tell the world every minute detail of the day.

    The curmudgeon has spoken…and I like it that way.
    Greg Williams, Knoxville Tennessee, USA .

  • http://www.twitterloco.com twitter

    This is a really interesting topic which everyone should go for it.. Nice one.

  • http://www.ieecho.com/ Echo

    Great post. This is very informative and as well interesting. Tweeting about your business is a great way in marketing your company. Big companies generally have their entries in twitter, facebook, etc.