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).
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.)
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!