Is hiring a social media ghostwriter ethical?

Photo by Hobvias Sudoneighm

I once posted on my Facebook status that I was ghost blogging for a client. A few snarky comments aside, one of my friends, Ann Begler, principal of the Begler Group, which offers mediation services, asked if it was an ethical practice. She says she’d be reluctant to hire a social media ghostwriter. Ann’s not alone. It’s a common concern.

“In all of my work, as a mediator, conflict coach, organizational consultant, I’m working with my clients to help and guide them to engage in more open and direct communication, even when that’s difficult,” she says. “Using a ghostwriter seems to be the antithesis of that.”

She could see using a researcher to help assemble factual data that might be part of her blog or tweet. “That’s different, though, from ghostwriting,” she adds.

Many business executives are hiring writers to craft their social media content because of their busy schedules. In fact, social media guru, Guy Kawasaki, stirred up some debate in the Twittersphere when he revealed he uses ghostwriters. And it was only about two years into this presidency that President Barack Obama posted his first tweet even though his account was active since his campaign. Turns out his staff were the ones tweeting all this time.

If you’re going to hire a social media ghostwriter, here are some guidelines to follow to work effectively with your cyber alter ego and avoid crossing that ethical line.

Ain’t Misrepresentin’

Never have your ghostwriter pretend they’re you. It’s better to have your ghostwriter tweet as the company itself, like @AcmeCompany, rather than @JaneSmith. Or if you want to use your name, then disclose your other authors on your profile page.

It’s Not Me, It’s You or Us

Make sure they use the 2nd or 3rd person voice when ghost blogging or ghost tweeting. Once they start using “I,” they’re lying to your customers and prospects.

Plan Ahead 

Meet with your ghostwriter and discuss the direction and scope of your social media content. Create a social media calendar and stick with the plan and a schedule.

What’s the Big Idea?

Give your ghostwriters topics to cover. For clients who want me to tweet on their behalf, they’ll email me some topic ideas, thoughts on a current event, or relevant news they want to share. I turn that communication into a tweet or a blog post.

Review and Approve the Content

Always maintain editorial control. Be aware of what content is out there because it represents your brand. Never let your writer post anything without your approval.

Guest Instead of Ghost

If you have a blog, open it up to guest bloggers who can provide content. Copyblogger.com and SocialMediaExaminer.com does a great job with this. They’re still providing very useful and relevant information, but giving credit to the true authors.

Hire a Cleaner

If you want to write your own content, you can still use a ghost writer to edit your copy. One of my clients writes all of her blog posts and tweets, but sends me her drafts for me to polish and post.

Let me hear your thoughts. How do you feel about ghostwriting? Would you unfriend or unfollow someone because you found out they were using a ghostwriter?

Oh, and by full disclosure, the above post was all me.

Daniel Casciato is a full-time freelance writer. In addition to ghostwriting, he writes health, legal, real estate, and technology-related articles for trade magazines and online publications. For more information, visit www.danielcasciato.com or follow him on Twitter

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About Daniel Casciato

Daniel Casciato has his own business as a social media consultant, freelance copywriter, ghostwriter, and ghostblogger. The Pittsburgh native loves his Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates. Learn more about him at www.DanielCasciato.com.

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