Guy Kawasaki Discloses Ghost Writers, Defuses Issue

I’ve written several posts on ethics and ghost blogging recently, so it’s hardly surprising that when I spotted a post suggesting one of the biggest names in social media has other people write under his name, I paid attention.

Bottom line: Guy Kawasaki, creator of Alltop and Truemors, has three other people writing through his Twitter account on his behalf.

Aran Hamilton chose to use the first post on his new blog to discuss how this changes his view of Guy (disclosure: Aran is a client, but we are not involved with his personal blog). Like Aran, although I’ve never met Guy I have a lot of respect for him and what he’s accomplished, which was initially shaken somewhat by this news.

Here’s the situation, in Guy’s own words (from the iampaddy blog):

“…there are two people who tweet on my behalf. One, @amoxcalli, is a grandmother in LA who has an exquisite eye for the interesting and controversial. She adds about five tweets per day. The other is @billmeade. He is the best beta tester of books that I have ever met. I wish he would do more, but he does about one tweet every two days or so.”

To put this in context, Kawasaki posts about 35 messages to Twitter per day according to Tweetstats. Of these, again according to Kawasaki:

  • One is an automated Alltop announcement
  • 10-15 are automated tweets from Truemors
  • Five or six are undisclosed messages from other people
  • The rest (doing the math, 13-19 tweets or thereabouts) are from Kawasaki

I have no fundamental problem with the automated tweets. I don’t like them personally – they’re the reason I don’t follow @guykawasaki on Twitter – but from an ethical standpoint I have no concerns and from what I understand they work well for Guy.

However, I do have a problem with undisclosed authors.

The problem with ghost-writing in Twitter

The person who is posting many of the messages to this popular account (over 90,000 followers) may not be the person you thought. In fact, that’s the case in up to a third of cases on some days (taking the clearly automated messages out of the equation).

In cases where the ghost writers work on behalf of someone with a large personal brand, this kind of practice is even more grating. The brand is built on the trust of people who believe they are reading the thoughts of the person who is named.

The other authors were, last night, not disclosed anywhere on either Guy’s account or on those of the others involved. 

To me this represented a lapse in judgement. Guy has plenty of interesting things to say himself, so why have other people write for you?

Guy Kawasaki responds

I emailed Guy to get his comments on this issue. His answers, in typical Guy Kawasaki style, were up-front and to the point (it was also late last night – thanks, Guy, for the quick reply).

DF: In your interview with Paddy Donnelly, you mentioned that two other people contribute to your Twitter account. This was a couple of months ago. Is it still the case?

GK: There are still two people (and very infrequently a third) who tweet for me. Gina Ruiz and Annie Colbert. Bill Meade does from time to time.

DF: Why did you decide to have other people write under your name?

GK: Because I want a constant stream of the most interesting links in all of Twitter.

DF: Do you feel it is misleading to have other people write under your name on Twitter?

GK: Nope–especially because I don’t hide the fact.

DF: Have you considered disclosing the other authors in your profile?

GK: That’s a good idea. I just changed it. Never thought of that.

DF: How do you feel about the ethical issues raised by ghost writing using social media tools in general?

GK: Surely, there are more important things to think about.

Closing thoughts

I appreciate the honesty in Guy’s answers, although his dismissal of ethical issues worries me. Still, Guy is well known for his pragmatic style so a philosophical debate over ethics is unlikely to be priority #1. For me, however, ethical issues are important ones to discuss.

I’m especially happy that Guy chose to amend his Twitter profile to disclose the other authors. Indeed, I turned-on my computer this morning and he has already changed his bio.

That’s a smart move and, for me, defuses most of the controversy around the issue. While I still think that having other people tweet for you isn’t a great approach, this removes some of my concerns. Still, how do we know if it’s Guy writing in any particular case?

From the poll I ran on a recent post, about two thirds of people think that, with disclosure, this kind of practice is ok. 

What do you think?

(Image credit: hawaii)

97 comments
Ron Tite
Ron Tite

I knew about Guy's ghost writers and while it isn't for me, it seems to work for him. Compare him to Gary Vaynerchuk and it's two completely different experiences. I've been with both of them on numerous occasions and when Gary shows up, he goes in a room and works hard, tweeting until seconds before going on stage. The pace may catch up to him as he gets busier and busier. Guy, on the other hand, doesn't seem to want to - or have to - connect on that level. He's just a steady stream of relevant content. Two completely different experiences each with their own pros and cons.  The power of consumer choice is still the most powerful democracy in the world. If enough people chose to not follow him because they oppose his methods, he would probably change. As it is right now, enough people have no issue with it to justify the approach.  

Steve Seager
Steve Seager

I'm with Guy on this one. The reason why I follow anyone is because of the quality of their content. I really don't care who wrote it, as long as it's valuable to me. The ethics only come into play for me when people deliberately mislead or misrepresent. Just as mass communications (TV, print) are 'mediated' by the reader, so social media is also mediated by those who use it. The responsibility is theirs to interpret, judge and value as they wish.

Steve Seager
Steve Seager

I'm with Guy on this one. The reason why I follow anyone is because of the quality of their content. I really don't care who wrote it, as long as it's valuable to me.

The ethics only come into play for me when people deliberately mislead or misrepresent.

Just as mass communications (TV, print) are 'mediated' by the reader, so social media is also mediated by those who use it. The responsibility is theirs to interpret, judge and value as they wish.

David Bradley
David Bradley

I wish I could afford to employ a ghost writer or three...

David Bradley
David Bradley

I wish I could afford to employ a ghost writer or three...

Kishau
Kishau

I'm not sure why anyone is surprised or why this is an issue. It's all about what works for you. If you prefer not to follow people that use ghost writers, don't. IMO, it's all about finding the "good fit". If you're trying to make a personal connection, you may not want to follow the Twitter-er that uses ghost writers or uses the service to promote their business only (not saying that this is Guy's agenda). I'm not at all surprised that Guy does this. It would be great if his ghost twitterers identified themselves w/ their own twitter id's or initials, but at least he didn't seem reluctant to disclose them. There are only so many hours in a day. I don't fault anyone for attempting to maximize those hours.

Kishau
Kishau

I'm not sure why anyone is surprised or why this is an issue. It's all about what works for you. If you prefer not to follow people that use ghost writers, don't. IMO, it's all about finding the "good fit". If you're trying to make a personal connection, you may not want to follow the Twitter-er that uses ghost writers or uses the service to promote their business only (not saying that this is Guy's agenda).

I'm not at all surprised that Guy does this. It would be great if his ghost twitterers identified themselves w/ their own twitter id's or initials, but at least he didn't seem reluctant to disclose them.

There are only so many hours in a day. I don't fault anyone for attempting to maximize those hours.

Linda Forrest
Linda Forrest

When it comes down to it, Guy is using Twitter as another marketing channel to get out his message, be that promotional for his companies or to extend his personal brand. Regardless of the fact that Twitter is the hot mode of the moment, it's just another marketing channel and as such, is likely to be treated as one, i.e. it's not unreasonable to expect that marketing professionals or other writers are behind any market facing activity. For example, we have ghostwritten countless articles for our clients, a topic we wrote about on our blog, http://inmedialog.com/index.php/archives/components-of-an-integrated-program-bylined-articles/. Why should it be acceptable for one market facing activity to be done by someone other than the person receiving the byline, and it not acceptable for another activity? I think that the vast majority of people not in the marketing industry would be surprised the degree to which the person receiving the credit for a public piece of information - speech, article, book, what have you - is not indeed the person doing the heavy lifting.

Linda Forrest
Linda Forrest

When it comes down to it, Guy is using Twitter as another marketing channel to get out his message, be that promotional for his companies or to extend his personal brand. Regardless of the fact that Twitter is the hot mode of the moment, it's just another marketing channel and as such, is likely to be treated as one, i.e. it's not unreasonable to expect that marketing professionals or other writers are behind any market facing activity. For example, we have ghostwritten countless articles for our clients, a topic we wrote about on our blog, http://inmedialog.com/index.php/archives/components-of-an-integrated-program-bylined-articles/. Why should it be acceptable for one market facing activity to be done by someone other than the person receiving the byline, and it not acceptable for another activity? I think that the vast majority of people not in the marketing industry would be surprised the degree to which the person receiving the credit for a public piece of information - speech, article, book, what have you - is not indeed the person doing the heavy lifting.

Trace Cohen
Trace Cohen

Hes a busy man, there is no way that he can do the reported 35 comments a day and still carry on his normal life. Look at any person who becomes famous or is a figure head, they become puppets. Most rapper and bands now dont write their own music, they have all transitioned over the to dark side of becoming "entertainers" rather then originals

Even the President, the man who runs the country and even possibly the world has a 20 something writing his speeches. This is nothing uncommon.

Trace Cohen
Trace Cohen

Hes a busy man, there is no way that he can do the reported 35 comments a day and still carry on his normal life. Look at any person who becomes famous or is a figure head, they become puppets. Most rapper and bands now dont write their own music, they have all transitioned over the to dark side of becoming "entertainers" rather then originals Even the President, the man who runs the country and even possibly the world has a 20 something writing his speeches. This is nothing uncommon.

Kamran Qamar
Kamran Qamar

Does anyone feel that we are getting into the age of Tweetpaming? (Tweet Spam). Last night alone I have 30+ tweets from Guy. I was following him, because I care what he personally has to say, I don't care about the links on wiered topics which they are pushing. Thoughts?

Kamran Qamar
Kamran Qamar

Does anyone feel that we are getting into the age of Tweetpaming? (Tweet Spam). Last night alone I have 30+ tweets from Guy. I was following him, because I care what he personally has to say, I don't care about the links on wiered topics which they are pushing. Thoughts?

Jen Wilbur
Jen Wilbur

In this case, I see "Guy Kawasaki" as a brand vs. human/personality. It's really no different than a company tweeting via more than one employee via one account. The auto-tweets are a big reason why I see the @guykawasaki account as a brand v. person, too. With the disclosure of the other authors, I don't have a problem with it. Not even sure if I require the names/handles of the other tweeters (just making it public is fine by me), but it's certainly the way to go once the question was posed.

Jen Wilbur
Jen Wilbur

In this case, I see "Guy Kawasaki" as a brand vs. human/personality. It's really no different than a company tweeting via more than one employee via one account. The auto-tweets are a big reason why I see the @guykawasaki account as a brand v. person, too. With the disclosure of the other authors, I don't have a problem with it. Not even sure if I require the names/handles of the other tweeters (just making it public is fine by me), but it's certainly the way to go once the question was posed.

Dave Fleet
Dave Fleet

I want to add/reiterate one thing here, which is getting lost.

I deliberately used the phrase "defuses issue" in the title of this post, as I think Guy's response to my email went a long way towards resolving things.

This post was not meant to result in personal attacks on Guy Kawasaki, although I may have been naive to think that it wouldn't end that way. It saddens me to see some of the personal things people are saying. Yes, *in my opinion* he made a mistake, but he corrected that when I suggested disclosure. We all make mistakes. I'm not going to judge someone's character based on one lapse in judgement or one short email Q&A.

I also don't take his one-line response to my question about broader ethics as dismissal of the topic in general, but rather a sign that he feels it's not a topic he feels it's necessary to discuss. I disagree, but again that's personal and I place no judgement on that.

Make sense?

Dave Fleet
Dave Fleet

I want to add/reiterate one thing here, which is getting lost. I deliberately used the phrase "defuses issue" in the title of this post, as I think Guy's response to my email went a long way towards resolving things. This post was not meant to result in personal attacks on Guy Kawasaki, although I may have been naive to think that it wouldn't end that way. It saddens me to see some of the personal things people are saying. Yes, *in my opinion* he made a mistake, but he corrected that when I suggested disclosure. We all make mistakes. I'm not going to judge someone's character based on one lapse in judgement or one short email Q&A. I also don't take his one-line response to my question about broader ethics as dismissal of the topic in general, but rather a sign that he feels it's not a topic he feels it's necessary to discuss. I disagree, but again that's personal and I place no judgement on that. Make sense?

Gurprriet Siingh
Gurprriet Siingh

Thanks for putting this up Dave.

It's wierd how I discovered Guy's on twitter, this morning (via ExecTweets) and set a mental note to follow him, and now I come across this note.

I do assume that celebrities would use Ghost writers and I'm ok with that. But when I choose to follow a thought-leader, then I assume I am getting the best of his/her thoughts.

While on the one hand my fundamental need for high-quality/cutting edge thought does get met via the content, but the acription in my mind of that content to Guy, and my connection, beliefs, followership to Guy as a result is untrue, and that's where I would be justified in feeling cheated.

If Guy does think highly of the content of the other 3 Tweeters, then put out a note or RT their tweets, so we'll all know and follow them for their own merit. Which is what I now intend to do.

I would hate to learn that Tom Peters or Stepehen Covey or Ken Blanchard are being ghost written! In which case, I'd rather engage with said Ghost!

Gurprriet Siingh
Gurprriet Siingh

Thanks for putting this up Dave. It's wierd how I discovered Guy's on twitter, this morning (via ExecTweets) and set a mental note to follow him, and now I come across this note. I do assume that celebrities would use Ghost writers and I'm ok with that. But when I choose to follow a thought-leader, then I assume I am getting the best of his/her thoughts. While on the one hand my fundamental need for high-quality/cutting edge thought does get met via the content, but the acription in my mind of that content to Guy, and my connection, beliefs, followership to Guy as a result is untrue, and that's where I would be justified in feeling cheated. If Guy does think highly of the content of the other 3 Tweeters, then put out a note or RT their tweets, so we'll all know and follow them for their own merit. Which is what I now intend to do. I would hate to learn that Tom Peters or Stepehen Covey or Ken Blanchard are being ghost written! In which case, I'd rather engage with said Ghost!

Dennis McDonald
Dennis McDonald

I realized months ago Kawasaki was building a publishing infrastructure, not relationships (http://www.ddmcd.com/building.html) so I'm not as bent out about Kawasaki's subterfuge as others are. It's still subterfuge, though. The fact that he doesn't think it's a big deal speaks volumes.

Dennis McDonald
Dennis McDonald

I realized months ago Kawasaki was building a publishing infrastructure, not relationships (http://www.ddmcd.com/building.html) so I'm not as bent out about Kawasaki's subterfuge as others are. It's still subterfuge, though. The fact that he doesn't think it's a big deal speaks volumes.

Alexis
Alexis

"Disclosure once the cops catch you with the loot in your hand is not disclosure." Huh? Guy wasn't hiding anything and has openly discussed his "Twitter Style" for months. I realize Twitter is very much a back patters club, but all you did is rehash a story that came out months ago and made a little noise to grab yourself some attention. To make any comment that claims Guy is breaking some sort of Twitter community rule or norm is ridiculous. Twitter is a rapidly evolving community, so Twitterers are constantly testing how to tweet and different Twitter styles. If you don't like someone's style, unfollow. It's simple.

Alexis
Alexis

"Disclosure once the cops catch you with the loot in your hand is not disclosure." Huh? Guy wasn't hiding anything and has openly discussed his "Twitter Style" for months. I realize Twitter is very much a back patters club, but all you did is rehash a story that came out months ago and made a little noise to grab yourself some attention. To make any comment that claims Guy is breaking some sort of Twitter community rule or norm is ridiculous. Twitter is a rapidly evolving community, so Twitterers are constantly testing how to tweet and different Twitter styles. If you don't like someone's style, unfollow. It's simple.

Mollybob
Mollybob

I find this concerning because Guy Kawasaki has used his own name for the account and not disclosed that he has ghost writers. If he had disclosed this clearly from the beginning I would not have any concerns. I'm not about to trash him and say I'll never listen to a thing he says again because some of his stuff is great and he has achieved so much, but it has damaged his credibility in my eyes, especially being so dismissive of ethics. Sidestepping an issue and belittling it does not make it go away, no matter who you are Guy Kawasaki.

Mollybob
Mollybob

I find this concerning because Guy Kawasaki has used his own name for the account and not disclosed that he has ghost writers. If he had disclosed this clearly from the beginning I would not have any concerns. I'm not about to trash him and say I'll never listen to a thing he says again because some of his stuff is great and he has achieved so much, but it has damaged his credibility in my eyes, especially being so dismissive of ethics. Sidestepping an issue and belittling it does not make it go away, no matter who you are Guy Kawasaki.

minhaaj ur rehman
minhaaj ur rehman

Great blog post. Thanks for sharing. I don't his tweets particularly interesting but that was something enlightening to know. I am not sure if all others of his stature doesn't do that.

minhaaj ur rehman
minhaaj ur rehman

Great blog post. Thanks for sharing. I don't his tweets particularly interesting but that was something enlightening to know. I am not sure if all others of his stature doesn't do that.

Greg Smith
Greg Smith

Good that Guy says it's not him. And that's the point. It's NOT him.

Greg Smith
Greg Smith

Good that Guy says it's not him. And that's the point. It's NOT him.

Whitney
Whitney

Social media is supposed to be about relationship building. Let's assume that I think I am having a "relationship"- business or personal- with someone on Twitter. We arrange to have coffee. And then instead of Guy Kawasaki, or whomever, someone totally different shows up. There's an element of betrayal present here, whether or not you see it as a minor infraction in the unstated rules, or somehow ethical or unethical.
I think one of the off-putting aspects of second life was all the costume and drama- people could not use their own names, and therefore became less accountable for their actions. What would happen in the unlikely event that a ghost twitterer went rogue? What if they got ticked because they weren't paid and decided to tick off everyone in social media? And then the person tried to explain away the insults by alleging it was a ghost twitterer? How would that play? Would it be okay because the person paying the ghost just got what they deserved? Would we question whether they were being authentic and truthful then? How would anyone know it was really a ghost and not twittering while intoxicated?
When you play with roles and stories, it becomes harder to separate truth from fiction. When you lend your name and reputation to someone else, you put yourself at risk for the good and the bad. Is it worth it? Is your reputation worth the risk, when it is the most important currency you own on the web? I think that is the basic question worth discussing.

Whitney
Whitney

Social media is supposed to be about relationship building. Let's assume that I think I am having a "relationship"- business or personal- with someone on Twitter. We arrange to have coffee. And then instead of Guy Kawasaki, or whomever, someone totally different shows up. There's an element of betrayal present here, whether or not you see it as a minor infraction in the unstated rules, or somehow ethical or unethical. I think one of the off-putting aspects of second life was all the costume and drama- people could not use their own names, and therefore became less accountable for their actions. What would happen in the unlikely event that a ghost twitterer went rogue? What if they got ticked because they weren't paid and decided to tick off everyone in social media? And then the person tried to explain away the insults by alleging it was a ghost twitterer? How would that play? Would it be okay because the person paying the ghost just got what they deserved? Would we question whether they were being authentic and truthful then? How would anyone know it was really a ghost and not twittering while intoxicated? When you play with roles and stories, it becomes harder to separate truth from fiction. When you lend your name and reputation to someone else, you put yourself at risk for the good and the bad. Is it worth it? Is your reputation worth the risk, when it is the most important currency you own on the web? I think that is the basic question worth discussing.

Simon Salt
Simon Salt

Its interesting this is the second post I have seen today that is discussing ethics in Social Media and what is or is not acceptable behavior. What I see here is that someone you held to a higher standard has failed to meet your expectations - that's life, that's not ethics, thats just human nature. Your expectation was that Guy Kawasaki was going to sit down and find all this cool stuff and tweet it out for your enjoyment just because he's a great bloke. He is a business man, he makes no qualms about it, he is a pragmatic marketer, he doesnt see blogging, tweeting or social media as a form of purist pastime, he sees it as a way to make a buck. Why be disappointed? Why expect full disclosure? Surely its better to expect that someone with his profile is probably using help, Alltop for example is mostly run by Neenz not by Guy. He doesnt specifically disclose this but if you spend anytime in conversation with him he doesn't hide it either. I think a discuss of ethics in Social Media is an excellent thing, but a rather unsurprising revelation that Guy uses at least 3 ghost writers really doesn't add up to that. What about the spammers or the cases like Belkin paying for reviews?

Simon Salt
Simon Salt

Its interesting this is the second post I have seen today that is discussing ethics in Social Media and what is or is not acceptable behavior. What I see here is that someone you held to a higher standard has failed to meet your expectations - that's life, that's not ethics, thats just human nature. Your expectation was that Guy Kawasaki was going to sit down and find all this cool stuff and tweet it out for your enjoyment just because he's a great bloke. He is a business man, he makes no qualms about it, he is a pragmatic marketer, he doesnt see blogging, tweeting or social media as a form of purist pastime, he sees it as a way to make a buck. Why be disappointed? Why expect full disclosure? Surely its better to expect that someone with his profile is probably using help, Alltop for example is mostly run by Neenz not by Guy. He doesnt specifically disclose this but if you spend anytime in conversation with him he doesn't hide it either. I think a discuss of ethics in Social Media is an excellent thing, but a rather unsurprising revelation that Guy uses at least 3 ghost writers really doesn't add up to that. What about the spammers or the cases like Belkin paying for reviews?

Dave Fleet
Dave Fleet

Jenn - re: formatting - it's gremlins I'm afraid. I can go through and insert spaces in each blank line, but it'll have to be tonight when I'm not at work. Not sure if you can do that as you create comments.

Note to self: get that fixed...

Dave Fleet
Dave Fleet

Jenn - re: formatting - it's gremlins I'm afraid. I can go through and insert spaces in each blank line, but it'll have to be tonight when I'm not at work. Not sure if you can do that as you create comments. Note to self: get that fixed...

Wendy
Wendy

I hate the idea of ghostwriters, but not as much as I hate the alltop spam. I do wish they'd identify with initials at the end of the tweets, so at least maybe we could identify a personality.

On the other hand, I wouldn't mind so much if he had a few people following thousands of accounts and retweeting the really interesting stuff anonymously. Retweeting, to me, seems a whole different ball of wax.

I do follow a few multi-user twitter accounts, but most seem to use ^PC type initials to identify the individual making the tweet.

Wendy
Wendy

I hate the idea of ghostwriters, but not as much as I hate the alltop spam. I do wish they'd identify with initials at the end of the tweets, so at least maybe we could identify a personality. On the other hand, I wouldn't mind so much if he had a few people following thousands of accounts and retweeting the really interesting stuff anonymously. Retweeting, to me, seems a whole different ball of wax. I do follow a few multi-user twitter accounts, but most seem to use ^PC type initials to identify the individual making the tweet.

AJ in Nashville
AJ in Nashville

Y'see, Mark? There's the part I don't get from your side of the aisle. Who cares? Why should any of this call into question anyone's legitimacy? Does the fact that he didn't post it make the links' value any less?

I can understand if someone is a little miffed because Guy isn't the non-stop posting machine you though he was, but how relevant is that really? And how realistic? Did you think about how much time it would take to average 35 tweets -- links at that -- each and every day? Never mind that most of them are automated; it still takes time to set those up and to at least do cursory research on all of them. I mean, com'on!

Guy Kawasaki has what? 4 or 5 kids? He's every bit as much a family man as he is a businessman. I respect him for that because I know how fine a line I have to walk in not tweaking my own wife off with the amount of time *I* spend on Twitter, which is minuscule, compared to most 'power users.'

Sure he was trying to pad his image a bit; who among us hasn't? (Be honest, now...)

All I'm saying is, we're not talking about blatant deception; we're not talking about a blatant cover-up; we're talking about a sin of omission -- not one of commission.

I can certainly forgive GK for that.

AJ in Nashville
AJ in Nashville

Y'see, Mark? There's the part I don't get from your side of the aisle. Who cares? Why should any of this call into question anyone's legitimacy? Does the fact that he didn't post it make the links' value any less? I can understand if someone is a little miffed because Guy isn't the non-stop posting machine you though he was, but how relevant is that really? And how realistic? Did you think about how much time it would take to average 35 tweets -- links at that -- each and every day? Never mind that most of them are automated; it still takes time to set those up and to at least do cursory research on all of them. I mean, com'on! Guy Kawasaki has what? 4 or 5 kids? He's every bit as much a family man as he is a businessman. I respect him for that because I know how fine a line I have to walk in not tweaking my own wife off with the amount of time *I* spend on Twitter, which is minuscule, compared to most 'power users.' Sure he was trying to pad his image a bit; who among us hasn't? (Be honest, now...) All I'm saying is, we're not talking about blatant deception; we're not talking about a blatant cover-up; we're talking about a sin of omission -- not one of commission. I can certainly forgive GK for that.

Jenn Mattern
Jenn Mattern

"The ethical issue isn’t the nature of the content in his Twitter stream, it’s the source of that content and the transparency. Even more concerning is that when he was asked to comment on the ethical issue, he basically said “no comment” — a decidedly broadcast media response from a social media evangelist.

I suspect that for many, this will call into question the relevance and legitimacy of Guy’s digital network and some of his work."

You're certainly entitled to your thoughts on it, just as I'm entitled to disagree (I don't expect to sway everyone to my viewpoint).

I do in fact think the type of content plays a role. No one will ever likely convince me that who posts a link matters. And I'll probably be amused long into the future that people in one of the most ghostwriting-heavy industries out there are so quick to scream "lack of transparency" every time something like ghostblogging or ghost-tweeting comes up.

And obviously we read Guy's answer differently. You take it as "no comment." I take it to mean he really doesn't consider it enough of an ethical issue to be worth saying anything else. And he's as entitled to that opinion as we are to ours.

Jenn Mattern
Jenn Mattern

"The ethical issue isn’t the nature of the content in his Twitter stream, it’s the source of that content and the transparency. Even more concerning is that when he was asked to comment on the ethical issue, he basically said “no comment” — a decidedly broadcast media response from a social media evangelist. I suspect that for many, this will call into question the relevance and legitimacy of Guy’s digital network and some of his work." You're certainly entitled to your thoughts on it, just as I'm entitled to disagree (I don't expect to sway everyone to my viewpoint). I do in fact think the type of content plays a role. No one will ever likely convince me that who posts a link matters. And I'll probably be amused long into the future that people in one of the most ghostwriting-heavy industries out there are so quick to scream "lack of transparency" every time something like ghostblogging or ghost-tweeting comes up. And obviously we read Guy's answer differently. You take it as "no comment." I take it to mean he really doesn't consider it enough of an ethical issue to be worth saying anything else. And he's as entitled to that opinion as we are to ours.

Kneale Mann
Kneale Mann

Dave (or is it?), this may or may not be me who is or is not commenting on your (or someone else's) blog post. How can we be sure?

In all seriousness, if Guy was upfront about his ghost writers on day one, I would have much more respect for him. This issue didn't come out until he had 90,000 followers all believing that he sat on his computer day and night scouring for the best material to share.

Disclosure once the cops catch you with the loot in your hand is not disclosure.

This may or may not be my opinion, but who is to be sure this is really me ...or you?

Kneale Mann
Kneale Mann

Dave (or is it?), this may or may not be me who is or is not commenting on your (or someone else's) blog post. How can we be sure? In all seriousness, if Guy was upfront about his ghost writers on day one, I would have much more respect for him. This issue didn't come out until he had 90,000 followers all believing that he sat on his computer day and night scouring for the best material to share. Disclosure once the cops catch you with the loot in your hand is not disclosure. This may or may not be my opinion, but who is to be sure this is really me ...or you?

Mark
Mark

I think you're not quite connecting with what I feel the main issue is, Jenn. Guy WAS using his Twitter account as a digital representation of himself and his ideas. At some point, he decided to make his personal identity into an enterprise by delegating communications to an anonymous and unidentified team. The ethical issue isn't the nature of the content in his Twitter stream, it's the source of that content and the transparency. Even more concerning is that when he was asked to comment on the ethical issue, he basically said "no comment" -- a decidedly broadcast media response from a social media evangelist.

I suspect that for many, this will call into question the relevance and legitimacy of Guy's digital network and some of his work.

Mark
Mark

I think you're not quite connecting with what I feel the main issue is, Jenn. Guy WAS using his Twitter account as a digital representation of himself and his ideas. At some point, he decided to make his personal identity into an enterprise by delegating communications to an anonymous and unidentified team. The ethical issue isn't the nature of the content in his Twitter stream, it's the source of that content and the transparency. Even more concerning is that when he was asked to comment on the ethical issue, he basically said "no comment" -- a decidedly broadcast media response from a social media evangelist. I suspect that for many, this will call into question the relevance and legitimacy of Guy's digital network and some of his work.

Jenn Mattern
Jenn Mattern

And is there a trick to getting the comment spacing right here? I see a few folks' comments display correctly early on, but the rest are rather squished from one paragraph to the next. Or are the Wordpress gremlins just making things difficult?

Jenn Mattern
Jenn Mattern

And is there a trick to getting the comment spacing right here? I see a few folks' comments display correctly early on, but the rest are rather squished from one paragraph to the next. Or are the Wordpress gremlins just making things difficult?

Jenn Mattern
Jenn Mattern

"Besides, we weren’t talking about GK taking the stage for JF. We’re talking about Jane Fonda Twittering her own links and writing her own blog posts. More importantly, we’re talking about @janefonda being a personal Twitter account and @guykawasaki as having secretly made the jump from personal to enterprise."

Personal vs enterprise is exactly my point. Fonda is using the tools for more personal communication (and that's great - really). Kawasaki is using the tools blatantly for marketing (and that itself I don't think has been disguised in any way). They're two different animals living in the same environment. Rules that apply to one don't necessarily apply to the other. It doesn't make one "right" and one "wrong" (no matter how much many of us might despise that second group at times for the spammy nature of the tweets - whether ghostwritten, automated, or just entirely self-serving).

"I’d go with the comments that suggest he’s only being upfront about it since being “found out”. Makes you wonder about his other “enterprises” and how much is actually his choices and not some stranger in a remote part of the country."

Rather than deciding based on other comments, why not read the actual interview where Guy brings it up (linked above in the post)? He wasn't "found out" in any way there. He didn't have to say a word about ghostwriters. He chose to mention them, and chose to give them credit there (in January). But perhaps I missed something and he was called out prior to that about the issue (if so, please correct me - it wouldn't be the first time I've made a mistake). Aran's post calling the issue out, while listed first here, actually came much later (about 2 months).

"The distinction I'd make here, and the reason I think it's a different topic, is because I'm not pretending to be someone else. "

There's more to behaving ethically than being transparent - and remember that no one had to exactly twist his arm about it. He was asked a simple question and chose to talk about the ghostwriters. He certainly didn't have to come out and name them - completely voluntary. Not everyone in business comes out and shares what every person is doing behind the scenes. Sometimes there's no real need (which I'd argue is the case with something like posting links), and sometimes it just isn't something they think to do - not that they're intentionally trying to be secretive. I'm just not willing to assume I know his original intentions as some seem to. Call me naive if you will.

On another note entirely, I just want to emphasize I'm not a Kawasaki fan in any way, and I'd be annoyed as all hell by his Twitter stream (I don't follow him). I'm not saying everything he does is in the right by any stretch of the imagination. I'm just not foolish enough to think I, as an individual, know what that "right" thing to do is for every person in a particular situation, and I know not everyone would agree with me. This obviously works quite well for Guy. It wouldn't work well for someone in PR where transparency is a hot button issue. But I doubt most of Guy's followers are going to jump ship over it - and frankly I think there's a lesson to be learned in that itself. Maybe Guy's right in saying it's more about what's being said than who's saying it (also in the interview linked from this post).

Perhaps the real question is this: Should companies or executives have to disclose things in every possible new media outlet that their customers / audience might follow, or is it the responsibility of those people to do their research on the Web as much as they would have to offline before making decisions about people (or brands)? In the grand scheme of things, which is worse - corporate dishonesty (or lack of transparency) or lazy consumerism?

Anyway, I'll look forward to your thoughts on the link spam issue separately.

Jenn Mattern
Jenn Mattern

"Besides, we weren’t talking about GK taking the stage for JF. We’re talking about Jane Fonda Twittering her own links and writing her own blog posts. More importantly, we’re talking about @janefonda being a personal Twitter account and @guykawasaki as having secretly made the jump from personal to enterprise." Personal vs enterprise is exactly my point. Fonda is using the tools for more personal communication (and that's great - really). Kawasaki is using the tools blatantly for marketing (and that itself I don't think has been disguised in any way). They're two different animals living in the same environment. Rules that apply to one don't necessarily apply to the other. It doesn't make one "right" and one "wrong" (no matter how much many of us might despise that second group at times for the spammy nature of the tweets - whether ghostwritten, automated, or just entirely self-serving). "I’d go with the comments that suggest he’s only being upfront about it since being “found out”. Makes you wonder about his other “enterprises” and how much is actually his choices and not some stranger in a remote part of the country." Rather than deciding based on other comments, why not read the actual interview where Guy brings it up (linked above in the post)? He wasn't "found out" in any way there. He didn't have to say a word about ghostwriters. He chose to mention them, and chose to give them credit there (in January). But perhaps I missed something and he was called out prior to that about the issue (if so, please correct me - it wouldn't be the first time I've made a mistake). Aran's post calling the issue out, while listed first here, actually came much later (about 2 months). "The distinction I'd make here, and the reason I think it's a different topic, is because I'm not pretending to be someone else. " There's more to behaving ethically than being transparent - and remember that no one had to exactly twist his arm about it. He was asked a simple question and chose to talk about the ghostwriters. He certainly didn't have to come out and name them - completely voluntary. Not everyone in business comes out and shares what every person is doing behind the scenes. Sometimes there's no real need (which I'd argue is the case with something like posting links), and sometimes it just isn't something they think to do - not that they're intentionally trying to be secretive. I'm just not willing to assume I know his original intentions as some seem to. Call me naive if you will. On another note entirely, I just want to emphasize I'm not a Kawasaki fan in any way, and I'd be annoyed as all hell by his Twitter stream (I don't follow him). I'm not saying everything he does is in the right by any stretch of the imagination. I'm just not foolish enough to think I, as an individual, know what that "right" thing to do is for every person in a particular situation, and I know not everyone would agree with me. This obviously works quite well for Guy. It wouldn't work well for someone in PR where transparency is a hot button issue. But I doubt most of Guy's followers are going to jump ship over it - and frankly I think there's a lesson to be learned in that itself. Maybe Guy's right in saying it's more about what's being said than who's saying it (also in the interview linked from this post). Perhaps the real question is this: Should companies or executives have to disclose things in every possible new media outlet that their customers / audience might follow, or is it the responsibility of those people to do their research on the Web as much as they would have to offline before making decisions about people (or brands)? In the grand scheme of things, which is worse - corporate dishonesty (or lack of transparency) or lazy consumerism? Anyway, I'll look forward to your thoughts on the link spam issue separately.

Dave Fleet
Dave Fleet

The distinction I'd make here, and the reason I think it's a different topic, is because I'm not pretending to be someone else.

I'll take your suggestion on that issue and add it to my list of topics to write about, though - I've often wondered about whether it's a good idea to do it, and it would be good to have a discussion on that.

Like I said, though, that's a different topic that doesn't revolve around misleading people.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] know much about Chris Brogan without Twitter? How many of you would care that Guy Kawasaki uses ghosts of anything without social media? If you are building your business from scratch and very few [...]

  2. [...] participants in that conversation are. Ghost blogging is so common that social media commentator Guy Kawasaki revealed that he has a staff of three writers handling his vast social media obligations. As one observer [...]

  3. Twitter Comment


    Unfollowing @guykawasaki. I just found out his tweets are ghostwritten by 2-3 other people. [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  4. Twitter Comment


    Unfollowing @guykawasaki. I just found out his tweets are ghostwritten by 2-3 other people. [link to post] http://bit.ly/9vTqkx

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  5. [...] doing it? Well I got news for ya. Hell yea and you betcha. Most wont admit it unless your name is Guy Kawasaki. Todd Defren points out in his wonderful social media ethics series that they have been faced with [...]

  6. [...] the web with nothing more than an account of their daily activities. Some “power users” have people that tweet for them, and some even have bots set up that removes the human aspect [...]

  7. [...] one of his posts, Dave Fleet hosts an interview with Guy Kawasaki, the creator of Alltop and author of 10 books such as “Enchantment” and [...]

  8. […] stories he tweets, or write all the excerpts, or even send all the tweets. His Twitter account is ghost-written (at least partially) by professional staffers, and has been for […]