Ghost Tweeting is the Milli Vanilli of Web 3.0.
Today I did the unthinkable. For a Mac fangirl it was absolutely preposterious. Egregious. Some might say sacrilegious. Or at least some sort of something with an “ous” at the end. Seriously.
I unfollowedous Guy Kawasakious.
As I rifled through my follow list, my heart was pounding. Was I really going to do it? Was I going to extricate myself from the biggest Twitter party on the planet? Could I really let go of @guykawasaki? Could I accept being relegated to the Twitter clueless who wouldn’t know a Guy Kawasaki from a lawn mower? I mean really. Who doesn’t follow Guy Kawasaki. And if I dared to hit the ominous “remove” button would he swiftly launch his minions upon me in a mass unfollow? What could I possibly be thinking??? Am I nuts?
I hold my breath. I look around. The sky isn’t darkening. Storm clouds not rolling in. No scowling Vincent Price peering through the window. No gargoyles to speak of.
So like, whew! I really did it. I broke up with Guy Kawasaki. No tears. No regrets. And no blood was shed. Or maybe his minions just didn’t have my street address. Finally, I had my freedom. Churn, baby, churn.
This is what happens when you do bad. People walk away. They unfollow. They untrust. I am now unceremoniously referring to it as #guyfail. When you represent something so awesome, but then somehow lose what made you awesome to begin with. Guy Kawasaki used to get it. But when he announced last week at #SESNY that he has three ghost tweeters writing under his Twitter account, I realized somewhere along the way, he lost it. If he can’t see the incredible value of a genuine, unfiltered Twitter persona and the abomination that is a ghosted account, then my friends the man no longer gets it. And it’s time to pass the mantle.
Sure, Guy might get it in a Web 2.0 kind of way, understanding that he must have presence. Write articles. Make Twitter accounts. Build empire. But that’s not Web 3.0. The new era of social media is about more than just making sure you have 30 pithy tweets per day attributed to your name. It’s about CONNECTING. For reals.
Yeah, I can hear it now. The voice out there saying it’s okay to ghost for a brand, and hey, isn’t Guy Kawasaki a brand? Well, let me ask you this. Aren’t we ALL brands today? Isn’t it the new mantra that everyone needs to have “reputation management?” And aren’t we all supposed to be building our “personal brands?” How fast would any one of us get unfollowed if it got out that it’s not really us behind our Twitter. Or behind our blog. If you found out that Seth Godin wasn’t writing his blog would you value him as much? Would his blog feel the same? Would you respect him in the same way? Would anything attached to his name carry the same weight? No, it really wouldn’t.
It’d be kind of like walking down Canal Street and seeing a hundred women carrying Louis Vuitton handbags, and realizing maybe one or two of them MIGHT be genuine. Sure, they look nice and all. But having a designer handbag has lost a lot of its cachet. Because so many out there simply aren’t real. This is what ghost tweeting does to social media. It injects doubt where there should be authenticity.
Think authenticity doesn’t matter?
Put on your denim jacket and parachute pants and let’s H.G. Wells ourselves back to the world of Milli Vanilli.
America loved Milli Vanilli. Six times platinum loved them. Grammy for Best New Artist in 1990. But then it came out that the two guys on the cover didn’t sing a note on the album. We all know where the story goes after that. Now maybe Guy Kawasaki doesn’t want a Milli Vanilli debacle on his hands. So he’s using a little Web 2.0 swagger and admitting to ghost tweeters in the name of transparency. But doing that is what makes it so clear he doesn’t get it. Because it’s not just about connecting and presence and faux transparency.
The magic of social media is in the authenticity.
And if you think people just want the content and don’t care about things being authentic, take a look at Milli Vanilli’s career after their fans found out about the deception. Lawsuits all over the U.S. with angry album buyers and concert-goers demanding their money back. They didn’t seem to care that the albums were great. They didn’t care that the concerts were entertaining. It didn’t matter that Milli Vanilli’s songs were burning up the charts, or that the duo was an MTV darling. The fans wanted authenticity. They wanted it to be real.
Sad thing is, social media is ALL about being real. At the core of what makes social media such a fantastic tool for branding, marketing, and communicating is that it allows consumers to connect on a real, personal level to brands they care about.
But dear Guy Kawasaki, there’s a difference between Coca Cola having ghost tweeters and you having ghost tweeters. Last I heard, Coca Cola isn’t human. I don’t see a smiling, toothy pic of Mr. Coca Cola on Coca Cola’s Twitter profile. However, there is one of you. A brand you may be, but if you’re going to set up a Twitter account that you don’t have the time to deal with genuinely and authentically (ie. Guy Kawasaki, the human, isn’t going to be the author of Guy Kawasaki “the tweets”) maybe consider changing the name to guykawasakifanclub or guykawasakiinc. And then think about maybe putting an image of a book on your profile. Or an Apple. Or a gargoyle.
Because if @guykawasaki pops up in my timeline, I want to know it was his fingers touching every key on the keypad and that he had that same last-second “do I really want to tweet this” moment we all have before hitting UPDATE. And that occasional tweegret. Because if it’s not really you behind the curtain, your account doesn’t have AUTHENTICITY. And I’ve lost a little trust in you. I’m looking at your blog a little differently know. I’ll still read it, but the love isn’t there. You’re now some dude in an ivory tower, sipping mocha frappuccinos shuttled in by an intern. Overseeing your vast domain from afar. Letting the little people eat cake. Give me the @names of your ghost tweeters so I can start following them. And I’ll take that intern’s name, too.
Yes, people are brands. But they won’t be for long if they start acting like a brand, and stop acting like a human.
So yeah, ghost tweeting is not in the spirit of social media, and definitely not in the spirit of Twitter. If social media’s value is ultimately in its authenticity, and one of social media’s greatest networkers is not using his Twitter authentically, then who else out there is faking it? And can anyone, or any brand for that matter, really be trusted?
Because if Guy Kawasaki says it’s okay to put your photo and your name on Twitter and then hire someone to impersonate you, and be a filter between you and the people who buy your books, and go to your speeches and click on the advertisers on your blog and support your new projects, well hell! Maybe it’s okay for everyone else! To heck with authenticity.
Which leads us to a total social media meltdown. Back to the days when brands spoke “at” the masses for no purpose other than to create what was ultimately a flimsy connection to gain market share. Do we really want to go back there? With all the opportunity we have to make a difference with social media?
Maybe it really is time for the mantle to be passed. Maybe Guy Kawasaki having ghost tweeters is a good thing. To mark the edge of the chasm. To mark the difference between the social media Milli Vanilli’s and the NEW “revolutionaries.”
To be sure, this was a difficult post to write. Because I’ve been a Guy Kawasaki faithful for at least a decade. And loved his Apple branding genius well before that. But creating evangelists is a double-edged sword. Because sometimes they pay attention.
Be revolutionary. Be authentic. And when your heroes veer off the path, never forget this one important thing:
="font-weight:bold;">Where the “remove” button is located.
(And where you can quickly hide to escape the gargoyles.)