January 23, 2018

Is ghost writing in social media right or wrong?

This week, I posted the first of what may prove to be a series of controversial blog posts on the SAP community network (known to members as SCN).

The posts won’t be controversial so much for the content itself (although I hope that that happens eventually) as for the way I’m presenting it.

I’m going to channel other people’s ideas, not my own. You can read the entire post here. It introduces me to the community and explains what I’m planning to do.

They may not like it and you may not either.

But I think what I’m proposing is a necessary blend of realism and good ideas. Others call it ghost writing.

As I say in the SCN post and as I’ve mentioned here plenty of times, I think we are kidding ourselves if we think that many of our best SMEs are going to take the time to blog. And many who do would be better off getting some help.

I wanted to present the core arguments here to see what you think. I think that if we limit the discussion only to those subject matter experts who have the time and skills to blog, we’re missing out.

Here my arguments for letting me present others’ ideas from the SCN post and adapted for your consideration here:

  • Most people—even really smart people—can’t write worth a damn. Why do we assume that anyone can channel passion into his or her writing?
  • Social media is biased toward English. Most of the people I speak to at SAP are German and while most Germans are amazingly skilled at English, that skill rarely translates to the written word.
  • It’s not about the style, it’s about the ideas. One of the best aspects of social media is the opportunity to put ideas to the community and gather feedback. I’m excited about the prospect of not just presenting ideas to the SCN community but also in building ideas with this community. As I interview SMEs around SAP and external influencers like analysts and customers, I want to be able to share the raw ideas in their earliest stages so that I can inform people and get their feedback.
  • Transparency is the “hidden” problem. I think what people object to most about ghost writing is that the real people behind the prose are hidden. I will always blog as myself, introduce the ideas myself, and will always reveal whose ideas I’m channeling. I will attempt to respond to all comments myself, based on the work I’m doing with the SMEs. If I don’t have an answer, I’ll go to them and get the answer and come back with it. I’ll also name the writers that I have working with the SMEs as we are doing interviews and working towards the “final” products: white papers, videos, etc.

What are your arguments (for and against)?

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  • Chris, I hope your process here does not stir up controversy. From my perspective, the only controversy is calling it ghost writing. This sounds like transparent journalism.

    To me, ghost writing is writing on behalf of person X and having the final product presented as person X’s own perspective. I don’t even have an issue with someone writing for someone else, although in blogs with a personal touch it can definitely be seen as disingenuous. 

    Where I have a challenge with ghost writing is when it is done without disclosure AND without the individuals own perspective. 

    If, for instance, you handed me the keys to your blog, we discussed a rough editorial calendar, and I just started publishing. I might promote demand generation, point out the massive investment and minimal returns from idea marketing [no, I don’t actually feel that way], and my [now your] social media posts delve into top 10 lists of what to say on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for B2B.

    This would not be in your voice and it would not reflect your perspective, yet it would be attributed to you. To me, this is the fallacy of ghost writing, yet at some level it happens every day.

    Let’s hope your approach becomes the new standard for ghost writing instead. 😉

  • Good points, Eric. Isn’t it interesting that ghost writing stirs up the same excruciatingly broad range of interpretation as thought leadership does. Ghost writing runs the gamut from transparent collaboration to outright deception. Thought leadership runs the gamut from original and informative to inane and self promotional. I guess we just need to keep talking about it. Thanks for keeping the discussion going.

  • carmenhill

    Eric, as he so often does, beat me to the punch 😉 I was going to say it sounds like reporting. I look forward to seeing you roll this out. 

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