A few years ago, I taught a seminar on blogging at one of our trade shows. The CEO from one of the largest, general market trade publishers attended. Afterward, he came up and introduced himself. He asked if we could have breakfast the next morning. “Sure,” I said.
So the next morning we met. He asked, “How do I get started blogging?” My heart lept. I knew he would have an instant audience. I, for one, would love to read what he had to say. I imagined all kinds of things I could learn from him.
Then he dashed my hopes. “Who do you use to ghost-write your blog?” he asked.
“Excuse me?” I choked.
“I mean, who do you use to write your blog? Could I possibly hire him or could you recommend someone that is really good?”
Honestly, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The guy obviously did not get it. I blurted out, “I don’t use a ghost writer. I write every word myself.”
He then said, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly do that. I don’t have the time.”
Without thinking, I said, “Then you shouldn’t do it at all.”
I still feel that way. You can hire a ghost writer to write a book. You might even be able to hire someone to write an occasional op-ed piece or magazine article. Usually, no one will even know unless you choose to tell them.
But this is not true with blogs. It is especially not true with Twitter. If you try, you will be found out. Your readers will know and the word will spread. You will be considered a “poser,” someone pretending to be something they are not. And trust me, word will spread. In the end, you will do irreparable damage to your personal brand.
I have seen this trend of “ghost blogging and ghost tweeting” with authors, artists, and other celebrities. Forget the fact that blogging is at least ten years old and Twitter is three years old. Now that these and other social media have gone mainstream, no one wants to be left behind. Everyone is jumping on-board.
What some of these new converts don’t understand is that social media only works well if the communication is personal, authentic, and near-immediate:
- Personal. Even if people don’t know you, they can tell if you are the one writing. You might be able to fool them for a while, but blogging and Twittering require you to express your personality. If you don’t, readers sense that something is not quite right.
- Authentic. People will only trust you if you are wiling to pull back the curtain of your life and give them a peek inside. Of course, this is helpful in every form of communication. It connects people in a way that is powerful. But it is essential with blogging and Twittering. You must be willing to share yourself.
- Immediate. A book is a monologue. Take as long as you want to write it. Serve it up when it is ready. This is not true with blogging and Twittering. Both are a dialogue. You get to introduce the topic and may even moderate it, but you are expected to participate in the ongoing conversation. As a result, you must respond to blog comments and Twitter replies and direct messages.
All of this requires your personal participation. You can’t hire it done. You can’t fake it. If you’re not willing to make the personal investment, don’t bother. You won’t fool anyone.