There are very few actions or tactics in the world of social media that fall under the categories of “always” or “never.”
Different social media platforms and audiences require different engagement efforts, different responses and different sensitivities. Across the board standards are few and far between. But the other day, one was brought up during a lunch conversation: ghost commenting.
Ghost commenting is using an alternative identity to post online comments, questions or responses that you wouldn’t post under your own name. It’s also completely discoverable, shady, disingenuous, the opposite of transparent and just plain wrong. The minuses far outweigh the pluses.
Probably the most infamous case of ghost-commenting-gone-bad was in 2007 when Whole Foods CEO John Mackey was outed for making comments and posts on Yahoo! Finance forums about the then-potential merger of Whole Foods and Wild Oats. I admire Mr. Mackey for many of the leadership qualities he has shown at the helm Whole Foods, but several self-flattering posts under the guise of “Rahodeb” later, and who knows what to really think of him?
The sad part is how often ghost comments occur. Typically, the more frequent anonymous posts are made surrounding a controversial or emotional topic, which also happens to be the worst time to get involved in a disingenuous manner. And yet, political stories tend to receive the most pseudo-name comments. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see who is behind those comments?
The fact is everything online is discoverable. If someone really wanted to find out who made what comment, they could. The next time your company/organization/party/candidate is being taken to task on a forum or an online story, think about whether or not one comment (no matter how small) is worth risking your professional credibility.
The intelligent comments and posts find a way to effectively get a point across with a real person standing behind the opinion. You will need, however, to grow a thick skin since the ghost commenters can take anyone to task because they effectively have immunity from taking ownership of their comments.
We are seeing dramatic changes in how online forums are handled, with registrations through Facebook accounts and many forums disappearing. Only in rare instances do these forums advance the conversation. At least by being you, you can post comments and feel good about doing the right thing even if everyone else is posting fiction.