February 11, 2010

Should Nonprofit Leaders Have Ghostwriters?

Celebrities such as Britney Spears, Kanye West, and 50 Cent have huge followings for their Twitter feeds and Facebook fan pages.

But followers shouldn't expect that they're hearing directly from these entertainers when they're following their Tweets or reading their blogs because they've hired ghostwriters.

Many nonprofit leaders might be tempted to follow a similar course with their own Twitter feeds and blogs.

While a social-media presence is increasingly important for nonprofit groups that are looking to expand their reach, most nonprofit leaders have little time to Tweet or blog.

As a result, it would be easy to farm the task out to an eager intern or volunteer who is willing to channel a top executive's thoughts in social networks.

But Beth Kanter, the chief executive of the marketing company Zoetica Media, advises nonprofit leaders to avoid ghostwriting on Beth's Blog.

The voice has to be authentic, especially for organizations that are looking to build credible relationships with supporters, Ms. Kanter writes.

"If they can't sustain their presence on Twitter or blogging, they should stay away," she writes. "This isn't to say that they can't have an assistant who might do some of the scanning and flag items to respond to, but if a CEO starts engaging with people on social media channels and then there is silence — that is not a good thing."

Some nonprofit leaders have mastered the medium without turning over control. Ms. Kanter cites Holly Ross, the executive director of the Nonprofit Technology Network; Charity:Water chief executive Scott Harrison; and Case Foundation chairman Steve Case as examples of leaders who are effectively using social media without help from outside writers.

What do you think? Can nonprofit leaders rely on others to be their voice in social networks? Or should they be the ones tapping on the keyboard? Click on the comments link below this post to share your thoughts.