Ghost Tweeting Needs to Die

This just in from Mike Bianchi at the Orlando Sentinel: Urban Meyer, Head Coach of the Florida Gators, has a “Twitter Coordinator” run his @CoachUrbanMeyer account:

When I quizzed Meyer about his philosophy on Twitter the other day, he smiled and confided that he doesn’t actually personally post the tweets to his CoachUrbanMeyer Twitter account but that he has an assistant do it for him. But, he said, he is the overseer and “manager of the Twitter program” at the University of Florida.This should come as no surprise. After all, everybody knows head coaches and other VIPs don’t actually tweet themselves. They have publicists do it for them. Meyer is just one of the few who is honest about it.

Well, kudos to the Gators’ “Twitter Coordinator.” You’ve done such a brilliant job of posting such boring, valueless and infrequent content that it passes perfectly as if Meyer were tweeting himself. After all, we all know that, with the exception of a few select real Twitter celebs (Alyssa Milano, Shaq, Marlee Matlin, John Cusack), most VIP Twitter accounts are as bland as cardboard. And he has posted only 11 tweets in 2010, but maybe that’s the purpose of hiring a coordinator as 7 of those 11 have been in August. The 2010 NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony could be ripe for sharing unique observations, conversations and quotes (especially if the Twitter coordinator is doing the tweeting, not Meyer himself. I mean, that’s what he’s there to do). Alas, no such luck from either Coach Urban Meyer or @CoachUrbanMeyer.

But what bothers me more than the bland tweets from well known people – especially in the sports world – is the ghost tweeting. Fake accounts that parody celebrities or accounts that pose as television or film characters – of those I’m all in favor. But not real accounts that are sanctioned by the personality that the account pretends to be tweeting as. Twitter can be used effectively for PR, but for a Gators employee to pose as the coach himself is just wrong. Bianchi says “Meyer is just one of the few who is honest about it” but this defeats the purpose if the tweets are coming from the first person. If Meyer cannot tweet himself, then there is no purpose to a @CoachUrbanMeyer Twitter account. Twitter has proven to break down the barrier of brands hiding behind their PR machines and has built itself on authenticity. That’s why accounts from athletes, coaches and other celebs are so popular – because there’s the perception that the name on the handle is actually the person tweeting. But for celebs on Twitter to have any respect or value, they have to do it themselves. Because when they do it themselves, the voice behind the tweets is authentic and fans recognize and appreciate it.

As a sports fan, I would rather follow a team account that listens to fans’ conversations, replies to and retweets them, plans events and opportunities with them, and shares information that can only come from a true insider perspective, than the coach or manager who is likely not to say much of value.

If this is just another PR tactic by the Gators program, then it would be more effective for the Twitter coordinator to create an account for the Gators, not the coach, and post insightful information, engage with fans, hold contests, and so forth. Trying to extend the Urban Meyer brand through Twitter fails to achieve anything unless Meyer tweets himself. However, extending the Gators brand through Twitter could be very powerful indeed. Unfortunately for them, both @FloridaGators and @UFGators are already taken by either alumni or fans – the former of which dubs herself as “Gators Mom” and has a locked account, and the latter has only tweeted 7 times, and not in over 560 days. Ahh, Twitter is so complicated, isn’t it?

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