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Employee Perceptions of CEO Ghost Posting

Corporate leaders who want a social media presence but often don’t have the time to manage it themselves frequently assign someone within the company to serve as their online voice or persona, a practiced called “ghost posting.”

University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications researchers Tom Kelleher, associate dean for Graduate Studies and Research, Rita Men, associate professor of Public Relations, and Patrick Thelen, Ph.D. 2019,  assistant professor at San Diego State University, explored perceptions of employees when their CEO delegated social media messaging to a surrogate.

The study looked at whether CEOs were perceived as being authentic leaders, promoting organizational transparency, and fostering positive employee-organization relationships if their social media messages were created by someone else. The study found that most employees believe that ghost posting is a common practice, which was deemed acceptable when accompanied by a clear disclosure. However, employees were less tolerant of CEO ghost posting when it was not clearly disclosed. In addition, employees who knew their CEO used ghost posting perceived their leadership authenticity in a less favorable light.

Regardless of whether CEOs seek professional assistance for managing their social media presence or not, a conversational CEO voice was positively perceived in terms of authentic leadership. Showing a sense of humor and providing feedback contributed to positive perceptions by employees.

The study’s authors propose more qualitative research, including looking at the moral implications of ghost posting. In addition, content analysis or alternate methods of direct observations compared to employee perceptions of those strategies and tactics are needed.

Also, future research would benefit from having employees clarify the circumstances in which they work and their positions relative to the CEO. Finally, employee perceptions can vary in other countries and cultures.

The original article, “Employee Perceptions of CEO Ghost Posting and Voice: Effects on Perceived Authentic Leadership, Organizations Transparency, and Employee-Organization Relationships” was published in Public Relations Journal, Vol. 12, Issue 4, Sept. 2019.

This summary was written by Dana Hackley, Ph.D.

Posted: March 4, 2020
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