Almost no one who hires a ghostblogger will admit to it, and few bloggers advertise who their clients are. But as the business grows, networks are beginning to form, and entrepreneurs are learning how to get the most out of their ghosts.
Several websites are serving as connection points for ghostwriters looking for work and companies that need their services. One, elance.com, based in Mountain View, Calif., has a separate category for ghostwriters called Writing & Translation. It lists thousands of people who write anything from tweets to books. Brad Porteus, chief marketing officer for elance, says ghostwriting was one of the fastest-growing categories of 2009.
"The numbers surprised me," he says, citing a 66 percent increase in the listings over the first nine months of the year. "The difference between good and great writing can make a tremendous impact on someone's business."
Another site to check is online-writing-jobs.com, which aggregates opportunities on craigslist.com and shows how many hits the listing has generated.
You can also simply do an Internet search--use the terms ghostblogger, ghostblog, business, corporate, executive--and you'll have more choices than you can imagine.
Before you begin interviewing ghosts, have a clear vision for the blog or Twitter account, and what you expect it to accomplish. The first fundamental question: Will it be written in the name of the chief executive, other senior management or a company team?
Then consider how much time you or your employees spend with the cyber-doppelgänger. The best ghostbloggers are the most interactive with the company. They prefer steady access to understand what the company does, who the target audience is and what the marketing goals are. The best also have the ability to write in the voice and style of whoever's name is on the blog, and those writers might request more time to nail that down. The same issues apply to tweets.
Next, establish the rules of engagement. Some companies provide all the information to include in blog posts or tweets and merely ask the ghost to reshuffle it into cyber-form. Others want the ghostblogger to research the product and industry and add a wider context for the message. And some want to do as little as possible, relying on the ghost for just about everything.
The last consideration, and the one ghostbloggers across the country agree is most important, is: No matter what the arrangement, ghosted blogs and tweets should not go out without final approval, especially if they're written under a specific person's name. The ghost might make the mistake, but the company will bear the responsibility.