Why Everyone's Ghostjacking But Nobody's Talking About It...Until now!

Tony Hughes


Virtual reality and the promise of a second life are at last upon us. Do we even need to jump in the hyperloop to explore the world with new eyes? I miss the ambitious 1990's and the days of the Lawnmower Man VR helmet and Power Glove. But here we are with Oculus Rift and HoloLens, Magic Leap holography and the promise of a brave new world of Marcel Proust. "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes". Now we actually can. One investor called Magic Leap, 'so badass you can't believe it!'

Drum roll please... Without further ado, I'm fairly sure I'm the first in the world to have coined this phrase:

Ghostjacking (v.) is the process of logging in to others' social media profiles to grock the context of their networks. Ghostjacking is when the CEO allows you to drive their profile in order to connect from the C-Level to the C-Level. Ghostjacking is the secret weapon that is accelerating enterprise deal cycles within social media right as we speak and I haven't seen it written about. Nobody's talking about this and many are doing it.

The future has already arrived. It's just not evenly distributed yet." - William Gibson

I know what you're thinking - You are right in raising the risk of personal brand damage caused by poor execution. The ethics needs to be carefully considered also.

The office of The President, The Prime Minister, The Pope, The CEO, Rockstars, Hollywood icons... they all have trusted delegates who reach-out, reply to correspondence and manage social on their behalf. A letter from the Queen is not generated by the Queen herself. Delegates are instructed and authorized to engage within strict guidelines and in a very targeted manner. They're instructed and authorized to 'ghost'.

This is not new...Bringing this approach to the world of social is 'old world meeting new world'. Professional selling is catching-up but anyone who is clumsy through autobot gaffs or spamming behaviour will damage their personal brand enormously. I have screenshot examples that I share in my presentations and keynotes. Deceptive or disingenuous behavior will be punished by recipients. HUGE levels of partnership and trust are required to execute and there is much to consider... this really is cutting-edge stuff!

It's common knowledge that various team members will power others' social profiles in order to allow the corner office to delegate. What I've yet to see established, is a cohesive strategy if encouraging this. Imagine encouraging your SVP of Sales to run the CXO's profile in order to appointment-set at the highest level for maximum cut-through. As one might imagine, the response rate of a CEO reaching out to another CEO is ridiculously high.

There are a few ways I've envisaged doing this. One, is to leverage a series of approved personal templates that allow for some editorial control in the process. Two, is to record calls and frequent responses and then transcribe them into a template to give you the DNA blueprint or gestalt of that C-Level's thought pattern in order to be effective. The best outreach while ghostjacking is the language of the CEO: short, to the point, economy of movement and effort - blunt and even colloquial.

This is a controversial idea but one that can be aligned with your go-to-market strategy. It can be a major competitive advantage when coupled with the neighborhood technique. 'Hey I'll be in Auckland, let's do lunch.' Imagine you're in an RFP or up against a legacy incumbent. You have not been able to meet with the key stakeholders in the account. The CIO is dodging you. The ultimate maneuver is outreach by your Founder or CEO to theirs in order to hold a fireside chat or high level summit.

As a sales leader, reaching out from your CEO's LinkedIn to make that invitation can be the key moment that turns a tenuous relationship into a concrete one. The major hurdle in high performance, strategic social selling is getting in front of the right clients. I list 13 counter-intuitive ways to do this here on and off the Tron game grid.

CEB recently released research on the consensus sale and they state that "on average, 5.4 people are involved in today's B2B purchase decisions."

We all know the parable of management by committee and where that story goes... #stall.

To buck this trend and in recognition that there's typically only one name on the purchase order, I'm advocating the most counter-intuitive 'get past the gatekeeper' strategy of all time! When power connects to power, the magic happens in accounts. I've seen a 16 month deal cycle move forward in 90 days with this technique. What's the precursor to a successful ghostjack? Trust. It's critical that in business we always operate with absolute ethics and integrity so work collaboratively and always put this tactic into a healthy context.

Ghostjacking is a riff of newsjacking as defined by the prescient David Meerman Scott. This is where you Tweet your content at a timely Google or Twitter trending topic or hashtag so journalists can pick it up in the news cycle bell curve, pre-decay-rate and you inject your harmonic story within the breaking news like a surfer dropping in to toe-surf a digital long board.

If you have a close relationship with your internal C-Suite as a sales leader, it may be worth exploring whether to share social access to a key profile in order to ghostjack or ghostdrive into new accounts and territories. This is an approved practice with a real senior internal stakeholder profile, accessing networks with the power of a pre-approved templated message. You can even craft a bespoke message and have your CEO edit it for authenticity and syntax.

Other clever and practical applications of Ghostjacking include:

  • CMO powers the company Twitter account and leverages personal profiles to customise retweets. (This has been happening since the dawn of social!)
  • Account Executives drive each others' Navigator accounts to look for changes in the patterns of the content stream and interrelationships as a Flight Simulator exercise
  • CEO gives one Sales Leader the keys to the castle and a list of targets with a multi-template approach to penetrate key stakeholders. (Project management software like Jira or Workboard can be leveraged for real-time approvals.)
  • Marketing teams take ownership not only of a Facebook Page but personal executive accounts to grow them meaningfully.
  • Comment seeding in discussion groups or forums foments heated debate. I've often stated that polarity fosters interactivity which heats up social.
  • Beestorming which is adding the entire C-Suite of an existing or new account. This is super high risk because one has to understand who the talkers, blockers, mobilizers [Challenger] and frenemies are. It's highly effective to log in as a C and super-link into the power-base to understand the political ramifications.

Whether you cringe reading this or are an advocate, nothing changes the fact that we all know this stuff is happening and it's the unspoken truth. Even if you're leveraging ghostjacking from an observation level to do passive research and report back findings to your C-Suite, the view is often unobstructed from the top. As the saying goes, the lead sleigh dog has the best view. This may be dubbed as a guerrilla strategy or dismissed / misconstrued as grey-hat but if you want to take it even more above board, sit with your CEO and explain the idea to them. Work together on this meta-tactic to target your top 25 dream accounts this quarter, map their power base and devise a strategy to 'get in.' She can send the outreach, and you can prep the strategy. Either way, it's an effective modus operandi to become more collaborative in the virtual world we all now live in and explode yourself ever so Battlestar Galactica into a supernova super-networker.

Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts... A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding..." - William Gibson

Often the only people CXOs will add back are other CXOs. Navigator allows all salespeople the ability to passively track the content and activity stream of any senior executive and this is helpful. The true power-play is a hyper-targeted InMail, invite or 'neighborhood' technique - meeting request from the very important top officer (VITO).

I'm working on a controversial new book that will explore many of the extremes, grey areas and best practices of strategic social sellers. I've endeavored to see around corners, 10X the satire and see the world through the new eyes of 2020, with my smart contacts and Singularity squarely in 3D holodeck check.

Now it's your turn - What experiences have you had in ghostjacking? Have you heard of savvy reps powering executive profiles? Is this reality or myth, the stuff of urban legend? What's your stance on this as a standardized business practice? How far could the future of virtual reality in business to business sales really go?

If you'd like more, please hit the 'like' button and also share via your Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook social media platforms. I encourage you to join the conversation or ask questions so feel free to add a comment on this post. Please follow my LinkedIn post page for all my articles.

Main photo by: Sergey Galyonkin. Also added this photo below after suggestion by Avron Welgemoed.


Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at www.TonyHughes.com.au or his sales methodology website at http://www.rsvpselling.com/.

Main image photo by Flickr: Sergey Galyonkin


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