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PC Mag - "Corporate Sock Puppets" - Featuring Whole Foods' RW CEO

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TomCADem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-04-11 10:59 PM
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PC Mag - "Corporate Sock Puppets" - Featuring Whole Foods' RW CEO
Remember John MacKey, the CEO of Whole Foods who was outspoken in his opposition to any governmental involvment in providing health care? Well, what would you know, but long before the Tea Party was invented by CNBC and Fox News, you had Mr. MacKey personally acting as a sock puppet.,2817,2182886,00.asp

The term sock puppet conjures innocent images of a homemade child's ttoy, but in the virtual world, sock puppets are those who participate in discussion forums under false identities. They've been used for goodsuch as catching sexual predatorsbut have also been shaking up the corporate world.

The most publicized example is John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, who under the name Rahodeb posted to Yahoo! message boards comments deriding rival chain Wild Oats. Though there is no law preventing sock puppetry, there is talk that the FTC may use Mackey's comments to block the possible buyout of Wild Oats by Whole Foods.

* * *

On the larger scale, savvy marketers are sock puppeting to create phony grassroots support for products. In this practice, dubbed "astroturfing," many people jump on forumsat the behest of a companyand talk up that company's product. Peter Nicholson, chief creative officer of ad agency Deutsch Inc., says that many companies monitor and participate in online forums to glean key consumer feedback, but avoid astroturfing with full disclosure. Nonetheless, he adds, astroturfing is gaining ground.

"People don't like to talk about it; they pretty much keep it to themselves. But there's plenty of it going on," Nicholson says.

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