The first I heard of Mark Davidson was when his name began trending on Twitter in September this year. After a relatively quick investigation, it turned out that one of his disgruntled ex-employees had ‘hacked’ Davidson’s company’s Twitter account, and not only was this person drunk, they were extremely angry. A series of scathing tweets appeared, accusing Mr. Davidson of not knowing how to use social media, that a rival company paid better, and that the other ghostwriters were ‘really boring’. Naturally, this went viral. Articles appeared warning of handing over Twitter accounts to ghostwriters, and Mark Davidson’s goose appeared to be well and truly cooked. Until someone suggested the ‘Twitter takeover’ had been a hoax – and Davidson confirmed it had been.
In an interview with The Atlantic Wire, he confessed that he’d arranged the stunt himself in order to show his mother he could become a maestro of social media (or something like that; it’s never quite revealed why. It has something to do with his brother being a doctor.)
Either way, Davidson seemed pleased with the stunt – and rightly so. I followed him straight after he started trending, and I’ve only just gotten round to deleting him from my feed. (He’s gone back to tweeting about his business. Far less interesting.)
You might think that all’s well that ends well, right? Wrong. Davidson has tarnished his reputation in a way that his business image won’t ever recover from. On the one hand, he looks impossibly foolish, if you believe the takeover was real. We’ll never be able to look at Davidson again without thinking of his fired ghostwriter’s acerbic comments – is he a rubbish boss? Can he really barely type? I believe most people, on some level, will always believe it was real.
On the other hand, Davidson’s horrifically-smug response wins him no fans – or sympathy from journalists. "I’m not promoting anything," he said, during the interview with The Atlantic Wire. "I’m not trying to dupe people. What I did try to do was spark a conversation, as I always do. I kind of wanted to teach a lesson [to journalists]. When I read all the different blog posts, they built a fictional story around my fictional story. Ultimately, the real story is don’t believe what you read.” Sadly for Mark, this excuse smacks of poorly thought-out damage limitation. The phrase, ‘Actually, I meant to do that,’ springs to mind.
Plus, teaching journalists a lesson? Very worthy. I don’t suppose it’s the journalists in question that have helped build your Twitter following to over 55,000 people, or gave you the press coverage you obviously craved? Telling journalists not to talk about a breaking story is rather pointless. I’m sure they’ve all learned their lesson; but let’s not forget. Thousands of them blogged about you, and there was only one person involved in this who looked rather incompetent, whether those tweets were the work of a cunning ruse or not. The lesson here is, if there can be one, is that if you’re going to stage a publicity stunt like this, make sure that you can prove, without a shadow of a doubt later on, the whole thing was a hoax. Otherwise there’s an uneasy silence afterwards where everyone tries to work out if you’re really desperate for coverage, really conniving, or just impossibly embarrassed. Take note, Mark Davidson.