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Mackey's Actions Support The Case For Authenticity

John Mackey of Whole Foods was recently cited as having used a pseudonym to promote his own company and critique competitors on the Yahoo! Finance website. To me the issues about John Mackey and Whole Foods are how well the company ran its social media initiatives, and whether it was the right thing to do to post anonymously under a pseudonym on the Yahoo! Finance website.

Successful use of social media technologies requires an understanding that social media is all about dialogue, and communicating with an audience, whether they be supporters or critics. It is obviously the case from spending some time reading John Mackey's blog that he understands some of the rudimentary elements of what blogging and social media is about - dialogue, he takes the time to answer comments, and not just one but many comments, many of which are critical of his comments, opinions and actions.

What then is the story behind John Mackey? Why did he use a pseudonym on the Yahoo! Finance blog to boost Whole Foods while criticizing the competition? How does the CEO of a large grocery chain come to believe that such behavior would ever help his cause and that he would never be discovered?

John Mackey has used his blog at Whole Foods to argue his case for why Whole Foods should be able to take over Wild Oats, and allows comments on the blog posts. Not only does he respond to comments, and it's not just the occasionally comment but both positive and negative comments. John has also posted comments on the recent FTC case on his company's website.

If you search deeper into the archives of the John Mackey’s blog I notice there are only a small number of posts over the last few years. I think John Mackey may embrace the concept of dialogue but might not have understood the benefits of continuing to engage people who would support him over time. It appears to me that the use of the blog during the FTC case was an attempt to get his side of the story over to supporters and critics. However, as the posts are the first major posts in some time, it appears that John Mackey has failed to build any real ground swell of support from within his community. The use of the blog at this time appears to be an attempt at transparency, but the revelation of the pseudonym on the Yahoo! Finance website ruins his track record of transparency.

His last post was on June 27th 2007, which after the 12th of July no more comments were either made or not published. I suspect the blog is now being moderated and no further comments are being published.

Credibility and authenticity are what builds trust between people. John Mackey has been inauthentic in posting anonymously on the Yahoo! Finance website. He boosted his own company and criticized his competition without revealing his own identity. The original comments may or may not have had any affect on Whole Foods stock price or the state of Whole Food's competitors but the revelation that John Mackey used a pseudonym and posted anonymously reduces the his credibility as the CEO of a major company like Whole Foods. John Mackey must have known that if it was revealed that he made those comments on the Yahoo! Finance website it would be difficult for many people to take his future comments seriously. Either he did and did not care or he did not understand the consequences of his actions, either way his behavior has hurt his reputation, and the credibility of Whole Foods. I’d be very interested to understand what the reaction of his customers to the incident has been.