On Engagement, Ashton Kutcher and Pet Rocks

November 22nd, 2011 | Guest Contributor | 8 Comments

Pet RockGuest post by Jen Zingsheim

Ashton Kutcher has for a while been the darling of the social media/celebrity Twitter set. His Twitter account has more than 8 million followers, and perhaps most surprisingly to some, he has been the one tweeting.

Until recently.

After tweeting out an amazingly ill-informed defense of Penn State coach Joe Paterno (Mr. Kutcher says he was unaware of the scandal surrounding the firing, and assumed it was due to “football related issues”), he decided to turn over the management of his Twitter account to marketing agency Katalyst.

So now we have the requisite wailing and gnashing of teeth over how horrible it is that Ashton Kutcher will no longer be tweeting—at least, not without a filter. (I’m not exaggerating, just check out Ashton Kutcher is making a big Twitter mistake and Why would you ever want to outsource your voice?)

I think it’s a bit much of a fuss to make over one celebrity who apparently doesn’t keep a close watch on the news, but like so much in life, there are lessons to be learned.

What can we learn from this?

1. Conventional social media wisdom would have us think that Mr. Kutcher is sacrificing engagement with his fans. But will they stop being fans because of this? How many will “unfollow” Ashton Kutcher just because his tweets are now filtered through his PR firm?

It’s just a hunch, but I think the damage to his follower numbers will be minimal.

2. He’s acknowledging that the medium has changed. This is a really, really important point for people in communications to start thinking about.

Twitter was originally an engagement tool—we talked and conversed back and forth. But I’m willing to argue that is no longer the primary use of Twitter, at least not among the biggest accounts. It has become a channel, an information distribution device.

Don’t believe me?

Take a look at this recent study by HubSpot. It shows the most popular Twitter accounts—mostly those with a million or more followers—don’t engage much at all. They share links.

3. Actions have consequences.

Mr. Kutcher tweeted out something that was perceived as hypocritical and offensive to many (well, the many who watch the news). I honestly think he could have recovered from this just fine if he’d apologized and left it at that. People would be annoyed for a while, and he probably lost some followers.

Which begs the question: why did he make the choice to turn the account over to Katalyst?

This brings me to the Pet Rock.

Pet Rocks were a fad – a fun, amusing, and clever idea that quickly ran its course. People tire of things, especially when the activity moves from fun to effort.

If Ashton Kutcher really wanted to stick with Twitter, he could have. He’s decided to outsource that and, to his credit he is being open and transparent about it.

So he wants a team to spot-check his tweets. Does this really spell the end of the social aspect of social media … or is it just smart management of his own brand?

He will certainly need to aggressively manage his own brand, after the announcement on November 17 that his wife, actress Demi Moore, will be filing for divorce. The pair frequently bantered back and forth on Twitter, which lent some charm to Kutcher’s online presence.

Or maybe it’s just not that fun anymore.

Jen Zingsheim is Vice President of Products and Services forCustomScoop, driving product development plans to better meet the needs of public relations and marketing professionals. In addition, Jen oversees CustomScoop’s media analysis offerings, including BuzzPerception Reports, which track messages and trends in social media for Fortune 500 clients. Prior to CustomScoop, Jen worked at Fleishman-Hillard’s St. Louis headquarters, and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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Great to read your post @jenzings - I'm used to hearing you weekly on the For Immediate Release podcast :)

I don't think this necessarily means the end of the 'social' in social media - although I'm not sure that Ashton really needed to have his management team screen all tweets moving forward.

However, as @rachaelseda mentioned below, we all have our own brand to manage in social media so I respect his decision.

More than anything, I'm interested to se what kind of content is now produced ... Ashton used to post some great, fun, spur of the moment content. I'm not sure that will translate the same having to go through the levels of approval and checklist that his management will employ. I guess only time will tell....

Thanks, Jamie

factotum llc.
factotum llc.

Oh, a riddle. Hmm. Pet rocks do as they're told and Kutcher doesn't? Wait, that's a difference, not a commonality. Does it have to do with an intelligence factor? Ouch. I should not be allowed to make comments on Facebook until I can say something nice. Okay, I'm going to go read your post because I think I'm wrong on both the difference and the commonality.


You made a lot of good points here so I'm not sure where to start. While I think it can be lame that celebrities don't manage their own accounts, it can also makes sense from a brand stand point. But really we all need to think before we say something and be careful what we say on social networks because in a sense we all have our own brand or reputation to uphold. People make mistakes and by golly so do PR agencies. But you're right perhaps it just isn't fun anymore which is what is sounds like. And if it's not fun anymore but you feel like as a celebrity known for being in the twitterverse...you need to keep up with it for your own brand then why not outsource it if you can. I'm not saying I agree with it but I'm sure it won't be long before people forget it's not even him tweeting back, and like you said at least he was honest about it.


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