There was a ripple in the Twitter ocean this past week. It seems Ashton Kutcher, the disputable Twitter King, is placing himself in Twitter time-out – perhaps permanently – as a result of a social media blunder.
The Issue: Kutcher posted a tweet denouncing the firing of Penn State football coach as a result of the investigation into the child sex abuse scandal. The ‘tweet’ in question was:
That was published to his 8+ million followers. After coming under immediate fire from the Twittersphere, Kutcher deleted the post and began backpedaling. He tweeted, “Heard Joe was fired, fully recant previous tweet! Didn’t have full story.” Then he followed up with another short series of tweets culminating that he’s signing off from Twitter for a bit.
But then he took it a step further, announcing that he’ll be handing over the management of his Twitter stream to a social media management company he had previously created.
So now he’s the ‘proxy’ king of Twitter?
Kutcher detailed in a blog post that this all started when he saw a headline on TV that Paterno had been fired. He said he assumed that it was because of Paterno’s recent football record and his age, so he fired off his tweet.
His story’s a bit of a stretch, since the Penn State story was very widely reported, even before Paterno was fired. Additionally, one would think that Kutcher would be especially aware of the consequences of tweeting before thinking, given both the size of his following and his his recent expressions of frustration in the way gossip spread regarding his marital troubles. If he did, in fact, write that tweet without regard to even the smallest details of the case, his admission of idiocy seems to be accurate.
The Lesson: Regardless of the intent at the time, Kutcher’s many mea culpa’s were logical. Not because he’s not entitled to have the unpopular opinion that he initially expressed, but because he’s well aware of his purpose for being on Twitter. Kutcher’s purpose is the same as many pop stars: “to be popular”. Kutcher enhances his marketability or ‘box-office’ value not by being controversial, profound, informative, or intelligent, but by being liked.
Since Kutcher has removed himself from direct access to his feed, many feel he’ll lose a significant part of his massive following. Then again, I find it hard to believe that @aplusk (Kutcher on Twitter) is as big an idiot as he’s claiming to be. The story is covered by hundreds of news outlets, and announcing the outsourcing of his tweets brings a nice bit of publicity to his social media management company. Furthermore, many people (well, at least people who care about pop celebrities – still, an astonishing number) will sympathize with his ‘mistake’, ultimately increasing his following – and commercial value – even more.
Knowing one’s purpose in any social media channel is key in guiding activity. Whether proactively posting content or reacting to criticism or blunders, keeping the overall, big-picture goals in mind will guide the decisions at each step.
So especially those of you in my social media courses, what are the other takeaways you can find in this example? Does this example demonstrate anything you can apply or strategically avoid in your own personal or business strategy. Not everyone has the same social media objectives as pop stars (thank goodness), but keeping your big picture in mind will help guide your routine activities.