Sometimes Truth and Fiction are Pretty Much the Same

You know the old saying that the truth is stranger than fiction?

It seems to be playing out right now.

I assigned students in my public relations writing class this lab to write a letter convincing Ashton Kutcher to hire them as his social media manager. They were to focus specifically on Kutcher’s (@aplusk) active and massive Twitter following. You may remember that he was the first person to reach a million followers a couple of years ago and is given credit by some for making Twitter popular in the mainstream.

The lab’s purpose was to give students experience in persuasive letter writing.

I made up the topic, saying Kutcher needed help because of his multiple projects, including his role on the Two and a Half Men sitcom after Charlie Sheen’s meltdown and termination.

Kutcher announced today that he is handing over the management of his now more than eight million people large Twitter account to a media team.

“Up until today, I have posted virtually every one of my tweets on my own, but clearly the platform has become too big to be managed by a single individual,” Kutcher wrote on his blog.

Kutcher announced the review after a tweet he sent criticizing Penn State University for firing Coach Joe Paterno.

The actor was bombarded with criticism after the tweet, which he sent without knowing the reason Paterno was fired. He assumed the firing was because of the 84-year-old coach’s age, which was a regular debate in the sporting community.

Kutcher retracted and deleted the tweet after becoming aware of the sex abuse scandal that resulted in Paterno’s immediate termination. He also decided to subject his tweets to prior review, writing:

“A collection of over 8 million followers is not to be taken for granted. I feel responsible to deliver informed opinions and not spread gossip or rumors through my twitter feed. While I feel that running this feed myself gives me a closer relationship to my friends and fans I’ve come to realize that it has grown into more than a fun tool to communicate with people. While I will continue to express myself through @Aplusk, I’m going to turn the management of the feed over to my team at Katalyst as a secondary editorial measure, to ensure the quality of its content. My sincere apologies to anyone who I offended. It was a mistake that will not happen again.”

Sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction.

Let’s Talk Nerdy!

What do you think about Kutcher’s decision to have his tweets reviewed? Does the celebrity owe the public a different level of accountability because of the size of his following? Is this move necessary or an overreaction? What (if anything) does this situation say about the power of social media platforms?