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?

18 comments
Stephanie Barnes
Stephanie Barnes

This whole location identify the influence of social media. The information to facilitate single individual be able to hurl a message to million people and reason such a massive response in the media is excellent. Social media is how the humanity correspond today, when information smash it goes on twitter and in seconds billions of people discern it.

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eayoung
eayoung

I think it is a good idea to have his Tweet's reviewed, but I do not think he should allow other people to change his mind on his thoughts. I am a PR major, and I want to be a publicist, so I understand that stand point of making sure what he say is proper, but it is his thoughts, no one else's. He should not feel like his management team should review random posts like "on the set of two and a half man, loving my job" that is such a random post, who can that offend. I think society feels as if he owes something different to people, but me personal I do not know if I agree with because of his popularity should people hold that against him, he is still human and has the right to free speech. I think the move is good but I think it will eventually be pointless to go through all of that. Social media allows you to connect to everyone, so if you are afraid of that and saying the wrong thing, just use the old fashion paparazzi to put your business out!

VictoriaNicole23
VictoriaNicole23

Several typical individual be able to make an impulsive opinion without perceptive facts- However it takes a clever person to discern when to put that opinion out there,Great topic.

ThinDifference
ThinDifference

It seems that he is viewed more as a "packaged good" brand, which he is. In this case, his messages do need to be "managed" so the top-of-mind or off-the-wall comments get filtered to a certain degree. It is not losing the voice of his brand, but managing it more effectively.

I know, we are all brands, and I get that. My brand has a much more limited scope than his, so I can manage it as an individual. More people depend on his brand than an individual like me.

Good conversation! Thanks!

BruceSallan
BruceSallan

I think he has no choice. The fact that he almost single-handedly gave Twitter credibility and was On Board so early gives him props in my department for sure!

FReyes
FReyes

I think it is a good idea for Ashton Kutcher’s tweets to be managed. With the number of followers he has, it is important that he is careful about the information he tweets about. Although I think he did the right thing by apologizing, he still upset a lot of his fans. I think it is important for Ashton Kutcher to be very cautious about what he tweets. It is necessary for him to have his twitter account monitored to avoid another situation like this. I think this whole situation displays the power of social media.

aschexnayder
aschexnayder

Frankly, I don't think it was his brightest idea to manage it without running tweets by his manager or another handler for this long. Any normal human being an make a snap judgement without knowing all the facts- but it takes an intelligent person to know when or when not to put that opinion out there, and an even more intelligent person to realize that they have a really wide sphere of influence, and the backlash that that same opinion could have. I don't believe he has any more accountability than any one else, but I do think they have to be more conscious of who it ultimately affects. 8 million followers is a far cry from the few hundred that many regular Twitter users have.

I think this is yet another example of how the "instantness" of modern society means that we must be smarter about what we put out there. Even as non-celebrities, each social media user should be conscious of the opinions that others could form about them based upon what they provide through their social media outlets. Be smart about it, y'all.

AustinClarkEnnis
AustinClarkEnnis

It is my opinion that Mr. Kutcher's actions after the initial tweet were both mature and necessary. I have seen many celebrities and/or athletes on Twitter say something they probably should not have, and many of them don't think twice about it. I like that Ashton didn't try to erase what he said necessarily, but he did apologize and explain that he was wrong. As for having his management team run his Twitter feed henceforth, I'm not sure if it is a must, but it is a smart step and something many other celebrities should look into. Yes Twitter is a tool that helps celebrities and fans interact, but that can still happen even if you're having someone "proofread" what you say.

jcmalone
jcmalone

This entire situation defines the power of social media. The fact that one person can send a message to 8 million people and cause such a huge reaction in the media is outstanding. Social media is how the world communicates today, when news breaks it goes on twitter and within seconds billions of people know what happend. Seconds. So yes, I think Ashton is being very smart in saying that he feels a social responsibility to have his management review his tweets. I also think he went about this in the wrong way. By publicly announcing that he has "handed over" his Twitter account it makes it seem like he isn't going to be tweeting himself anymore. That is the whole reason people follow celebrities, is to have that personal connection with them and when a celebrity's managment is tweeting for them they lose to personal touch. What Ashton should have done was publicly apologize for his tweet regarding the Penn State incident, and informed us that he feels he has a great social responsibility and is going to honestly think about what information he puts on the internet. Then he should have met with his management and privately decided that he was going to have them review his tweets before they are sent. Yes this would be a time consuming effort but if he so strongly feels that he effects this many people then it is worth the time. He should have never let the public know that he wasn't actually going to be tweeting anymore.

Nik T
Nik T

I believe it is a decent idea on Kutcher's part to have his tweets reviewed, but unnecessary. He is human, and humans do make mistakes. I'm sure the twitter fans should be able to understand he didn't realize the severities of Joe Pa's termination. He quickly came with a retraction which should be sufficient for fans. Yes for being a star his comments will be viewed and scrutinized more than the rest of us. However I personally believe it makes him more human, and would make me want to follow him more getting his real opinion on issues and not some white washed opinion that is politically correct and wont offend anyone. That is not entertaining! One of the main reasons to get on twitter is to see the ridiculous opinions people are posting about the world's happenings. Having a team edit everything you say defeats the purpose and he might as well delete it.

That being said I think social media is a very powerful platform for expression, and should be handled as thus. Kutcher should try to stay more informed, but at the same time accidents happen and the world should be able to accept that. His post was obviously misinformed and I seriously doubt anyone will hold it against him for life, or stop watching 2 and a half men for it.

eayoung
eayoung

@VictoriaNicole23 I enjoyed this topic as well. I think some times, people should keep their opinions to themselves, especially when they are celebrities.

profkrg
profkrg moderator

@ThinDifference I certainly see your point, but I do think we lose some of what attracts us to following celebrities on social media if someone else is managing the messages. Perhaps what Kutcher is doing is the happy medium because he's not giving up his own status updating, he's just having someone else view them before they're posted. Still, as a journalist, I can't help but see this as an individual form of censorship in the name of social responsibility. That doesn't really sit well with me.

eayoung
eayoung

@Nik T I totally agree with the fact he is human. It was a simple mistake, he did not know everything about the story, he apologized. People should let it go.