US actor Ashton Kutcher was a pioneer user of Twitter. One of the few celebrities who was tweeting before it became a popular form of social networking and back in the day when using Twitter was a source of material for comedians and commentators who couldn’t understand why anyone would want to let others know what they were eating for breakfast in 140 characters or less.
However Kutcher, whose Twitter profile has built up a following of more than 8.2 million, seems to have a love/hate relationship with the very social medium that kept him in the public eye and ensured he featured in traditional media on a regular basis.
As Kutcher’s private life hit the headlines with reports of a problem in his marriage to actress Demi Moore he accused social networking sites of spreading gossip, stating that the rise of the internet and Social Media had intensified rumour mongering in society today. Slightly hypocritical you might think, especially in regard to an interview in the Daily Express about the value of honesty and truth. “I just wanted to open up a little dialogue on the state of honesty. The state of truth. The status of truth as it pertains to literature and media… Publishers (once) held great scrutiny over what they were willing to print because their reputation was on the line.”
“When the cost structure comes down on printing… the level of honesty of literature starts to plummet… I started thinking about that in relation to media and social media today where the threshold to actually have literature printed and distributed… is zero dollars… thereby there is no gatekeeper of the truth…,” he said.
Now, in a recent twist, Kutcher has handed his Twitter account over to a management team after one of his tweets provoked an angry response.The tweet in question was centred around a protest by Kutcher over the firing of Joe Paterno, a football coach for US team Penn State. Kutcher defended Paterno only to find that his sacking had been due to his implication in a child sex scandal. This isn’t the only time that a tweet has got Kutcher into trouble, but it looks like it will be the last!
So what does this move by one of Twitter’s most prolific users mean for other celebrities? Of course Social Media gives us all the opportunity to become journalists, but as Kutcher had said before his most recent problems: “We are our own editors, we are our own publishers, and we are our own printers. Therefore, people can bastardize the truth in any way, shape or form that they want and spread that around the world. A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can leave someone’s lips.”
Whilst Kutcher is backing down, more and more celebrities are utilising Social Media sites for publicity, using the medium in just the same way as a brand or company does to market itself. According to a report by Inside Facebook on the ’25 Most Liked pages on Facebook’, stars like Eminem, Rihanna and Lady Gaga ranked amongst the top ten, but what’s the betting that all these accounts are handled by their PR teams!
Social Media is big business and celebs who don’t think before they tweet could land themselves in hot water, especially when many of them are being paid to tweet or post status updates endorsing a product. Some of the top stars are getting paid tens of thousands of pounds to add a link that goes through to a company or brand website and with many of their followers being young fans, they probably don’t realise that they have been sucked in by an advertising campaign.
Social Media marketing is definitely the way forward for businesses who want to develop a form of communication with potential customers, but maybe celebrity endorsements have had their day and we, the consumers, are just that little bit wiser to the fact that all tweets are not personally generated!