What lessons can be learned from Ashton Kutcher as he turns to Community Management?

By Rob McNair

The tale of woe that emerged late last week surrounding Ashton Kutcher highlights a key area of a Community Manager’s daily workload. Verification of information is often taken for granted but 100% accuracy is imperative when protecting a brand’s reputation, something Kutcher has learnt the hard way.

For those who may have missed Mr Kutcher’s misdemeanor it all stemmed from a tweet surrounding the sacking of American Football coach Joe Paterno. Kutcher defended the coach from this apparent sudden axing without full knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the incident. Paterno was in fact removed for his ties to a child sex scandal but Kutcher opted to tweet before listening to the whole story on the TV. Rushing out the door, the American actor returned from an event a few hours later to find a Twitter war had erupted with many of his fans and followers slamming the Two and a Half Men star for his comments.

His rebuttal came in the form of this blog post in which he explains his error, apologises and announces his management team will be taking over his Twitter activity as a “secondary editorial measure”. He also tweeted the picture below with another apology.

What is interesting to see is arguably the biggest Twitter celebrity understanding the enormity of his network and appreciating the responsibility he has. This is essentially one of the biggest attributes a Community Manager should have, an incessant ability to question everything until 100% certain of what message you are projecting to your network.

Kutcher may have made a genuine mistake but it’s enough to damage his brand to an extent, irreparably for some followers. As Kutcher hands responsibility of his community to a Community Manager type figure, there is a number a lessons we can all learn. Here’s a few tips before hitting that tweet button:

  • Check your story, check it again and… check it one more time. Never be in a position where you “think” something is right, always be certain
  • Draft your tweet first and get a colleague to re-read it. Sometimes the character limit on Twitter can leave tweets ambiguous, leaving followers to “fill in the gaps”
  • Consider your content first, was there really any need for Kutcher to comment on a sacking? Surely he was always going to start a “fight” somewhere along the line even under different circumstances? Being controversial may be good for engagement but pick the right fights and articulate them well
  • Understand and appreciate your community – look regularly at who’s following you and read through your @ mentions, even if you have to take a snapshot look – the bigger your follower numbers, the more influential you are
  • Did I mention… check out your story?

Ironically Kutcher has dealt with his mistake in text book Community Manager fashion, apologising profusely and organising a way of rectifying the problem in a genuine manner. As one of the first celebrities to embrace Twitter to share with the world his every move, Kutcher’s error could have caused long lasting damage but I feel his swift response and actions have saved his reputation (I guess time will tell though). It’s not often a brand or celeb can screw up monumentally and rectify that mistake so well at the same time but it would have never come to this if Kutcher had followed a few simple rules of Community Management, which no doubt his management are well and truly briefed on now.

This post was written by Rob McNair

Rob has experience advising some of the worlds most iconic brands. He thrives on helping improving social media knowledge within organisations with the ultimate goal of making theirs brands more social, transparent and accountable.