Why Ashton Kutcher Ruined Twitter!


by Karolyn Hart

It was 2008 and the internet was abuzz with something called “Twitter”.  Wait, let me reiterate.  The internet “nerd world” was abuzz with Twitter.  For most of you, this thing called Twitter wasn’t really on your radar.  Here in Canada, Facebook had grown in popularity and I had joined in March of 2007.  Let me put that in perspective for all those who just turned 20 this year.  You were 15, you couldn’t even drive.  Still, by the time 2008 came around Facebook was still great, but those of us making a living in technology, or in my case at the time, technology and marketing were looking for something different.

In 2007, I had successfully convinced a financial company to take a risk and do a “social media campaign” on something called MySpace.  You have to understand – this was HUGE!  For you 20 year olds, a bit of a history lesson.  Back in 2006 and 2007 MySpace equalled molesters.  That’s why ,when you were 15, your parents were freaking out about you being on “social media”.  It sounds crazy, but that was the reality. So after convincing a very conservative financial board to let us do this, it was successful. (No surprise) Our small company got a nice small write up in The Globe & Mail on it for the customer and everyone was happy.

But to say that people got “social media” back then would be an understatement. (I still have executives in my life who don’t get it now, but I digress.)  Shortly after that we did a similar MySpace campaign for a government organization and were forced to shut it down after a MySpace user posted a picture of themselves with a gun tatoo. (Yes, that really happened.)

So it was in the midst of this environment that I was hungry to find the “next thing”.  The place that wouldn’t be so controversial.  That wasn’t just about connecting with people from highschool, college, or university (like Facebook) but something that could really be useful.

Enter Twitter.

Oh, glorious day that evening in November when I first signed up.  I spent 4 hours that night doing everything that people told me to do to make Twitter effective.  Oh wait, did I mention, the people who were directing me were my fellow “tweeters”?  There were thousands of us, and so many fellow technologists. I mean we are talking about network administrating, sql coding, back-office integrating, project managing, ITers.

During what I call the following year-long honeymoon I fell in love with Twitter.  I started a new job and was tasked with finding a way into top execs. My answer? Twitter.  When travelling to meet those top execs and needing a recommendation for a great local restaurant? Twitter. When wanting to know what the “latest buzz” on anything, but wanting it from people with a real pulse? Twitter.

Yes, it was amazing.  At this point, corporations just didn’t get “it” and you know what? None of us cared.  It was a true social network made up of the people who did.  Ya, we were a little on the geeky side and made fun of the jocks that thought a hashtag was some sort of drug paraphenalia. #lifewasgood

Enter Ashton.

2009-01-16 02:40:06 Memorize that date and time, because that was when my Twitterverse as I knew it died. Mr. Kutcher had arrived.

Now at the time, it was exciting.  The “cool kid” at school had just stopped into the chess club and announced we were all “all right”.  None of us could have imagined the lasting damage this would cause.

With all due respect, let’s talk about Ashton.  He’s a nerd’s worst nightmare.  He’s a model, turned actor, turned entrepreneur – and now he was turning tech.  Really?!?! Let’s just say it now, he may as well turn “superhero” and get it over with.

The thing is, the one thing we “nerds” owned was our space.  At this time our heros were Mr. Jobs and Mr. Gates – who got our hearts pulsing because of their intellect not because of their looks.

So we welcomed Mr. Kutcher into our world, indeed, he was embraced.  Within months of his arrival 1,000,000 fans of his followed and along with that historic landmark moment – the entire attention of the advertising universe.

Crap.

I know it’s hard to imagine, but do this. Imagine twitter with no corporate twitter  accounts, no heavy amounts of x-rated spammers, and really no spam. Oh hindsight is 20/20, but really there was no turning back.  The times they keep a changin’ (that’s an old song for you 15 yr olds) and that train was leaving.

Interestingly, I went out to view Mr. Kutcher’s rankings while writing this article and they were way down.  Lady Gaga owns the top spot now and according to the news articles it appears @aplusk has fallen out of love with Twitter.  Wait. What? Ugh.

That’s the thing about cool kids.  They are always on to the next trend.  Don’t get me wrong, we tech-nerds are just as addicted.  Even now, I’m scouring the web to find the next social scene that is uninhibited by corporations.

But twitter and me? We’re here to stay for a least a while longer.  I have made some changes as of recent.  Deliberately doing something as brash as unfollowing every corporation I currently follow. (More on the rationale on this social experiment to come.)

Ya, Mr. Kutcher did change our world and while I didn’t love the changes it was a reminder that this is the way the world turns.  Besides, on behalf of Mr. Dorsey I am grateful for Ashton.  The one thing we all kept asking during that honeymoon phase was “How are the Twitter guys going to make real money.”

It ends up the answer came from a superhero. 🙂

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