A win for the little guy? Ashton Kutcher plays tag with CNN.

By now even your grandma knows about the race to a million. Ashton Kutcher, old-media celebrity turned digital insider with various multimedia projects and Twitter groover challenged CNN to a race to a million followers on Twitter.

And after a nice little campaign, last night he won.

It was really fun to see the video of him crossing the victory line. He was really, truly excited. That’s impressive.

What’s more impressive is that Ashton (I can call him by his first name, ‘cos you know… we’re both Twitter sluts ;)) decided to use the opportunity to do two things:

First, promote the charitable cause (Malaria No More). He got a bank cheque made out in readiness for the win, and showed it up close on U-stream. He is knowledgeable and focused on his charitable work. (Granted, in his excitement over his win the splashing of champagne on a bank cheque for that amount of money is a little… well… off).

Secondly, and more importantly, he made the race into a statement about the democratization of media. About the power of the people. About ‘big media’ no longer determining who gets attention. Ashton repeatedly says that the revolution is happening. That we can change the world. We own the tools to create the content, consume the content and connect with each other. Anyone who can get to a computer with the internet is playing in the same playground as CNN – and they no longer have a guaranteed audience. And old media can just *suck it*.

Some naysayers and skeptics doubt that Ashton truly represents the ‘little guy’ in this equation (after all he’s a movie star right?). For example, Mark Glaser, otherwise known as @Mediatwit said: “This was NOT about the little guy at all. It was about a celeb getting little guys to follow him. If a real nobody got 1m that would be big.”

What Mark’s missed is that a key part of Ashton’s victory rant was his comment that ‘Hey, you can unfollow me. And that’s cool.’ Ashton gets that’s what happens. That’s what this is about. Six hours after he logged off last night, he was recording a segment on Oprah and said these things again … and again. Let’s not forget he’s also always talking directly to the Twitterers sending him messages. He’s authentic, transparent, on the ball and insightful. (So’s his dearly devoted wife, but that’s another post.)

So while the focus on playing tag for Followers on Twitter gives a bad impression and certainly doesn’t reflect the overall scheme of things in social media, the goal and opportunity for further influence created by Ashton and the point he’s made are undoubtedly positive in ways no other old media celebrity could achieve. He’s gained my respect, and the respect of other commentators. And I’ve never actually been a fan of his at all.

Now if only he’d teach all those other celebrities. You know the ones who need to get rid of their clueless PR hoons and tweet real conversations with other real people …. Are you listening Hugh Jackman? Oh that’s right… no you’re not.

3 responses to “A win for the little guy? Ashton Kutcher plays tag with CNN.

  1. I’m pretty sure I’m the little guy and I don’t feel all that victorious… lol

  2. Except that Twitter made it so that you couldn’t unfollow Ashton Kutcher. And despite you two being on a first name basis :-p he’s still Ashton frikkin Kutcher. He’s not exactly an unknown.

    • Hi Jonah, thanks for commenting. The Twitter quirk that made it impossible to unfollow Ashton (and CNN too by the way) is something I don’t speak to here. Nobody had over a million followers so *nobody knows* what Twitter was doing with that other than the people at Twitter, and I won’t presume to comment on it.
      While Ashton is not exactly an unknown, he’s still only one person. He’s managed to make a big deal out of the power of social media and got a lot of attention from everyone. Of course he’s famous, but the point is that the potential is there for anyone to do the same type of thing. Look at the power of response for ‘everyday’ people on Twitter – I’m thinking of #maddie. He’s also managed to raise effectively over a million dollars for this charity in the process. The point he makes is valid – that democratization of media through online networks means everyone has the potential to influence everyone, not just those who are part of conglomerates.

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