The Twitterverse, and mainstream media, have been in a frenzy this week with the Ashton Kutcher / CNN race to one million followers. It culminated with one of the biggest names in showbiz, Oprah Winfrey, publicly joining Twitter and making her first Tweet on Friday’s program.
While the general public became enthralled by the whole proceedings, the original Twitter community debated the virtues of celebrity Tweeters and the false victory of huge follower numbers.
Now, as the dust settles, the conspiracy theories are beginning to emerge.
To me, this week’s Twitter activities appear to have been a very well orchestrated publicity stunt with several beneficiaries. In fact, you only need to look at the beneficiaries to begin realising how all this came together.
CNN, Kutcher, Oprah, a billboard company and Twitter have all enjoyed a remarkable amount of exposure. I believe they have all been complicit in orchestrating one of the biggest PR stories on the month.
Look at the sequence of events:
- Kutcher and CNNbrk (which wasn’t actually controlled by CNN) have been rapidly accumulating large numbers of followers.
- Kutcher publicly challenges CNNbrk to race him to 1 million followers.
- CNN personalities start discussing the challenge, including Larry King mockingly expressing disbelief that one person could challenge their might.
- Kutcher gains momentum and promises to donate mosquito nets for anti-malaria charity.
- An electronic billboard company, Lamar, “donates” 1133 billboards around the US encouraging everyone to follow Kutcher.
- The big boys at Twitter, Ev & Biz, start hinting a big announcement, which is then quickly circulated. Ev will be on Oprah with Kutcher on Friday
- Oprah signs up with her own Twitter account. Amazingly the username @oprah was available.
- News emerges that the Englishman behind @CNNbrk, James Cox, has struck a deal with CNN that allows them to take control of that Twitter identity.
- It all climaxes on Friday when Kutcher narrowly beats CNNbrk to 1 million followers then appears on Oprah with Ev from Twitter. Oprah makes her first Tweets on the show and has already attracted hundreds of thousands of followers.
How very tidy.
Kutcher gains plenty of attention and a potentially larger audience whilst being the nice guy who is donating to charity.
CNN, who have been using Twitter in some of their programming, gain more attention and take control of a popular site they never owned.
Lamar, the 3rd largest outdoor advertising company in the US, gain massive profile and plenty of online coverage.
Oprah becomes relevant to a whole new tech savvy demographic.
Twitter numbers go through the roof. The already dynamic tech start-up with no revenue model becomes the most talked about web business in the World for a week.
All this while rumours are circulating about a possible sale to Google (which may be a smokescreen).
There’s nothing illegal or even unethical about all this (Unless perhaps if it emerges that Kutcher, Oprah or CNN have purchased a stake in Twitter). Its just a PR stunt that has worked brilliantly for all involved. Good luck to Ev and Biz and the Twitter team. They are living the biggest tech start-up dream since Sergey Brin and Larry Page launched a little search engine called Google.
Just don’t think that it all happened by accident.