The real Ashton Kutcher effect?

Well in the wake of the Ashton Kutcher 1 million followers on Twitter event, BusinessWeek is making a big deal about celebrities powering social networks.

Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr win big when celebrities participate; no wonder they’re wooing famous users.

While it’s self-evident that fans follow stars … it’s also obvious that many joiners are also quitters. I was wondering if the masses of extra users that flood on to an online service are major contributors to social network drop-out.

As Nielsen reports, in Twitter’s case that drop-out is as high as 60%:

Currently, more than 60 percent of U.S. Twitter users fail to return the following month, or in other words, Twitter’s audience retention rate, or the percentage of a given month’s users who come back the following month, is currently about 40 percent.

Turns out the Ashton Kutcher effect is NOT related to the poor Twitter retention numbers. As Nielsen discovered by tracking users during and after the Oprah experiment,

For most of the past 12 months, pre-Oprah, Twitter has languished below 30 percent retention.

In fact, Ashton Kutcher and Oprah are contributing to social media stickiness and enhancing retention.

So much for the democratization of the internet!