Why George Takei is a Facebook superstar

Rainbow StarsI’ve never been a Trekkie, so I missed George Takei as Sulu in the original Star Trek series, but I knew who he was. When he popped up occasionally as Howard Stern’s official announcer (I know – shocking. I listen to Stern. Sometimes. His celebrity interviews are amazing!), I thought – hey, what a nice, funny, laid-back, sweet guy.

And that’s exactly what George Takei brings to social media.

Takei has the kind of following and audience engagement that social media managers dream of – 3.2 million Facebook fans, more than 500,000 Twitter followers, 250,000 Pinterest followers, and a hilarious Tumblr page.

When he was on WBUR’s On Point last week, I tuned in to hear the secret to his Facebook success (to hear the interview, check out the On Point podcast – the whole podcast is fantastic, but the Facebook stuff starts at 37 minutes in). Here’s what he revealed:

Show me the funny

Takei originally jumped on the social media bandwagon to promote his new musical, Allegiance. He wasn’t sure what kinds of content to post at first. “In order to get the likes, we kind of experimented. How do we get the likes?” He quickly found out what his audience wanted. Anytime he shared something funny, he got a lot of likes. But visual content hit the home run – photos and funny memes got even more engagement. This is something we’ve been hearing for a while. I couldn’t find any stats on humorous posts, but there’s plenty of data about images and video. Visual content rules: photos are 5 times more popular than text updates, and videos are shared 12 times more than links or text.

Don’t stop

Facebook fans want consistency. If they like your page and they’re engaging with your content, don’t leave them hanging. They might forget about you. And – according to Facebook’s EdgeRank formula – the more someone engages with your page, the more you’re going to show up in their news feed. “If we’re on regularly, more and more people will come to expect to find us – regularity. And so we kept growing and growing,” Takei said.

Regularity does not mean posting every hour. But don’t speak to your fans once a week either. You have to balance your content and frequency, and Takei does that well because he knows his audience. They love his content. It’s something they look forward to seeing in their news feed, so they’re OK with a few posts a day. On the day I’m writing this blog post, Takei has shared content 3 times, and I haven’t seen one complaint about posting too much. This may not be the case with your page – 33% of fans have unliked a Facebook page because they posted too many updates. The important lesson here is to test. What is the engagement, new likes and unlikes on days that you posted several times vs. just once? Let your audience tell you what their limit is.

Ask for help

Takei is a celebrity, so of course he can hire people to do his marketing – in the early days of his social media management, he started with an intern, and now has a small staff. But that doesn’t mean you have to do this on your own. If you have the money and can hire someone, or have a person on your staff that can take on your social media marketing, that’s great!

If you don’t, you can still get help for free. Reach out to other social media marketers in your industry and ask them for advice. Find a LinkedIn group in your industry or create your own. Network via a Tweet Chat. Attend free social media events in your area or start your own by creating a Meetup group. Read as many social media marketing blogs as you can for tips and best practices (thank you for reading mine!). I suggest the Constant Contact blog (of course!), Mashable, HubSpot, Likeable, Social Media Examiner, Content Marketing Institute, and MarketingProfs. That’s just a few – there are many, many more out there. And if you have any recommendations of who to read, I’d love to hear them!

Have a digital suggestion box

A lot of Takei’s content is contributed by fans, and he makes sure to give them credit. “The material is really what my fans send me. The commentaries are mine. That is genuinely me. But I do not take credit for the memes. They are very clever, very funny, and I’m very grateful that I have those clever, funny meme creators,” he said. This is a smart move – you can’t be everywhere at once, and – even if you have a staff – you can’t find every interesting bit of content that’s out there. So encourage your fans to share. With 3 million fans, Takei has a lot of digital eyes and ears scanning the interwebs to find EdgeRank gold.

Nice guys can finish first

Though most of Takei’s content is very visual and very funny, what comes across to me most is just how nice he is. And that’s just who he is – his Facebook page is his personality. He’s the same guy on Howard Stern’s show as he is in the On Point interview, and in any news story I’ve read about his social media success. There’s no negativity on his page, which is very rare because everyone (guilty!) lets the crankiness get to them from time to time, and shares their bad days online. I think this caller – a woman named Pax – from the On Point interview says it best: “It’s how you’ve reinvented yourself now – as a beacon of kind and clever and informed humor in the face of all the fake behavior that we’re barraged with in our society that has made me a devoted fan.”

How one small business built Facebook buzz – before opening its doors

Thumbs upI first heard about the Rail Trail Flatbread Co. when my husband and I were in Hudson, MA a few weeks ago looking for a place to eat dinner. We drove by the restaurant’s downtown storefront – a new brick sign spanned the building, and the windows were covered up. It wasn’t open, but I was intrigued. What was going on with this restaurant, and when would it open?

Not long after that, I saw a Rail Trail Flatbread Co. ad on Facebook that included a picture of the storefront. I liked their page, and was immediately surprised to see that the page already had 400 likes and wasn’t open for business yet!

How did they do it?

Mystery

Hudson is a small town. So when someone starts a business, people notice. And, like me, they want to know what the heck is going on. A quick Google search revealed that plans for this restaurant were announced a little over a year ago. Shortly after that, the Rail Trail folks started their Facebook page. Good move – anyone who Googled the restaurant would find the Facebook page. And they would like it to be in the know.

No Update is Too Small

Throughout the fall, as the restaurant neared completion, the owners posted updates about their progress a few times a week – no marketing-speak, just quick posts about hiring staff, painting, finishing the bar, putting up the sign, and testing ingredients. These updates helped add to the excitement, and served as a reminder to fans that the opening was happening soon.

Photos, Photos, Photos

Images are powerful – especially on Facebook, where 70% of all activity is based on photographs, according to a study from Overgram.  The study shows that using images can boost your Facebook engagement by 120% for a single photo, and 180% for a photo album. If you’re curious about the new restaurant in town, you’re probably dying to see what it looks like. And, if you’re a beer connoisseur, a Facebook photo of Rail Trail’s 20 taps is going to rock your socks off. That image got 61 likes, 15 comments and 1 share, and demonstrated the power of social word of mouth.

Welcoming Their Future Customers

Rail Trail started participating in community events before their opening and posted photos on Facebook – they handed out candy during Hudson’s downtown trick-or-treat walk. They invited people to get an exclusive preview as part of the annual holiday stroll. On more than one occasion, they thanked local businesses and vendors for their help with the renovations, and thanked the community for their support.

Rail Trail Facebook Thank You Post

By taking time out to get to know their neighbors and show their appreciation, Rail Trail is forming relationships with future customers. Posting on Facebook is key – fans are used to seeing them in their news feed, and they’re getting to know the business.

Facebook Ads

By early November, Rail Trail’s Facebook page had around 200 likes. With the opening day a few weeks away, they amped up their fan count by buying Facebook ads – when I finally liked the page toward the end of the month, they had reached 400 fans. They were up to 500 around the week of their quiet opening. Ads allow small businesses to directly target potential fans, based on demographics and geographic information. It clearly worked – they doubled their fan count in less than a month!

Social Media Success

I haven’t had a chance to visit Rail Trail Flatbread Co. yet, but I’m already impressed – they’ve proven that you can easily generate buzz for your small business by marketing on Facebook with the right content, and the right mindset.

I’ll do anything for a discount

QR code at the Blackstone Valley Gap

QR Codes & Facebook: The Blackstone Valley Gap is doing it right.

I hate waiting in line. But the invention of the iPhone has made waiting less boring. And that’s the perfect place to get my attention if you want me to connect with your store.

I was at the Gap at Blackstone Valley a few weeks ago. Found a lot of stuff I liked, took advantage of some sale prices, and got a 25% discount for participating in a kids’ clothing drive at the store. By the time I got to the cash register, I was feeling good. Scan their QR code to find their Facebook page and get moar discounts? Sure, why not? Since Liking their page, I’ve learned about sales and new items like nano-tech hoodies. Win-win.

If your store has a computer and a printer, you should be doing this. Use bit.ly to create a QR code for your Facebook page, whip it all together on Microsoft Word, or your software of choice, print it out, and put it in a strategic place.