Maybe it has to do with who my friends are and what my demographic is, but George Takei is all over my Facebook feed, and I don’t even follow the guy.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Why is George Takei, an actor best known for his supporting role in the original Star Trek series, so incredibly successful on Facebook?
Let’s take a look.
However, check out these screenshots below. The first is an image posted by George Takei and the second is an image posted by Coca-Cola.
Nearly every item that Takei posts on Facebook is shared with rates like this. So why does this guy have such an insane share rate compared to other public figures and companies?
I believe it comes down to three things: edge, niche, and politics.
1. Edge: George Takei isn’t afraid to get edgy. He posts funny pictures that are often profane, challenging, or just plain stupid. But people love that kind of stuff.
If you spend any time on Twitter, check out the Twitterati, or as SNL recently called them, the Twitter Famous.
These are people who aren’t celebrities, but who have made a Twitter name for themselves, often based on their proclivity for edgy or stupid jokes. For reference check out Rob Delaney or Kelly Oxford.
People enjoy sharing things that make others uncomfortable. This is not something that most businesses or public figures can easily imitate or capitalize on (see this disastrous vodka billboard for proof of how being edgy can be a really, really bad idea).
George Takei doesn’t have as much to lose as Coca-Cola does, so he’s more willing to share edgy or slightly-offensive images, knowing full well that people will be happy to share them, and that it won’t do much to his reputation.
2. Niche: Though Takei’s Star Trek days are long behind him, he still finds a fan base among SciFi nerds (we can call them that; we are SciFi nerds).
He posts images that speak to a certain aesthetic of Geek Chic.
It’s cool to like Star Wars these days–both for people who were alive when the first (and best) films were originally released in the late ’70s, and for those who learned to love the films with a sort of nostalgic irony.
What is Coca-Cola’s niche? Coca-Cola is so well known, so completely branded, that it almost can’t have a niche outside of itself. People may like to drink it, but that’s it. There’s not much of a community that surrounds the consumption of soda, no matter how hard Coca-Cola may try to convince us otherwise.
3. Politics: George Takei isn’t afraid to get political on Facebook. He’s fully out as gay and supports LGBT rights across the board. His images obviously speak to people with similar political leanings.
We could argue that he isn’t being political, he’s just being himself, and that is also definitely true. As an entity Coca-Cola is probably terrified of making a political statement one way or the other.
This isn’t to say that Coca-Cola is apolitical (claiming rights to water to make soda across the world, etc.), but to make a public statement on how they would or would not vote on a social issue is something that most companies won’t do, unless they’re completely confident in their customer base (see Chic-Fil-A).
I always like to conclude my blogs with a tidy little lesson on Things We’ve Learned From Analyzing Other People’s Behavior and Success, and this blog is no different.
Can your company or organization imitate or at least learn from Takei’s success, or does the edge-niche-politics trifecta work only for public figures who have less to lose?
I have no doubt that niche is crucial. You should be proud of the work you do, proud of the community that you’re part of, and proud of sharing this with other people. If you’re not, then maybe you’re in the wrong industry.
Edge and politics should be handled a little more carefully. I don’t think that a company has to avoid posting edgy or political ideas to its social networks, but make sure you’re delivering a message that fits in with what you do.
I encourage everyone to always be aware of whether or not your material could possibly come across as racist, sexist, or homophobic, and to veto it if it does.
Edginess and politics can be fun without being offensive, and posts that are edgy or political will get shared more than many other posts. But they may not be as sustaining or effective in creating a solid customer base as capitalizing on your own niche.
For a great example on how edgy and funny marketing can backfire in the end, no matter how well it’s shared, check out what went down between Burger King and Crispin Porter & Bogusky.
What it comes down to in the end is this: yes, George Takei is a Facebook Hero, but how does this translate to his career? Just because his images are shared so frequently, do more people want to see his acting?
Your success on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks should be determined by direct conversions and high ROI for your business, not only by shares and likes.
What has worked for your company on Facebook? Do you take a George Takei approach or a Coca-Cola approach to social media?