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Social media can be incredibly difficult to use as a marketing tool. Some companies and organizations expect instant sales simply from posting once a day or gaining a certain number of likes. But theres a reason social media isn’t called “likey media” or “posty media”. In order to be successful, a company must be social. They have to truly engage their audience, rather than just go through the motions. There is no man that knows this as well as George Takei, his name practically synonymous with social media marketing.  In this blog post we see how Mr. Takei went from helmsman of the USS Enterprise to pioneer of the social media marketing movement.


The day is the 23rd of March. The year, 2011. Life on Facebook is progressing as normal. Netizens quietly go about their business, posting a cute kitten post here, a funny meme there. All is relatively peaceful. But something Facebook-shattering is about to occur. Somewhere in the world, a man most well known for his role as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu of the USS Enterprise has arrived at the Facebook landing page. He creates a celebrity page and the world is forever changed. George Takei has created his Facebook page.

In the years following that fateful day, Mr. Takei has become a master of all things social. 344,462 followers on Pinterest, 1.08 million followers on Twitter, and – this is the big one – 6,334,218 likes on Facebook. These numbers all outshine those of any other Star Trek alum. But numbers are just numbers. The real story here is in regards to Mr. Takei’s fan engagement: There are 5,821,003 people “talking about” him on Facebook. Posts receive likes numbering in the upper 200,000s. Now, I could take a moment here to prove how incredible Mr. Takei is with comparisons to other pop culture icons, but I think that’s pretty much a given by now. But how does he do it? Simple- he’s himself. He treats his fans as equals, and isn’t afraid to have his own opinions. He doesn’t actively try to be the celebrity his fans want him to be- it just turns out that being himself is why fans love him.

But what does all of this mean for social media marketers? We aren’t Uncle George- and shouldn’t try to be. So are there really any lessons to learn from his social media exploits? The answer is most definitely yes.

1. Be Yourself.
Takei has been so successful with social media precisely because he knows who he is. He doesn’t pretend to be someone he’s not. The George Takei on social media embodies the man in real life. His personal values are those evident on his pages. He really is that quirky. Additionally, he is a social activist, showing his support for causes such as the LGBT movement. He was not afraid to show his disdain for the controversial Arizona “turn away the gay” bill, calling for governor Jan Brewer to veto the law. When she did, he celebrated with his fans on Facebook. He talks quite a bit about his musical Allegiance, which tells the oft-glossed over stories of Japanese Internment camps during WWII. He knows himself well, and isn’t afraid to show his opinion. However, the exact same tactics are not going to work for organizations. Organizations are not people – they can’t afford to be quite so opinionated. However, they CAN make sure that everything they post is related to their brand. Although everybody loves funny memes, they aren’t for everybody. Don’t jump on the meme bandwagon just because they seem popular. Find out why your fans love you, and provide content that embodies yourself in their minds. Which brings us to our next point.

2. Actually interact with fans.
This one’s a biggie. Takei knows his fanbase incredibly well. It all started out with a large Star Trek following, and grew to include nerds and activists of all kinds. It also helps that Takei’s content and personality essentially embody Internet culture, making his stuff appeal to basically everyone. Takei and his team interact with fans, accepting fan ideas for the next funny meme or hilarious picture. Takei combines these fan submissions with little brandings of his own, usually incredibly punny, on each post. For instance, he recently posted a picture of a cookie accompanied with the words: “Yes. It’s a wookie cookie.” In this way, he retains his own unique control over the content, but is able to have his fans come up with it. Fans feel a kinship with Takei, causing them to comment and share in droves.

Many organizations think they are already engaging with fans, but they aren’t. Telling Jimmy thanks for eating of your burgers is not the same as asking Jimmy to enter a new contest for designing a new burger. The first reaches one person, while the second encourages engagement from multiple people. Such events are more likely to make individuals actually feel invested in the brand. Asking people to send in things that they spent time looking for or creating (such as Takei’s memes) is different than asking people to tell the page about a time they really liked a burger or first heard a song.

One discussion is forced and constrained- the other is open and leads the flow up to the fans’ discretion.

3. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: People don’t like being advertised to.
If all Takei did on social media was encourage people to buy his book and purchase tickets for his show, he wouldn’t enjoy such huge success. The ratio of self-promotion and even activism to general meme-ry on Takei’s page is incredibly small. You need to provide content that fans want to see. Entertain them, give them a reason to visit your page. The content you provide also gives your brand a human dimension, making you more than a faceless corporate entity. interestingly, when Takei DOES resort to self-promotion, he links the promotion to something his fans love. For instance, he might link to the Amazon page of his personal fragrance, Eau My, but accompany it with some of his famous wit: “Loyal fans? They really mist me.”

4. Constant effort and maintenance.
Social media isn’t something you can just slap on and forget about. If you don’t care about your page, why would anyone else? Takei’s page is maintained by an entire team of staffers and interns. If you want to truly make every fan feel special, you have to go that extra mile. Go through the posts, look at the suggestions. Make witty banter. Don’t let it be organization vs. fans, but something more akin to friendship.


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