Of the many success stories we see in the social media world, few have been more widespread than those from celebrities. Sure, I know, celebrities by definition already have a huge fan base to draw from and connect with, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they aren't doing some things well. Very well in some cases. So well, in fact, that I would venture to say that we might be able to learn a thing or two from them when it comes to managing our own businesses. You did know that acting, music, and other forms of celebrity-making endeavors are businesses, right? Creative businesses, yes, but businesses nonetheless. So what can these digital-savvy celebrities teach the rest of us?
1. Give Before You Get
Let me blunt. Most of you are using social media in the same way that you have used other forms of marketing, and in the same way you think about almost everything in else in your business: it's about making you money, ultimately. This is a fine line to walk, because in reality that is the ultimate goal, sort of. The problem lies in your motivation and your view of things. There is nothing wrong whatsoever with making as much money as is humanly possible, as long as that is a result of what you do, and not what you are putting your effort into. It's confusing, I know, but it's really a perspective thing and a heart thing more than a business strategy.
Amanda Palmer is a prime example of this. She routinely gives her music away for free to her fans. A few years ago she asked her fans to comment on the social site Get Glue about their favorite moment at her concert, and then she chose the best and most heartfelt comments and gave those fans a free ticket to a private concert. She made no money from these things. In fact, it cost her money to put the concert on, and technically she loses money from giving away free music. However, when she took to Kickstarter in 2012 to raise money for a tour promoting her new album and book, that giving came back to her (as all giving does - remember that). She wanted to raise $100,000 in 31 days, She raised just shy of $1.2 million. Give first, and you will receive. That doesn't mean that you have to send every follower a free widget or buy them a house, but it does mean that you need to think about how you can put something into their lives before you try to extract money from them.
2. Be Genuine, and Genuinely Care
Taylor Swift has become one of the most prolific celebrities in the social media realm, probably due in no small part to her age. Even outside of social media, she has always gone out of her way to engage with her fans and let them know how much they mean to her. When she did an autograph signing in 2010 as part of the CMA Music Festival, her fans lined up for blocks. Not only did she not charge for the autographs (a completely selfish and ridiculous practice in my opinion), but she decided that anyone who took the time to wait would get an autograph. As a result, she spent 15 hours that day signing autographs. Do you think that created any loyalty with her fans?
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) September 13, 2014
Not only that, but she spends time going through her social pages herself and has been known to often retweet her fans' tweets. With her following, that must be a harrowing process, but surely she uses social media management software to get through them all. Simple recognition goes a long way. Swift also has helpers at her concerts who look out for devoted fans that are obviously more engaged than others by their signs, dress, or actions, and then invites them backstage to hang out after the concert in what have become known as "T-Parties".
Lady Gaga is another music artist who goes the extra mile to engage with and thank her fans for their support. A high school student council president in Canada sent letters to dozens of celebrities asking for their help in spreading his message of anti-bullying. Gaga was the only response he got, and she made and sent him a personalized video thanking him for his work and encouraging him.
Gaga wants to connect with her social fan base so badly that she created her own social network for them, Littlemonsters.com, where she can easily connect with them apart from the clutter and noise of the big networks. The bottom line is that the more directly and personally you can find a way to connect, the more impact you will have and the better the response will be.
3. Invite and Reward Engagement
Superstar Katie Perry's hit "Firework" a few years ago was all about being someone who inspires others. Instead of holding herself up as an inspiration or talking about her own inspirations, she invited fans to create videos telling the world who their inspirations were. She made the story about them, and they loved her for it.
In a similar vein, the band Blink-182 discovered video after video of their fans using their music illegally in their self-created videos. Instead of suing them, they rewarded them for the loyalty. They used a compilation of clips from the fan-created videos to make their own video for a new single, and then credited each fan at the end.
4. Be Consistent and Have a Strategy
Everyone saw Ellen Degeneres' now-famous selfie tweet from this year's Oscars was the most retweeted tweet of all time, with 14.7 million retweets. It was also the most shared selfie in social media history. It also crashed Twitter temporarily. Sure, there were 10 popular celebrities in the picture, but don't be fooled into thinking that this was some spur-of-the-moment, offhand phenomenon. On the contrary, Ellen is extremely engaged with her followers and handles her account herself. She had been teasing the awards show through her account for two weeks prior to develop and keep up interest. When the night came, it was the end of a well-strategized plan - not a random tweet.
Celebrities, businesses, regular people, it doesn't matter. The secret sauce for social media is always the same, and it always has been: be authentic, be engaged, be consistent, and genuinely care. This is one medium where you can't fake it for very long before fans catch on and then move on.