How did a retired actor turn a Facebook account into a people-mobilizing machine?
George Takei helmed the Starship Enterprise throughout the Star Trek TV series and all the movies that starred the original cast. At 76, he could be relaxing and enjoying the good life with his husband, Brad.
Instead, he is probably on your Facebook page to day.
He experimented. He started out spending more time on Twitter, and he found that his audience liked the longer, more visual posts that Facebook allowed.
He built relationships. Takei said thank-you to every single person who followed him (until the number become overwhelming). And he made his feed the place where his fans could express themselves, with his blessing.
He used humor. Takei’s own sly comments and puckish taste in images and memes opened the door. His fans walked through, giving him hundreds of ideas to choose from. One of my favorites is a wordless four-panel strip: a photo of lions, a photo of tigers, a photo of bears…and a photo of George Takei. (Get it? If not, follow the yellow brick road!)
He used his power for good. When the tsunami hit Japan in 2011, Takei made his Twitter feed into Information Central. His 70,000 followers contributed heavily to disaster relief. And Takei has been outspoken in support of marriage equality.
People listen to Takei because they already know, like, and trust him. As his fans explained to him, having “Sulu” as a Facebook friend was like “having a favorite gay uncle”: one who’s up on popular culture and a bit of a loveable geek.
Not all of us are “that guy who played Sulu on Star Trek.” But we can all do what George Takei did. We can be humble, humorous, and helpful to our friends. And when the time comes, we can ask them to act.