Actor and Internet sensation George Takei turned 75 last Friday.
For nearly 50 years, George Takei has been famous for his portrayal of Hikaru Sulu on the original '60s television show Star Trek. Takei appeared as Sulu for three seasons and six subsequent movies.
After Star Trek, Takei continued to act and perform voice-overs. Yet, like many members of the cast, his identity remained synonymous with Star Trek. It wasn't until Takei started his Facebook page on March 23, 2011 that his fame took on a whole new dimension.
Takei posts funny photos, memes and other positive content to Facebook multiple times a day, and these posts see massive engagement. Many of his posts are submitted by readers.
With 1,624,780 likes on Facebook and 348,019 Twitter followers, Takei has reinvented himself as social media celebrity. (For the record, his Star Trek co-star William Shatner has roughly 145,000 Facebook likes.)
Sci-fi icon ... Takei as Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek.
While Takei has amassed a sizable following on social media, his rate of engagement might be his most impressive digital achievement.
It's not uncommon for one of Takei's posts to receive up to 50,000 likes and 30,000 shares. There are very few celebrities who regularly see engagement numbers as high as Takei's. Even Rihanna, the most liked person on Facebook, doesn't hold a clear advantage over Takei when it comes to engagement.
Rihanna boasts 54 million Facebook likes — roughly 53 million more than Takei — yet her posts attract similar engagement numbers. Takei's Facebook fans are an extremely responsive group.
Rihanna recently posted a clip from her new movie Battleship, which received roughly 20,000 likes and 1,800 shares. By comparison, a recent video from Takei doing a "Happy Dance" received 30,000 likes and 10,000 shares.
So how did George Takei become a social media superstar?
The simple answer is: Takei knows his audience very well. While he has expanded his following through strong involvement in the gay rights movement (his It’s Ok to be Takei initiative, for instance) and Asian American groups (he is on the board of the Japanese American National Museum), his core fan-base consists of Star Trek fans who appreciate Takei for his self-aware humour.
Takei gives his audience exactly what they want, which regularly includes Star Trek jokes and other references from geek culture.
It has been established that positive posts are far more popular on Facebook than negative ones. Takei seems to understand this. He puts a cheerful spin on his Facebook posts and tweets — and his audience is clearly responding.
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