Betty White, SNL, Social Media Arcs and Engagement

Did you watch Betty White on SNL (Saturday Night Live) this past weekend? I bet you are one of the many who did. I’d be willing to bet that, like me, it was a) the first time you’d watched in years and b) you heard about it on Facebook or Twitter or through a friend or family member who uses Facebook or Twitter. I thought this episode would be a great teaching tool about some of the themes I discuss often when I educate people on social media as part of their overall business consult with me.

First a quick overview for those of you who may not have heard what happened. In December 2009 the Facebook fan page Betty White To Host SNL (please)? was created. It caught my eye fairly quickly as a consultant, for two reasons: it was an obvious, genuine fan page of an actor/comedian and it asked a simple, genuine, easy to remember question. The only thing I wondered about was whether enough people still loved and remembered Betty White enough to join. Well, join they did. Currently the page has well over 500,000 members after only a few short months. In a display of integrated on and offline marketing, fan numbers got a decided boost after the Snickers commercial starring White from the SuperBowl started airing.

As time went on, the number of fans on the page and how vocal they were about wanting Betty White to host SNL (and yes, I was one of the fans, of course – who doesn’t love Betty White!?) grew at a rapid clip. NBC couldn’t help but notice as the campaign grew, and the question became when to have her on, not if. NBC chose Mother’s Day and invited back some SNL alumna that are moms like Tina Fey, added rapper Jay-Z to the mix, and sat back to watch the reaction from the viewers. The consensus seems to be that it was the best overall SNL since perhaps 1980, and as you can see from the link above, the ratings went through the roof and the topic remained in the top five trending hashtags on Twitter all weekend as #snl and #bettywhite. So what can we learn from this?

1) Authenticity: Authenticity can’t be faked – it’s too hard to sustain if it isn’t real. This page was started by genuine fans with a good idea, offered a simple plea and a simple call to action, and made it easy for other genuine fans to spread the word like wild fire. You can see the page started by someone else for Carol Burnett to be on SNL after the success of the Betty White campaign is struggling a bit. You can see why it might be in the vast difference in page title (Burnett’s page is much more shout-y) and in how the Burnett fans are now spamming the Betty White page – people don’t respond well to that kind of stream spamming on Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere. It will be interesting to see if the Burnett fans realize this and change tactics and grow their page.

2) Cross Pollination: By creating a shareable page on a social network and keeping the message short and simple, the Betty White SNL campaign got some nice, willing, cross pollination across other networks like Twitter and across personal profiles on Facebook.

3) Social Media Arcs, or Curves: This campaign had a clear, simple, achievable and above all, finite, goal which followed the 3 month (fan base growth) and 6 month (goal achieved) arc I so often tell people to expect from a well run effort online.

4) Social Listening: This was a great example of the point we often drive home: you need to be online and listening, at least minimally if not in full force, no matter who you are or how big or small you are. The chances that an audience, whether it is one person or thousands, are already engaging with your brand online are great. You need to be seeking out your audience, fans and customers who are already talking about you, good or bad, and make yourself available for interaction. Period.

5) Audience: A great audience can’t be manufactured by follower schemes and software programs. A great audience will grow around a brand if it is worth growing around, especially if it is making itself available for that kind of engagement. Then that audience will be a powerful force behind you and your brand and give you the gift of social leverage to get things done. If your movie, album, song, personal presence, company, etc is worth rallying around and gives people a reason to do so – they will. Conversely, they will be just as vocal if it isn’t. Focus more on giving value than on getting numbers in a box online and you will do just fine.

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