Does the name George Takei ring a bell? Well, it shouldn’t really, unless you happened to have been a part of the Star Trek, Trekkies cult of the 60’s. George Takei played Hikaru Sulu over the course of three seasons and six subsequent movies! After Star Trek came to an end, however, Takei slowly faded out of the spotlight. That is, until March 23, 2011, the day Takei started his Facebook page. He had already established a presence on twitter, but felt the need to create a profile in which he would be able to better interact with his fans, and also have the ability to create discussions around pictures and postings. Thus, George Takei turned to Facebook, and has since “reinvented himself as a social media celebrity.” As stated in a Mashable article on Takei’s social media take-over, “It’s not uncommon for one of Takei’s posts to receive up to 50,000 likes and 30,000 shares. Even Rihanna, the most liked person on Facebook, doesn’t hold a clear advantage over Takei when it comes to engagement.” So what is it that Takei does to be able to amass and sustain such a large following?
First, Takei knows his audience very well. Marwick and Boyd’s article, “I Tweet Honestly,” details how important this can be for maintaining a happy crowd. Takei even says how he created his Facebook page to be able to better interact with his fans, which follows Marwick and Boyd’s take on social media sites “enabling participants to write their audience into being.” They further explain how “participants in a communicative act have an imagined audience…and exist only as it is written into the text, through stylistic and linguistic choices.” Although Takei’s fan base may have initially been composed largely of Star Trek fans, his activity on Facebook engages audiences of all sorts by means of funny photos, memes, and other positive content. For Takei, there is no tension, as Marwick and Boyd discuss, between revealing and concealing because his profile remains true to his follower’s interests and typically consists of content they send him.
Another online article attributes Takei’s success to how he posts what he posts. Paul Caputo of Media Platypus writes that “he has grasped how and why people use Facebook, and he has used this knowledge to establish a vast online following…to get his messages to more people.” So ninety-nine percent of the time he’ll be posting a variety of humorous and political content that generates hundreds of thousands of views and likes, but what Caputo says is the real key to his success is balance, one measly percent of the time he’ll “slip in something about an upcoming appearance or a social cause that matters to him.” Because he focuses the majority of his time on Facebook weighing in on what others thought of his humorous images and reposting funny images his fans send him, fans are more respecting of the few issues he does choose to post seriously. Sandra Weber and Claudia Mitchell’s article “Imaging, Keyboarding, and Posting Identities,” supports Caputo’s claims with the theory of the ‘prosumer.’ The prosumer can be understood as being a part of an intertwined and often simultaneous process “of producing, consuming, and being consumed or shaped by digital media.” Through interacting with Facebook and the connections it affords, Takei established himself a rather significant fan base. This is in part due to the fact that he not only posts content on Facebook, but also consumes and actively responds to the activity his posts receive. Most importantly, Takei takes in his fans reception of previous posts for his future posts, and also reposts humorous content his fans send him. George Takei perfectly carries out a point that Weber and Mitchell describe as “reflexivity…a conscious looking, not only at their (Takei’s) production, but at how others are looking at their production.” Takei turned to Facebook because he wanted a more open platform to be able to interact with fans via likes, discussions, posts, and he has successfully constructed just that.
The final point to note about George Takei’s social media presence on Facebook is that his profile, though mostly dedicated to his fans, isn’t solely about them. Takei still takes the opportunity to “slip in something about an upcoming appearance or a social cause that matters to him.” Alice Marwick’s article “Authenticity and Power in Social Networking Services,” details the advantages of social media sites that I mentioned Takei utilizing above. She writes “users are encouraged to consume others in a concept of networking that privileges social capital over friendship or community building.” In some cases this can be taken negatively, but as applied to Takei, one may see that he is looking for a way to stay connected with fans of Star Trek and others who appreciate the silly image or posting for a good mid-day form of release. Marwick goes on to say “SNS users actively construct and perform their identities through a serious of choices that they make from the ‘bottom-up’…the users do have broad linguistic choice when considering the discursive styles they wish to use in identity performance.” It can be clearly seen from Takei’s profile that his profile was created for his fan, and is frequently posting content by his fans, but at the same time Takei uses his well-established and maintained fan base in order to help promote an upcoming appearance or a social cause that matters to him.