Over the past year I was introduced to Jane Fonda and have become known as her "tech guy" (a funny term she referred to me as on NBC's Today Show). In truth, I am a part of a trio that included my blogging wife, who gave a 71-year-old Jane Fonda a really great rationale at our first breakfast together as to why she should be using social media and by the end her lightbulb turned on. That relationship continues today and I'm proud to say that Jane has not only become one of our agency's first clients when we opened for business but also a great friend and mentor to me and my family.
As the architect of her overall digital strategy, I helped her get her blog JaneFonda.com up, and counsel her on a daily basis on how to engage and grow her following through tools like Twitter, Ning, and Facebook.
A few months ago we worked with Gina Bianchini and her team at Ning to start "Fonda Folks" a community of "Fonda-nistas" who commune online (and offline) from all over the world mainly inspired by Jane's life, works, activism and writings. I have even convinced Jane to do live "twitter commentary" of both the Academy Awards and the Tony Awards, the latter of which was done sitting in her actual seat where she was a Tony nominee for her role in 33 Variations.
Honestly, I'm not going to say she was totally on board in the beginning but each initiative brings a new learning for the both of us and I love that she is a willing student of my out of the box thinking and zany ideas around how to use social media. In the end, because of social media, this is the first time in her career she has been able to drive traditional media versus being driven by media. Most of the quotes, commentary about Jane recently have emanated from her blogs or tweets. For any celebrity this is amazing, but especially for Jane.
In our first meeting Jane admitted that though she had actually been to the Google HQ for a meeting, she had actually only used the search engine two times before we met. Now she is researching for her forthcoming book on aging and fairly confidently breezing along to gather information from many different online sources. All of this of course done with the help of an Apple Macbook that I convinced her to switch to from that dreaded "other thing" (Author is an admitted Mac-Snob). She also has a real "tech guy" who is tutoring her on the transition to MacLife.
When we look at the numbers of older adults using social media it is not shocking that the Facebook Fan followers are so reactive. The latest numbers show that the fastest growing group on Facebook is 55- to 65-year-old females and that Grandparents have officially replaced high school students. The numbers also explain her lively Ning community where Ning boasts 15% of their users are +50. Likewise, recent reports are that teens are NOT using Twitter (an obvious one) and a more shocking stat that Twitter has 18% users over 50.
Our relationship and our management of online "conversations" around all things Jane Fonda has inspired a new passion for our agency around the role Social Media can play for the aging adult. As a self-proclaimed "digital evangelist" I actually relish the "tough cookies" and the majority of my "sermons" lead to conversion. In addition to Jane Fonda I have led several older adults to look at social media as something other than "that thing" the young people are doing but rather a tool that opens up new channels of communication and connectedness. Sites like Ning offer a great DIY approach to a great online family reunion/gathering tool and can oftentimes serve as an entry point for those new to social media. For example, the administrator of a Ning community (or "Town Mayor" as I call it), an older person can take a birds eye view and witness how their own family members use the site to share photos, information, video, and thus connect on all new levels.
Another place where we're seeing great engagement, conversation and growth is in our Facebook group. This loyal group of "Fonda-nistas" is very active and many times carry segments of her blog posts into entire new streams of micro-conversations. Jane often writes very deep, thought provoking blog posts and Facebook is where the after-glow conversations take shape and really begin to create sub-communities based on her content. This summer I had an amazing opportunity to spend a week in New Mexico with my family on Jane's 3,000 acre ranch. After riding her horses, ATV's and fishing by day, I spent time in the evenings with Jane showing her the activity around her newly formed digital "tribe" and her lightbulb went off again and again. Since that conversation she is a much more active participant in those "post-blog" conversations in Facebook and a much better listener of the online conversations around her brand and subjects that matter to her.
This is why I'm officially nominating my student and client Jane Fonda for "The Quick Study" social media student of the year. Because of her legendary status, commitment to social causes and global appeal, I would argue that she is a fine candidate as any as the "Official Face" of this new aging adult consumer who ironically has probably started a Facebook page in the time it took me to write this article. After reading this I hope you second my vote!
Read more of James Andrews' blog on Fast Company
James Andrews is a managing partner at Everywhere specializing in the creation of social media strategies, online communications, and Web content production. Everywhere is a strategic communication agency that focuses in helping brands and individuals navigate the social media and online space to build better connections with their audiences. Its clients include Delta, Jane Fonda, Jermaine Dupri, Sanaa Lathan, and Georgia Public Broadcasting. Before launching everywhere, Andrews was VP, Ketchum Digital and worked on social media brand strategy work for Monster.com, FedEx, GeekSquad, Wendy's, and Newell Rubbermaid. Andrews has been working in the area of interactive/new media and non-traditional marketing for 15 years holding senior titles at Columbia Records, Ecko Unlimited, and Isobar/Carat. His experience with brands such as Current TV, Sprite, Vibe Magazine, and Proctor & Gamble places him in a unique category of executives that understand the convergence of both new media, content and digital lifestyle. James blogs at FastCompany.com as an Expert Blogger. He also maintains a blog at www.thekeyinfluencer.com where he covers the "business of pop culture" via news and interviews that span technology, new media, music business and youth/urban culture. Andrews is also a regular contributor to CNN, as an expert in social media. Additionally, James serves as a consultant on social media to a few celebrities and icons including Hill Harper (CSI), DJ Jazzy Jeff, Sanaa Lathan, Macy Gray, and Jane Fonda. James Andrews attended UCLA, grew up in Silicon Valley, and lives in Atlanta with his wife and two children. He is an active speaker globally and is frequently quoted on the subjects of digital media, entertainment and innovative branding/marketing approaches.
Follow him on Twitter @keyinfluencer