I was attending an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout, sitting across the ring from UFC President Dana White. That's when I received a text from Dana that said, "Come over here now." Great, I thought, what did I do wrong? I walked around the ring, fingers crossed. When I got there, Dana immediately pointed to the big guy standing next to him and introduced me to The Rock.
Before I finished shaking hands with him, Dana turned and launched into a pitch about how he had to embrace social media and how it was the best thing ever and about how I was the Twitter Queen who could show him exactly what to do. Dana is convincing, but I could tell The Rock was nodding to be nice.
"I have to tell you," The Rock confessed, "I'm a very private man, and I'm really not comfortable blending my personal life with my professional life."
It wasn't the first time I'd heard that sort of response, and it certainly wouldn't be the last. I told him as much and then conceded that using social media wasn't something you could force. You have to want to do it, I said.
"But remember," I continued, "this isn't the paparazzi. You have full control over what you put out there."
I then explained that social media ultimately made his brand, and rough-around-the-edges charisma, more scalable in that he could reach more fans on a more frequent basis. It also allowed him to do more good on a grander scale, and in the end, it could actually be enjoyable.
The Rock took my business card and said he'd be in touch. I wasn't sure we'd talk again and headed back to my home base on media row.
Two weeks after the fight. I received an e-mail from a Dwayne Johnson. I thought, Dwayne who? I opened the e-mail and saw it was from The Rock. (Of course!) He wanted to talk more about social media. Fortunately, staying in a comfort zone wasn't his style. He recognized an opportunity when he saw one, and after a couple of more chats that included his manager, agent, publicist, and assistant, he jumped in with both feet.
I've since become friends with The Rock (I now call him "DJ" because neither "Dwayne" nor "Mister The Rock" ever felt right). He's become a rare branding force in the global community with more than 9 million friends and followers who are as diverse as anyone else I've worked with. He just had to overcome that initial hesitation.
Today the amount of attention DJ gives to social media, along with his hands-on approach, is unmatched in the world of celebrity. He works at it daily, and it's always his fingers to the keyboard or iPhone. Nobody speaks on his behalf. Ever. DJ is successful with these communication channels because he's dialed in and has fully and personally committed to delivering value to his audience.
You may be where DJ was at first, and that is understandable. It's not traditional protocol to bring your personal life to work, and it's not comfortable. I've spoken to many entrepreneurs, celebrities, and executives who get that social media has value. They even agree that the best brands have a human quality to them. But often it's that first leap toward a new protocol, or culture shift, that gets them hung up. They just can't see themselves sharing their lives with thousands of people, let alone millions.
Yes, putting yourself out there feels uncomfortable for most people. But this isn't exactly public speaking we're talking about. Forget imagining your audience in their underwear—you can be in your underwear and your audience will never know. Besides, any renegade knows that no risk worth taking is without some discomfort.
So get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Own it. With more than a billion people using these communication channels, you can't afford not to have an active role in the conversation.
During my time leading Digital Royalty, I've found that the most successful people and brands resolve to make the same trade-off. They trade comfort for momentum. It's not that they embrace discomfort. Nobody likes stress, anxiety, or embarrassment. It's that they understand that avoiding stagnation in any endeavor takes an ability to get used to—to grow comfortable with—growing pains. Today's renegades are not unlike adrenaline junkies who feed off the knowledge that the highest highs can be had on the backside of our biggest fears, anxieties, and chaos.
Fast-forward a year from our first meeting, and DJ enthused that embracing social media was one of the best things he ever did personally and professionally. Fast-forward another six months, and DJ had become a leader in the social space with a higher retweet rate—the percentage of his tweets that are re-sent by his followers to their followers—than most other celebrities: 11 percent. To give you an idea of how huge this rate actually is, a 3 percent retweet rate is typically considered a success. Practically speaking, this means that approximately 300,000 followers have forwarded his message on to their followers. And it doesn't stop there. How many people from that base of 300,000 forward the message on to their own follower base? And then how many from the next and the next? It's an enormous ripple effect that according to my sports and entertainment friends at Twitter headquarters is unrivaled among his contemporaries.
DJ's social media strategy started, as it should for anyone else, by defining his audience and his value to that audience. It wasn't as broad as breaking people into World Wrestling Entertainment fans, moviegoer fans, and military fans, the primary places where he'd gained mainstream exposure. It was a matter of breaking down the psychographics of those different groups and assigning them to smaller categories based on their primary affinity to DJ's value and what resonated most with them.
Initially, removing demographic barriers, increasing his audience, and engaging them in ways they valued was a matter of educated trial and error. Some content didn't cause as big of a splash with any audience category. Others caused a tidal wave across multiple audience categories. DJ learned quickly and always adjusted his offerings toward what worked. Obviously this served as confirmation of what his fans wanted. DJ also remained creative and open to trying new ideas.
In a matter of a few weeks, we were able to create content templates for each audience group and determine which value buckets resonated with them the most. These templates encapsulated the specific types of content that that group most valued. Although these were always prone to change given ongoing audience feedback and the activity reports we provided DJ, the adjustments were easy to make and the templates easy to update. For instance, we learned that DJ's "action fans" valued exclusive behind-the-scenes details from movies he was filming or photos of particular stunts he was asked to perform—but only if DJ's point of view, humor, or personality was injected into the message.Keep in mind that because social media is a dialogue, you can ask your audience what they value at any point. You'll get answers, and people will be grateful you cared enough to ask. But even if you get it wrong now and then—and you will, just as we all do—the beauty of social media is that followers are quite forgiving if you've built that relationship up first and you've earned it, especially when you can make up for a flat offering with one that's well received—and especially when your audience knows you're listening to them with a desire to deliver what they value most.
Once the foundation of a two-way, dynamic relationship with his audience was established, the real fun began. By constantly delivering value when, where, and how his fans wanted it, DJ was able to consistently increase his reach (larger following) and deepen his existing followers' loyalty (greater engagement)—two goals of every business on the planet.
Reprinted by permission the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from Renegades Write the Rules, by Amy Jo Martin Copyright (c) 2012 by Amy Jo Martin.
Amy Jo Martin is the founder & CEO of Digital Royalty, which opened in 2009 to help companies, celebrities, professional sports leagues, teams, and athletes build, measure, and monetize their digital universe. She tweets at @AmyJoMartin.
[Image: Flickr user Ed Webster]