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4 Things Wil Wheaton Can Teach Us About Twitter Engagement

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You may remember Wil Wheaton for his role as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation however, I didn’t become a fan until I saw him play Sheldon’s evil nemesis (“WHEATOOON!”) on The Big Bang Theory. Ironically, In that role Wil Wheaton plays Wil Wheaton (Bazinga!)

This isn’t the only place where Wheaton has used his real life as entertainment. Over the past few years he’s gained an impressive online fan base — and his acting career is only partially responsible for that.

Wheaton started his blog in 2001 (back when blogs weren’t nearly the force they are today), and quickly hit his stride as a writer. When Twitter came along, Wheaton was an early adopter with a natural feel for the format. He quickly gained a huge following, which has grown to more than 2 million fans.

So, what can we learn from Wil Wheaton’s rise to internet fame?

1. Reply to Tweets.

One major reason for Wheaton’s popularity is his down-to-earth conversational style and his accessibility. From the earliest days on his blog, he read and responded to reader comments, and he’s carried that practice over to his Twitter feed.

While it’s impossible to interact personally with more than two million followers (even with warp drive,) he does interact when he can. He re-tweets amusing comments from, and holds entire conversations with, his fans.

His followers don’t feel like their replies to him disappear into space (the final frontier – had to say it,) and it certainly seems to be working for him. He’s built up an online reputation that many would agree is every bit as — perhaps even more — important than his acting career.

The teachable moment for businesses? No matter how big you are, talk to your fans/customers. People like you more when they don’t feel like they’re being ignored.

2. Share Entertaining Content.

wil wheaton LA KingsBetween his new YouTube-based gaming show, Tabletop; his behind-the-scenes looks at sci-fi and other conventions; and amusing anecdotes about his life, Wheaton’s Twitter stream is an entertainment venue all its own. He also recently took control of the official LA Kings Twitter account for the second period of their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets – while wearing a horse mask.

Of course, you may not have stories about your company that involve famous actors or entire hockey teams, but you don’t have to. You can get a great response just by adding a little entertainment value to your current messaging.

Whether it’s humor, a lively post that get shared and re-shared by your followers, or innovative video content that (fingers crossed) goes viral, entertainment is a great way to build engagement on Twitter.

3. Share Other People’s Content.

A healthy portion of Wheaton’s Twitter feed @WilW is made up of interesting or amusing things that other people created. Music he loves, a funny blog post someone shared with him, a cool fan video…all of these things and more find their way to his tweets.

This practice adds value for his followers, since they get a constant stream of entertaining, thought-provoking, and innovative content that they might not have found otherwise.

When you find and share useful, relevant content created by others in your industry, you build trust with your followers. They see that you know what’s going on in your niche, and that you’re not just in it to push your own products and services.

You also build a friendly relationship with the person or company whose content you shared. This can pay off when they end up sharing your content with their followers.

4. Keep Self-Promotion Low-Key.

Sure, Wheaton talks about his own projects — of course he does.

But he doesn’t talk about them every day, and certainly not with every tweet. When he does share something he made or was involved in, his followers are happy to re-tweet it because he doesn’t give off that used-car-salesman vibe.

This one’s easy to achieve if you’re following the other rules on this list. If you have meaningful interaction with your customers, share entertaining content, and share useful information from others, you can do some self-promotion without seeming pushy.

And on Twitter, pushy is not the way. This last lesson from from Wil Wheaton is one that we could apply to all of our marketing efforts. Earn your right to promote and you’ll have fans for life.

Elizabeth Gooding

Elizabeth Gooding is the editor of the Insight Forums blog and president of Gooding Communications Group www.GoodComm.net

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