Social Skills: What Merchants Can Learn From Charlie Sheen

The intent of my “Social Skills” column is to analyze how merchants are performing in the various social media channels. Just one column in, I got railroaded by the biggest social media phenomenon of 2011.

That would be Charlie Sheen. He’s winning, even if Warner Brothers just fired Sheen from his Top-10 network television show “Two and a Half Men.” In less than a week’s time, he’s mastered Twitter, he’s embraced video and he’s been a buzz all across Facebook.

So let’s look into what Charlie Sheen is doing right, and wrong, in social media, and what lessons merchants can learn from it… Shall we?

Spread the word. If you’re going to launch your presence in Twitter, let the world know about it. Sheen has more than 2 million followers (I am No. 2,224,383), and he just launched his account last week.

That’s mind-boggling. But the mainstream media announced Sheen was on Twitter, and millions wanted to know what he had to say.

Most people – and merchants – would have to include the Twitter logo in their email marketing campaigns and on their ecommerce sites (and in their catalogs and display ads, to grab the offline fans). Most would also have to launch a public relations campaign to get word of mouth going. But Charlie Sheen has tiger blood and Adonis DNA.

Win the hashtag. Every merchant wants their hashtag to be the most popular trend on Twitter. After all, if your hashtag becomes a worldwide trend, it will peak the interest of the average Joe. Charlie Sheen has made #tigerblood more than just a feline bodily fluid, and #winning is no longer something athletes and businessmen want to do.

Get to the Twitter table early. Last year, during the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP was late to the plate in starting a Twitter account. Someone came up with a parody account for the BP public relations team instead, @BPGlobalPR, and came up with some Three-Stooges-meets-Abbott-and-Costello tweets about what the company is doing to stop the spill.

Tweeters thought for a while it was really BP, and the oil company was unable to get the account removed. It’s something that hurt BP’s reputation more when it really needed something to help save face, Amazingly, a few weeks after Sheen’s public meltdown began, there were no @CharlieSheen poachers.

Be the real Charlie Sheen. Will the real Charlie Sheen please stand up? Here’s a snapshot of how many Charlie Sheen pages there are on Facebook, and that does not include ones for his “Two and a Half Men” alter-ego Charlie Waffles. You’d assume the one with the most followers would be the official Charlie Sheen page, but that’s tough to tell because Charlie is not auto-tweeting to it (many social media experts would tell you that’s a good thing).

Listen to your followers, and talk back. If a dissatisfied customer – or a happy fan – is talking about you on Facebook (especially on your own page), you need to respond either to thank or pacify that person. To Sheen’s credit, he’s doing that on Twitter. Sheen is engaging in conversation, and responding to critics (though it’s not always politically correct!) Maybe he’s waiting to hire an intern to handle Facebook conversations?

Let people talk about you. How many Facebook status updates and posts include the words “Charlie Sheen” in them? Here’s a Facebook page that lets you know if your followers are talking about you.

Of course, you may not have this power as a merchant unless you’re also on Wikipedia, but we can tell from this page that your friends are talking about Charlie Sheen.

Embrace video. Sheen’s entire rant was embraced by the public was either in 2D or based on questions pitched to him by talk show hosts… until he launched his “Sheen’s Korner” show on Ustream. Now instead of just tweets and video, the public gets to watch and listen to what he has to say when they want and where they want.

How does that relate to ecommerce? Look at merchants using video to show how the products they are selling work. In the case of eParty Unlimited, not only are conversion rates rising, but the videos themselves are helping it climb the search engine rankings.

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