What Betty White Taught Me About Social Media

Apr 2012

bettyOne of my favorite social-media-fueled trends over the last year or so has been the resurrection of Betty White’s career.

For those of you youngsters who may think of Ms. White as a recent discovery, you might be interested to know that she’s been a TV personality since 1939. In the 1950s, she became one of the first women in Hollywood to enjoy full creative control in front of and behind the camera (as producer and star of the sitcom Life with Elizabeth) and she’s won seven Emmy Awards.

So yeah, Betty White is the sh*t. If you don’t believe me, check out her Wikipedia page … just make sure your scrolling finger’s warmed up first.

Her 73-plus-year career has been an inspiration … and it’s taught me a few things about social media.

1. Know Your Style and Work It

From her double-Emmy-winning stint on The Mary Tyler More Show to her comic genius work on The Golden Girls (the source of three more Emmys) to her SAG-Award-winning role on Hot in Cleveland, Betty White has created one of the most recognizable brands in Hollywod: a sugary-sweet exterior thinly veiling a fierce sardonic edge. She’s never tried to be something she’s not, never tried to emulate anyone else’s style.

Like Hollywood, the socialverse can spot a pretender a mile away, so being you is something you owe yourself—and your fans.

2. You Can’t Go Wrong Laughing at Yourself

In an environment where lying about your age has become the rule rather than the exception, the dauntless Ms. White proudly and publicly celebrated her 90th birthday earlier this year.  

And she never misses an opportunity to make her advanced years the subject of her own jokes. In the monologue that headed her Facebook-inspired hosting stint onSaturday Night Live, Ms. White openly mocked her age with the line “People say Facebook is a great way to connect with old friends. At my age, if I want to connect with old friends, I need a Ouija Board.”

Well played, Betty. Not only does making fun of yourself tend to head off your critics—it’s also an engagement tactic that’s been successful since the dawn of language.

3. Don’t Fight Change—Embrace It

I don’t know many 90-year-olds who are active on social media, but Ms. White has eagerly embraced the medium that fueled her latest career resurgence. Just a couple of weeks ago, she tweeted a feisty, flirtatious tweet to Ryan Seacrest, the time-slot competitor for her new show Betty White’s Off Their Rockers:

And hey, if Betty White can rock Twitter’s socks off (with over 100,000 followers), the rest of us have no excuse not to try something new, right?

So that’s my take on what TV-legend-turned-Internet-meme Betty White can teach us about social media. How about you? Share your thoughts in the comments—we’d love to hear from you!

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