Oprah’s network, OWN, launched yesterday (1-1-11) with high expectations. After all, anything Oprah touches turns to gold. Best selling books are made when she mentions them. Makeup and shoes fly off shelves if she shows them in her “Favorite things.” I think people would buy vats of lard if Oprah said eating it would be good for us. She can sell anything.

Oprah Winfrey, OWN, Oprah's network, Social Media for business, social marketing, Gina Schreck

Oprah- The Queen of Social

How does she do it, and more importantly, what can we learn from her and apply to our social marketing strategy?

  1. Oprah is a CONVERSATIONALIST. The Oprah show is all about conversations with her guests and the audience. Are you having conversations on your social sites or are you just throwing out cold facts and pieces of your content hoping people will buy more from you?  Invite people to sit on your virtual couch for conversations about THEM.  Even though her show is named after her and every issue of her magazine features a picture of ….her, she does make her shows all about her guests.
  2. Oprah LISTENS. There are many shows out today that are almost humorous, because of the way the host asks questions and then, without listening, either throws out another question or worse, interrupts the guest with a counter-point.  In the social media arena, listening and responding to what is being said, is more important than flapping your lips all the time, assuming everyone will find your every word fascinating (although I’m sure you are!).  If you are not interested in listening to those in your community, why should they be interested in what you have to say?
  3. Oprah is LIKABLE. This one is a little harder to put your finger on, except to say when you listen and show interest in others, they will like you more.  Being likable in social media circles first starts with being in the right circles.  Obviously not everyone LIKES Oprah (I’m sure there are one or two out there), but those who are her target demographic (99.7% of the world) find her very likable.  Find “your peeps” and then be yourself (unless you are a jerk…then perhaps be someone else until you learn how to be likable).  Being likable has to do with being comfortable being yourself, all while you are making others feel important.  Mary Kay Ash (of Mary Kay Cosmetics) once said that she pictures a sign above everyone’s head as she talks to them that reads, “Make me feel important.”  This is a great philosophy to live by.
  4. Oprah doesn’t SELL.  I know this one is hard for any marketer to swallow, but if people know you and like you they will more likely buy from you without you really having to sell.  After all, people hate to be SOLD, but they LOVE TO BUY!  Does Oprah get kick-backs or free “stuff” for pimping them on her show?  Most likely.  But all she has to do is talk about the product or service and the world rushes out to try it.  In social media, if you are providing interesting conversation, helpful tips and loads of value, when you do mention your product or service, people will rush out to try it.  Well, they are more likely to rush out and try it.  And the good news is, if they like it, they come back to the community and tell others…more sales without selling!
  5. Oprah is VULNERABLE.  Let’s admit it, anyone who can work in the public and have photos of themselves bulging out of bathing suits, showing up in the grocery store without make up, and having horrors of your childhood atrocities discussed in detail, is VULNERABLE! Now I am not saying you have to allow this type of publicness, but if you only allow people to see the perfect side of you, they cannot relate.  When you try to appear perfect, people want to see you fail–I know, we are a sick people!  Share your struggles and how you overcome them.  Share your failures and what you are doing to improve.  Oprah’s weight has been a public joke for years, and yet “her peeps” identify with her struggle and they love her more for sharing it!    There are many people who enter the social media scene but want to keep every aspect of their life private.  They might do better by finding a career path that does not require social interaction.

So whether your goal for 2011 includes building your business by 20% using social media or building an Oprah-sized empire, these tips will get you on your way.  I’d love to hear what other qualities you feel make Oprah and her empire so successful…especially if we can all use the tips to be more successful this year!  Happy New Year and as always if we can help you connect to your community (or help you not be a jerk) just hollar!

Gina and her team help organizations use today’s technology tools to build their business and manage their brand.  Follow Gina on Twitter or connect on Facebook.