UPDATE - MONDAY, APRIL 16: Two days ago, I wrote this post, and in point #5, I pointed out a problem with Bubba Watson's Twitter profile photo at the time. It featured the "General Lee," a car I loved as a kid watching the "Dukes of Hazzard," not caring about the Confederate flag painted on the roof. As I say below, no one can object to Watson owning the car or displaying it at home. It's displaying it online and with every tweet that would cause a controversy. Yesterday, Watson swapped out his profile photo, choosing instead, a timely, super-cute photo of him and his newborn son: "My boy & his lil green jacket!! #awesome," he tweeted. And with that, any controversy around the real car from a fake show should end.
My wife, shoulder-surfing as I write this, says, "The rest of the world wants golf lessons from the Masters champion; only you would be excited about social media lessons."
As usual, she's right. Don't get me wrong: I got plenty excited about the game itself all of last weekend, following as much as I could, including four straight hours of TV last Sunday afternoon (yes, I've heard all the jokes about watching golf on television. Here's mine: It's like listening to swimming on the radio).
Bubba Watson's shot out of the woods on the final hole, setting up his victory, was the greatest golf shot I've ever seen: audacious, gutsy and skillful. And that final round was the most exciting Masters afternoon since I watched every hole of the back nine by a young Tiger Woods en route to his first dominant victory in 1997.
On Wednesday morning, as I was exiting the CBS Broadcast Center after my weekly CNET News segment on WCBS-TV, I found myself in front of Watson's stretch limo, waiting for him to finish his live interview on "CBS This Morning." As a true golf fan, I should have waited around to try to get an autograph, but I had to get home to take my kids to school. Of course, I did post a photo of on Facebook and get some interesting responses.
I've learned a lot from watching Watson (who just became a new father) on social media these last few days, including that you might need to change you cellphone number if you become Masters champion:
Here are five social media lessons I've learned from watching @BubbaWatson, some of them more obvious than others:
1. Success in real life translates into success in social media. As you can see from the above graphic on TwitterCounter.com/bubbawatson, over the last month, his Twitter followers increased, with the most dramatic increases coming after his success on Masters Sunday (71,000 additional followers). It's only natural that the win on worldwide television would result in more followers, but the number continued to climb throughout the week as he did the usual victory lap of TV shows. And that's because he was charming, open, and interesting in his TV interviews. People want to connect with folks like that.
2. Practice, practice, practice. Sounds like a golf lesson, but it's also a Twitter lesson. Be active on the network, post as often as makes sense for you and you will get better and better at it. Many celebrities, new on Twitter after sudden attention, don't know how to use it properly. While Watson's follower numbers are attention-grabbing, note the number of tweets he has posted since September 16, 2009 (his Twitter birthday, according to TwBirthday.com): Almost 40,000.
3. Connect with your readers as often as you can. Lot of celebrities use Twitter to post things but don't do enough listening. As you'll see from the posts here, Watson does a lot of listening and responding. In the screenshot below, it's just a series of "thanks" tweets, but it shows he's trying. I preach listening (which I do a lot of), but I don't respond enough. In fact, Rebecca Subbiah (@ChowAndChatter), who has a wonderful food-related Twitter feed, called me out about it the other day: "@sree good link. love your tips. wish you chatted more with folks here though :-) I know it's something you teach :-)" - with lots of smiley faces to lower the temperature. I hear you, Rebecca.
4. Be on more than one network. While he is most active on Twitter, he uses Facebook as another way to connect with fans. He has his tweets going automatically to his FB Page (i don't recommend that for everyone except maybe celebrity types; the rest of us should create/tweak content for each network when possible). He also has his tweets show up on his official web site. He has an active YouTube account with more than 50 videos featuring a combination of tips, tricks and a sense of his wacky side. All of this increases the amount of time fans are thinking about him and his brand - and the brands he endorses.
5. Be yourself - upto a point. Part of what makes Watson so compelling is that he's so relaxed and doesn't pretend to someone he isn't. He shows the value of being true to yourself online. He talks about his Christian values and doesn't shy away from them. As a Hindu, I admire his devotion to his faith.
As adoring as his fans have been, there's been one thing in this telegenic golfer's life that has drawn some negative attention. And that's the car you see in his profile photo. It's the car known as the General Lee, from the "Dukes of Hazzard" TV show from the '80s, which Watson now owns, complete with the Confederate flag painted onto the roof. He was a fan of the show (as was I, seeing the show for the first time as a nine-year-old who had just arrived in America. A jumping car, for goodness sake!) and he bought the car at auction for $110,000.
If he had just bought the car and kept it at his house, no one would really mind. But to display it on social media and make it part of every tweet you send out means people are going to notice -- and some are going to want to criticize you in public. Watson spends a good share of his Twitter time responding to some of these folks, as you can see below.
Is that the best use of his time as a new father and big-time celebrity? I don't think so. Just switching out the profile photo would save him hours of time each week and reduce the unwanted noise.