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Social Media Engagement: A Willie Nelson Study

Social media is fascinating in that it provides access to otherwise elusive people—such as celebrities and public figures. The most successful social media profiles have a well-crafted voice that creates a connection and generates a response. These people know who their audience is and how to engage them.


How to be interesting like Willie Nelson


Let’s take a look at one of America’s sweethearts: Willie Nelson. Whether you like his music—or agree with his politics—his appeal is universal. He’s succeeded in becoming a beloved figure that society embraces despite his convictions and colorful life. Audiences adore him, listen to him, and respond to him. He’s never been bashful, lends truth and humor to life, and is just a cool, lovable guy.


Willie’s developed a social media presence that consists of loyal and enthusiastic followers—the type of followers that help businesses grow. Let’s learn from his success and develop some best practices for social media engagement the Willie Nelson way.


Know your audience

Willie has a broader audience than most, but he still knows who they are. He speaks to them as if he knows them, and that’s how he gains trust from his followers.


You should have a general idea of who your target audience is based on web analytics and other gathered user data. Age, region, and industry are good metrics to start with, but try uncovering some specifics about your social media audience. Who are they following? What are they talking about? What are they looking for?


Knowing the details of who you’re trying to reach can help you share the right content with people. Speak with them in a way that they understand and respond to. Facebook and Twitter are fundamental platforms, but expand your efforts to other sites your audience may be using, such as Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, Youtube, and Tumblr.


Know your voice

Willie's voice is what makes him so great. He has a funny, grandfatherly voice that’s warm and inviting. He’s quirky and his language makes you smile.


How you speak to your audience is an important aspect to engaging them. It’s a brief, fleeting message, so you want to be heard. You want to be memorable and relatable. Brands have a voice—an identity—that makes them unique, the same way that people do. Use fun, positive language, an active tone, and words that connect and engage users. Don’t bore or intimidate your audience with stuffy language.


Wille Nelson's birthday Facebook post


Know what to say

It’s sometimes difficult to predict what kind of content is going to get a reaction, but Willie has seen some success with the following guidelines, and I have too. Add variety to the type of content you’re posting to keep it interesting and fresh.


  • Use emotional content. Create a connection with your users by sharing inspiring and heartwarming stories. Everyone loves the underdog.


Willie Nelson and his love of America


  • Add images. People love images. Add them whenever you can.


Neil Young, Willie Nelson, and Steve Miller


  • Inform users. Tell them something. It’s perfectly okay to repost news from other sites as long as it’s informative and relevant.


Willie Nelson: The most stylish man at The Grammys


  • Add value. Offer useful tips, insight, and advice. Anything innovative that will make your followers lives easier, or make them think, will be successful.


Willie Nelson quotes


  • Use humor. Aside from emotional posts, humorous content generates the most shares and engagement. If something is funny, share it. Just be careful that the content isn’t likely to offend your users or a certain demographic.


  • Exercise brevity. Keep your posts short and sweet. Twitter caps the number of characters displayed at 140, but with Facebook and Google+ you can write longer posts. Keep your posts limited to a few sentences at the most.


Lukas and Willie Nelson playing on stage


  • Limit promotional posts. Inform your audience of special events, promotions, or what’s happening with your business, but be careful not to bombard them.


  • Understand frequency of posting. The timing and frequency of your posts is unique to your industry. While news outlets can post updates in a constant, steady stream, the same approach would likely annoy and irritate followers of an ecommerce site. Find your own groove of how frequently you post and interact. Twitter moves at a rapid pace, so it’s okay to post multiple times a day. Just make sure you’re adding value or contributing to meaningful conversations. Facebook content should be more developed and strategic. Utilize a social media or editorial calendar to plan your creative and promotional content. This will help you monitor your posts, and coordinate with your other marketing efforts.


  • Engage users. Prompt users to interact with you by asking questions or requesting feedback. Contests, seasonal promotions and giveaways can be a compelling way to entice your user base—and it's generous on your behalf. Again, be careful not to go overboard. You don’t want to come off as desperate to give your products or services away.


Willie Nelson songs and memories


Know analytics

Examine your social media engagement and strategy through analytical tools on a regular basis. Through analytics, you can discover how and when users are engaging with your content, identify trends, and seek ways to improve.


Data takes the guesswork out of any inbound marketing strategy. Google Analytics provides valuable data, but check out other social media analytics tools as well. Examine user engagement trends based on the time of day, day of the week, and type of content posted. Start at a micro level by examining data over days and weeks, and as your strategy matures, look at its impact over months, quarters, and years. Review which content generated the most shares, comments, and views. Identify the factors that contributed to the success of this content and try to emulate it in future posts. Was it a powerful image you shared, a humorous video, or maybe a unique story?


Willie Nelson and Facebook shares


I admire Willie’s positive social media presence and captivating voice. What kind of social media engagement techniques have been effective for your brand?


Adrienne Lumb

Adrienne Lumb


Adrienne is a web marketer and freelance writer in San Francisco with a focus on content marketing and earned media. She loves the internet, every single animal on Planet Earth, sticking her nose in books, and running in the park. Catch her if you can.