Social Media: How Stephen Amell, Vin Diesel, and Others Keep Fans Going with Facebook

In a Hollywood where almost every actor has a Facebook page, why do some stick out more than [...]

In a Hollywood where almost every actor has a Facebook page, why do some stick out more than others?

Stephen Amell, star of Arrow, and Hollywood megastar Vin Diesel of Guardians of the Galaxy and The Fast and the Furious fame are two notable examples: their pages boast followers in the millions, and nearly everything they post either goes viral, gets picked up as industry news, or both, greatly increasing even that reach to include the audiences of whoever notices the story.

It isn't just popularity, of course; there are network TV leads with bigger audiences than Arrow who can't grasp the concept and turn it into an asset the way Amell has. Most other big-name movie stars don't personally, frequently update their Facebook pages at all, suggesting that Diesel's is a fairly unique situation, too.

So...what is it?

There's a sense of personal connection that the most successful social media navigators manage to foster with their audience, and Facebook is the place where that's the most important -- partially because it's hardest to fake.

Everybody has Facebook, and there are no character limits. Posting a photo can yield thousands of comments, and when and if a content creator chooses to respond, their response can be as thoughtful as they want.

For some sites where character limits are not themselves an issue, there still isn't a social context for engaging in longer back-and-forths in the comments. Facebook is a unique platform -- and one on which many celebrities are understandably not completely comfortable. Offering your audience that kind of access will demystify you to an extent, so the thinking goes.

But is that a bad thing anymore?

With tabloid photographers, a 24/7 celebrity news culture, comic book conventions and the like, it seems most celebrities have been pretty thoroughly demystified already. Offering your audience an "in" to feel like they know you is arguably not the dumbest thing a celebrity can do.

In Diesel's case, he manages to personalize the site in a way that few A-list stars can. With comments on the passing of his friend Paul Walker, he humanized himself, and Walker, and helped audiences come to terms with that loss while simultaneously setting the tone for what became very important throughout the marketing of Furious 7: the idea that Walker and his death weren't off-limits; they were a big part of the story. The "family" theme of Furious 7 started to worm its way into the audience's brains when Diesel delivered widely-shared and heartfelt thoughts about Walker in which he referred to Walker as his brother and members of the cast and crew as a family. That element of the film is a big part of why audiences responded so strongly to it.

To say that in a high-profile interview or tweet something about it might have resulted in the audience being skeptical of Diesel's intentions. "Did he really just use Paul Walker's death to...?" are the kinds of questions that a cynical audience who thinks they know "how Hollywood works" could easily have started asking. That virtually no one did is likely a function of Diesel understanding that taking to Facebook is the way to give yourself enough breathing room to make it clear that you aren't saying what NEEDS to be said, but what you want to say. the audience responds to that kind of leaving all your cards on the table.

That part could be true of a blog, or any other longer-form means of communication, really...but Facebook is a common stomping ground for the audience, who don't have to seek Diesel's comments out because they'll start to trend, or friends will share it.

All that said, don't think that guys like this aren't masters of using Facebook to market their content when it's appropriate. Stephen Amell's Facebook page might not have as many "likes" as Arrow's own, but those millions of users are incredibly active, so The CW has sometimes given the actor publicity stuff to "break" on his Facebook, including the Season Four trailer. That's a lot of trust in a third-party site on the part of Amell's employers.

Similarly, Diesel seems to have more or less willed his relationship with Marvel into being by posting about it on his Facebook page. Casual talks turned into an urgency to get something done after Marvel saw the way his -- and their -- audiences were responding to coy little hints Diesel had posted online, and not so long after, we were hearing him explain how "I am Groot."

There are a lot of moving pieces here, and taking it outside of fan culture, the mainstream media and the business world are starting to understand this stuff as well. News magazines have written think pieces longer and more in-depth than this one about Amell's success with Facebook, which tends to drive more fascination for those who don't understand comic book fans, because Amell's dedicated audience is presumably smaller than that of somebody like Diesel or other A-list movie actors. And, of course, Facebook recently launched their livestreaming "Facebook Live" function with Amell and Diesel at the fore. Amell used the feature nearly every day between when it was rolled out and when Arrow started shooting a couple of weeks later, drawing a ton of interest with each Periscope-like video feed, even if it was something as simple as Amell sitting on a park bench and wondering whether somebody might see the broadcast and come meet him.