Oprah has one of the biggest audiences of any TV personality. And it's not by accident.

She's worked tirelessly for years on building a platform for her engaged followers. Some of her methods have been analyzed through a marketing lens in Chris Brogan and Julien Smith's Trust Agents.

But on her new show, Lifeclass, she's taken her social media use to the next level.

And her lessons can provide brands and businesses of all shapes and sizes, new insights into using social media to build their businesses.

Here's how Oprah is taking advantage, and how you can do the same.

Oprah's first Tweets on Twitter Image courtesy of adria.richards, on Flickr

 

Social Media is Deeply Integrated

Social media isn't some shiny new tactic that's isolated from the rest of her brand.

In fact, it's integrated deeply into everything she does. Her new show encourages interaction with several different platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and even live-streaming video with Skype.

She also uses these new tools to take advantage of real-time information.

For example, Oprah encourages viewers at home and in the audience to live tweet responses to the topics mentioned on the show and then discusses them in real-time with her guests.

David Meerman Scott has written extensively about the importance of real-time marketing.

But one of his biggest takeaway's is this, "Social media are tools. Real time is a mindset.”

To get to that point, businesses need to embrace social media as a real extension of their brand and begin incorporating it appropriately.

You can't have a list of "pre-approved" social media responses from legal, and expect an engaged following. And you can't hire a cheap blog writer and expect exceptional content.

If you're going in, then you need to go all-in to succeed.

 

She Uses Incentives to Keep People Engaged

Human nature says that most people won't go out of their way to do anything if it doesn't benefit them. Harsh, but true.

So incentivizing people is one of the best ways to keep people engaged. You can appeal to their self-interest by providing some value, and you can get their cooperation at the same time.

One of the most common examples of an incentive are coupons or special discounts. But those don't work for all brands. Especially media companies like Oprah's. But each company should have their own unique offer that would appeal to their target audience.

Oprah’s Lifeclass also incorporates Facebook polls into the show and offers real-time results. Those viewers tuning in online are awarded with a behind-the-scenes look at what happens during commercial breaks. In essence, the camera never stops rolling, and only those watching online are privy to that footage. Fans can also post comments on the site and interact with others watching the show.

Oprah doesn't beg users - she rewards them. She knows exactly what her users want, and she delivers.

Increasing engagement is the key to social media. Because it doesn't matter how many Facebook fans she has. Facebook's EdgeRank won't let her reach all of them. If she wants a social media presence that is an asset to her brand and grows organically, then she needs to follow the Facebook Formula.

When you get people excited and engaged, then you'll strengthen these existing relationships and experience viral growth in the process. 

 

She Gets Bloggers Involved

Mass media advertising and PR doesn't work very well anymore because there's too many options to divert your attention.

That's why social media is the new PR for most companies outsideof the Fortune 500.

And blogs are essential to this strategy. Even though their audiences may be smaller, they're more passionate and targeted, so you're going to get a better return on your investment.

But you first have to get bloggers on your side. You have to get them to care about you, and willing to recommend or share you with their audience.

Although Oprah’s Lifeclass doesn’t have too much formal marketing, it relies mostly on word-of-mouth marketing. It invites a traveling blogger corp. to its live shows to tweet during each episode and feature behind-the-scenes commentary.

Most people think blogger outreach is spamming the same cold-email pitch to 100 bloggers, asking for a link or a mention. It's not.

True blogger outreach is getting to know the person and developing a friendly relationship that will last for years, not minutes.

Besides being nice, you'll also gain access to a tremendous amount of online media attention that will help you reach new people, and strengthen ties with existing ones.

 

She Uses Her Own Twitter Account

Most businesses stick an intern on Twitter or outsource it to the cheapest agency.

But that's a huge mistake.

Every business owner should have their own Twitter account. Because they'll get access to the latest breaking news, gain competitive intelligence, and get real feedback from customers. But that's not all.

Apart from the show, Oprah is extremely active on social media, especially Twitter. “Every tweet she sends is hers — the marketing team isn’t allowed to go anywhere near her Twitter account,” says the spokesperson.

Twitter is an amazing platform because it allows you to interact with anyone. That opens up huge doors for celebrities, brands and companies to actually have candid, authentic conversations with people.

Another master of audience building, Howard Stern, made headlines on New Year's Eve by using Twitter to get in touch with his fans and actually calling them up.

Why go to all this effort? Because when people feel more connected to you on a personal level, then they're going to stick around a lot longer and be loyal to you.

 

Conclusion

Oprah is a master at relationships and cultivating a passionate audience.

None of that has anything to do with online tactics or strategies.

She's just taking advantage of these new tools and techniques and leveraging them to build her business.

That's how social media benefits businesses. It let's you reach new customers for far less than most other marketing tactics, and keeps them loyal for much, much longer.

When the cost of customer acquisition falls, and and the lifetime value of a customer increases, then your profit goes through the roof.

And in the process, people actually like you. That's something every business can aspire to.