Skip to content

Social Media Advice From Mark Hamill      

The iconic actor Mark Hamill delivered a moving keynote talk at Content Marketing World, touching on his early love of comic heroes, the gratitude he feels toward fans, what it was like to reprise the role of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and his new show called Pop Culture Quest.

What stood out to us? Mark’s social media savvy (even while he professes to be a neophyte). Read on to hear about his foray into the Twitterverse and the lessons he’s learned from his successes … as well as his wrong turns.

On his hesitation to engage fans online

I resisted Twitter for the longest time. It just wasn’t on my radar. I did a low-budget film called Sushi Girl. The producers said, “It would really help us if you got on social media because we want to bring attention to the film.” I did. Then I realized, “What did I get myself into?” Once the movie came and went … now I’m on Twitter!?

My daughter would say, “Dad, you haven’t been on Twitter for three weeks! People are worried about you.” I said, “Hon, who cares what I think? No one cares whether I prefer boysenberry jam or strawberry jam on my English muffin.” Her reaction? “Oh, if you tweeted that your followers would go right up!”

Now I enjoy it to a certain extent. I’ve gotten more into it. In the old days, answering fan mail was like doing your homework. My wife would say, “Just do 50 and then we’ll go watch The Sopranos.” With Twitter, it’s like having electronic fan mail. You answer one person and there are many others who want to know the answer too.

Why building anticipation (and Daisy Ridley) are keys to engagement

I went on a Twitter campaign before Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out to boost my number of followers.

I asked for permission to say, “I have an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at an Episode VIII rehearsal!” I’d seen a cartoon online of Rey with Luke on her back. I thought that was a great idea. I saw Daisy (aka Rey) on the lot and said, “Do you think we can get a shot of you with me on your back?” She goes, “Bring it on!” Up I went. We took the picture.

I didn’t tweet it right away. On a Thursday I tweeted, “This Sunday! 8 p.m. U.K. time!” (The PT Barnum came out in me.) On Friday, I tweeted, “Only 48 hours left!” Then the tweet comes out on a Sunday night. That tweet astonished everyone. I’d never gotten over 50,000 followers with one tweet. This one got 120,000! I thought the secret must be Daisy Ridley.

The Force Awakens producers also stoked fan anticipation to build excitement over the film

The thing that worried me initially was they were advertising the movie series’ three original actors in The Force Awakens – I should say, three original human actors – and by doing so, there’s an implied reunion that’s going to take place … even though all I was going to do was remove my hood on screen. (Hamill’s first and only appearance in The Force Awakens is a brief non-speaking role at the end.)

What I didn’t realize was how they would use the mystery of Luke not appearing on the movie poster. They were so clever to fan speculation that way and it fueled the ad campaign.

When anticipation goes wrong

I started backing off Twitter after one incident.

I had another (Star Wars) idea, got permission as before. I promo’ed my message saying, “Thanks @rianjohnson for an exclusive look at the Episode VIII trailer.”

This was just a shameless attempt to drive up my followers! It’s like eating a bag of potato chips … you can’t have just one. Of course, I built it all up. When I tweeted it … it was just a photo of my trailer where I change my clothes. People weren’t happy about that. (And) I was thinking, “Are we really going to put a trailer out two and half years before the film is released? C’mon!”

Why am I telling you this? You have to try to imagine what the people want. Usually if something interests me or makes me laugh, odds are it will make other people laugh as well.

Advice for marketers

Follow your own inspiration. If you find something engaging, find a way to repurpose it through your own prism. Everything old is new again. I’m not advocating you go out and steal other people’s ideas (though when we do that it’s called an homage). You have to believe in yourself and trust your instincts.

I love going into different departments – be it sculptors or costume designers – and watching the creative process. For example, I watched them pour foam into the Yoda mold. It’s amazing to go out on that whole new frontier. That’s what inspires me.

A version of this article originally appeared in Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription.

Register to attend Content Marketing World in San Diego. Use the code BLOG100 to save $100. Can't attend in person this year? Check out the Digital Pass for access to on-demand session recordings from the live event through the end of the year.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing World