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George Takei’s Universe

George Takei has earned his place in pop history as Lt. Sulu of the Starship Enterprise, but he’s still going where few of his generation have gone before as a cultural icon in the Twitterverse and on Facebook.

“Very few of my generation are even sending emails,” says Takei, 77.

Takei, meanwhile, has 6 million Facebook fans and more than 1 million Twitter followers. He took to the medium for a very specific reason—and carefully plotted how he could use social networking to achieve his goal.

Takei wanted to create greater awareness of a dark chapter of U.S. history when some 110,000 Japanese-Americans were forcibly interned during World War II. Takei and his family were among those detained.

“The best way to [create more awareness] back in 2010 was social media, so I began by trial and error,” Takei says. “[But] my audience base was not social-justice oriented.” Takei identified his audience as “sci-fi geeks and nerds,” which he sought to grow into a larger group interested in subjects he wanted to tackle.

“I found humor was the thing that got the most likes, so I started concentrating on that area,” Takei says, posting funny observations like “Overheard: Wanna freak out your neighbors? Name your Wi-Fi ‘FBI Surveillance Van.’ Or ‘Social media is like ancient Egypt: writing things on walls and worshipping cats.’ "

“Once it started to grow, I introduced a relevant subject of our times: Equality for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people.”

His audience exploded, so he circled back to his original goal, and the response was overwhelming.

Takei launched a crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo and solicited donations through his Facebook and Twitter accounts, ultimately raising more than $158,000 to produce the musical Allegiance, about an interned Japanese-American family. The show was sold out in its 2012–2013 San Diego run. Takei hopes to take it to Broadway this year.

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