I once heard a marketing executive say, “I think of Twitter as something that 20-somethings do.”

Well, she clearly hasn’t been paying attention to George Takei. The 75-year-old actor and activist has become a social media heavyweight, with over 299,000 followers on Twitter and over 1.2 million likes on Facebook.

But it isn’t his numbers that are so incredible—there are plenty of brands, celebrities, and organizations that can boast more fans. What’s noteworthy about Takei is his level of engagement.

In her post “George Takei: Facebook Hero” on Commerce Kitchen, Natalie Winslow points out the share rates on Takei’s Facebook posts–in one case, more than 10,600 shares on a single photo, compared to 708 on a photo on Coca-Cola’s page. Obviously one post doesn’t make a case–but this is not an isolated incident. Takei’s recent photo posts have share rates ranging from some 3,000 shares to over 25,000.

Roni Weiss’s RW Social post “Whose brand is stronger: George Takei or Starbucks?” answers its own question–George Takei–by comparing “Who’s talking about this” numbers for each Facebook page. Can we expand on this? As I write this, I can find the following corresponding numbers for Facebook pages:

Starbucks: 339,272 (over 29,000,000 likes)
McDonald’s: 780,873 (over 17,000,000 likes)
Nike: 796,869 (over 8,000,000 likes)
George Takei: 584,907 (1,265,789 likes)

Want to compare him to other celebrities? Lady Gaga’s page has 650,076 people talking about it–and she’s got more than 49,000,000 likes–more than 40 times as many as Takei. Dwayne The Rock Johnson, who Mashable readers voted the “Must-Follow Actor or Actress on Social Media,” has 220,000 people talking about his page.

Forty-six percent of Takei’s fans are talking about him. The others don’t even come close.

So what’s the secret to his Facebook success? I see several:

Frequency
He’s very active, posting multiple times a day.

Authenticity
He posts about gay rights and the World War II internment of Japanese Americans–causes that matter deeply to him. The first thing I saw was this YouTube video he made in response to anti-gay remarks made by a school board member in Arkansas:

You can often find him posting on heartfelt topics like this on Facebook and Twitter–and also about his hatred of the “Twilight” franchise.

Humor
He’s not just about the causes. Takei has several posts a day that are flat-out funny.

User-Generated Content
Business Week quoted Takei as saying, “True to my base, I like to find fan-generated images that are in the world of science fiction, especially Star Trek or Star Wars—both are franchises that I have worked in.” Many of his posts originate with fans–and he indicates this. In fact, his current cover photo is the result of a fan caption contest.

Knowing His Audience
It’s the first rule of comedy, and it’s also true for communication. George Takei knows who his fans are, and he’s paid attention to what they like–which means he’s very good at delivering it.

And the results are clear. So, how can you go boldly?