Social Media has been called a great promotional tool of our generation. DigitalLabz.com, an online business and marketing resource, says that social outlets allow users to “gain invaluable connections with their audience and to increase their online visibility.” Among the business and marketers utilizing the power of the social web are hip-hop and rap superstars who thrive on constant exposure and the popularity of new material. Several of the most popular rap stars are taking advantage of the tools at their disposal, and many of them choose different avenues to gain their fans’ attention. Today we explore how six top hip hop artists are alive and well on the social web.
Prior to his incarceration for carrying a loaded semi-automatic weapon on his tour bus, rap superstar Lil-Wane (also known as Weezy) started a Twitter account to maintain communication with his fans. The Los Angelas Times blog reports that Lil Wayne tweeted “They kant lok up my heart bekuz y’all already have it on lok… thank u,” just before he went behind bars in March.
Since “going in” (no pun intended), Wayne has enlisted the help of friends on the outside to maintain his Twitter and relay the messages he sends them to his followers. Along with the Twitter account, Wayne started a blog so that his team could transcribe letters he sends them. The blog, which can be found here, currently has three letters from the jailed rapper in which he personally addresses and thanks many fans who write to him, and blogs about how he’s been doing on the inside.
Kanye West is one of the the most active hip-hop stars on the Internet. Kanye’s web empire “Universe City” is home to his various Internet endeavors, some of which have absolutely nothing to do with his music. There you will find his search engine, SearchWithKanye.com, a social and incentivized way to search that earns users “Swag Bucks” for filling surveys and offers on the engine. These Swag Bucks are Kanye’s online currency and can be collected and traded in for all sorts of prizes ranging from Kanye tee shirts and hoodies to big screen televisions and iPods.
Perhaps one of the reasons that Kanye’s Twitter feed and blog get such a heavy response is because of his wild personality and tendency to say whatever he feels like saying without any kind of filter. Posts often contain comments about public outbursts, explicit insults to other celebrities he hates, and shout outs to fans and industry friends. Slightly less common is news from his charitable organization for children, “The Kanye West Foundation.”
Kanye’s blog features posts that give his fans a look at the man behind the mic, including his favorite gothic-style artwork, music videos from his favorite bands (some of whom fans will never expect) and explicit photos and paintings of beautiful women. Kanye also uses his blog and other social accounts to share photographs from his own personal camera, new music he has released, fashion and furniture he recommends, and to promote young artists that he feels have talent. Kanye recently launched a new, graphically enhanced blog that can be seen here.
Lupe Fiasco uses the power of the social web to connect his fans to one another. In effect, Lupe has built an entire social network on his website that allows members to share photos, video, and discuss topics of interest amongst each other. Upon logging into to Lupe’s member area, fans are met with a news feed about Lupe’s career, where he will be performing, and what he’s been working on. Members also get a first look of his new music videos, which are prominently posted on the member home page.
True fans of Lupe can also join his “FNF Army,” a social community of dedicated users who wish to promote Lupe’s music however they can. FNF Army members can form groups to discuss how to spread the word of Lupe’s music and also meet other members and make friends by participating in live chat with each other. The most active users in Lupe’s FNF Army are honored and displayed as “Featured Members,” however not surprisingly Lupe retains the top position at all times.
Of course, no superstar would be complete without a Twitter account, and Lupe uses his to address fans directly and engage them in philosophical and political discussion. Yes, you will encounter the occasional promotional post plugging his upcoming concerts, but by taking the time to personally address his most active and intelligent followers, Lupe shows his fans that he’s not an unreachable celebrity, but a regular man who knows that his fans make him who he is.
In the rap world it is crucial to stay relevant to your fans so that the next smash club hit doesn’t cause them to dance away thoughts of your career. In order to stay on his fan’s minds, 50 has built a small social network on his website ThisIs50.com. The community links fans to one another and engages them in ongoing discussion of rap, 50 Cent, entertainment and more, right from 50′s own branded page. Users can create profiles, share pictures, and post topics for conversation with other members.
Members of the This Is 50 community also receive up to date news, tour dates music, and videos from 50 every time they log in. One of the coolest things about the site is that 50 offers members of his community a new free hip hop mix tape download every single week. 50 himself may not always be a part of the CD, but they do feature brand new hits from underground and mainstream artists that dedicated fans of rap can always look forward to checking out.
50 Cent also maintains a Twitter account, but treats his much differently than most. Rather than always Tweeting strictly about his music and tour dates (or how hammered he was the night before, as is common news on the Twitter accounts of rappers like Drake,) 50 uses the majority of his posts to talk about/link to world news and current events that he finds thought provoking. Some of 50′s fans enjoy his candidness and appreciation of the world outside of his specific career, while others (such as Yahoo’s Associated Content) lampoon his Twitter account as not giving fans enough information about his own life.
Rapper Russell Simmons finds his passion not only in music, but also social media. “Social media is the new hip hop, the new rock and roll, the new equalizer, giving voice to the previously voiceless, the sound and thunder for social justice, the intimate forum for honest integration, which the new America yearns for… what it aspires to,” wrote Simmons in a recent article for the Huffington Post.
Simmons doesn’t just talk about social media however, he actively uses it to further his career. In 2009 he was named the Editor in Chief of Global Grind, a website that brings hip hop news and editorials from all over the entertainment industry. Simmons is a heavy contributor to the website, having written some 194 articles for their readers. Each article links back to Simmon’s Twitter, Myspace and Facebook accounts, allowing fans of his work to learn more about him and his various other business endeavors. In this way, Simmons’ Twitter account has amassed over 374,000 followers.
Simmons is also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, an Internet newspaper which he uses to discuss everything from social media and web culture to world politics. Simmons articles regularly get 50 – 100 reposts on Twitter and Facebook, which serve to spread the word about the Newspaper and Simmons’ writing in general.
The driving force behind Luda’s social interaction with his fans is his constantly updated Twitter page. In the past, Luda did a battle of the sexes question every day in which he would answer an individually selected fan’s question about sex, dating, or anything having to do with guys and gals. However these days Ludacris uses his Twitter account mostly to promote his new brand of Cognac known as Conjure. Luda takes a very interesting approach to this promotion by posting pictures of celebrities and people he has seen drinking the Conjure in hopes that this will entice you to try the drink out. Any hip hop fan who looks at enough of these pictures cannot help but feel very tempted to run to the liquor store and try a bottle at the next party.
But Luda’s page isn’t all about alcohol promotion. The rap star frequently lets his fans know where he will be appearing for autograph signings and meet and greet sessions. Luda also frequently contributes to charity and holds benefit shows, and sometimes uses his Twitter account to hold contests for fans to contribute most to the cause in order to win autographed merchandise from him.