When music connoisseurs consider the best rappers of this generation, few people would think to add Soulja Boy to that list. Except perhaps in jest. But, when it comes to the most successful, he definitely deserves a place. Soulja Boy may not write the most profound lyrics in the rap game, but he can teach even public relations and marketing experts a thing or two about how to build a successful brand.
In fact, while some of the most famous musicians in the world relied on support from other artists to become famous, Soulja Boy single handedly built his name and reputation by using social media. What the young star may lack in musical talent, he certainly makes up for with a good business sense and impressive marketing skills.
As of November 24, 2015, Soulja Boy reigns over an impressive 4.81 million followers on Twitter alone, roughly three times his following in 2009. The artist also maintains a YouTube channel which draws millions of views. Today, he mostly raps about his lavish lifestyle and the money he made from his music in explicit songs like “Diamonds & Gold” and “Make it Rain”.
How did he do it? And how can you use his methods to achieve similar success? Read on to find out…
- Make use of Freebies
Companies should make use of free or cost-effective opportunities which do not cut into the bottom line. These opportunities should not only relate to marketing and advertising, but also production and distribution. For instance, Soulja Boy used Soundclick and Myspace to build his name, grow his brand and increase visibility. He then released his future platinum selling recording on YouTube. This generated a lot of interest and income, and later landed him a recording deal. This may have cost a lot of time, but it didn’t cost him a cent.
- Use Multiple Platforms and Link Them
Soulja Boy does not rely on one or two social media platforms to boost his success. Instead, he uses quite a few, including YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and several others. He then links the pages to each other to capitalize on the fact that different platforms provide different ways of representing him and his brand.
- Create Something Catchy
This is often hit-or-miss, but if companies can strike the right note and make something that catches on or goes viral, this secures the visibility of their brand. This is what Soulja Boy did when he created the “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” song,and also threw in a catchy dance move that everyone wanted to try. The dance move coupled with the song drove his music to viral stages.
- Engage Your Audience
Creating content represents only one tiny facet of engaging with customers. After this, companies should try to foster two-way communications. Soulja Boy used this heavily – especially in the beginning of his career – to talk to fans on Twitter. He even left them voice messages on their phones using a service called SayNow.com.
In fact, unlike other labels and artists who use teams to connect with fans, he still speaks to them directly, on his own. He believes this is an important part of the bonding experience and enjoys doing it.
- Use Keywords Effectively
The tags and keywords attached to blogs and articles are equally as important in attracting an audience as the content. Those keywords provide the means by which the article shows up in searches consumers make.
Soulja Boy used tags and keywords as well, though in a more questionable form. This is not good practice, but it does illustrate the importance of using the right keywords to gain exposure. In 2014, Forbes detailed the method he took:
“One of Soulja’s early approaches to the Internets’ publishing platforms was… he’d upload his songs, tagging A-listers in the title fields (artists like, Michael Jackson and 50 Cent, to name a few), in hopes of catching a wider set of potential listeners. People… downloaded his songs, only to realize later that it was not the King of Pops’ ‘Billy Jean.’ However questionable this method may have been, it gained him one thing above all else: exposure.”
- Use Publicity Stunts and Take Advantage of Good Gossip
Publicity stunts refer to daring ‘performances’ brands sometimes put on to attract attention. However, often these stunts do not represent the real situation. And when they do, the participants save it for a public place to exploit it.
One such stunt for Soulja Boy involved an alleged engagement to Rosa Acosta, a classical dancer and fitness model. Media Take Out, the site which started the rumor, refused to share the source of the information. However, as proof, they did share a picture of Rosa kissing Soulja Boy on the cheek while wearing what looked like an engagement ring.
When Soulja Boy saw the post, rather than address and dissolve the rumors, he opted to keep the mystery going. During this time, the two celebrities trended on Twitter, while fans and the media speculated about whether or not they intended to marry. In the end, fans learned that it was Rosa’s mother who gave her the ring.
While Soulja Boy’s response definitely helped to keep him and his brand at the forefront of people’s mind, the opportunity would not exist without gossip blogs like Media Take Out.
Media Take Out
Media Take Out creates content which attracts people who share a strong interest in celebrity news. The website also styles itself as “The Most Visited Urban Website in the World,” because of the large amount of traffic that their posts generate each day. The website also broke several stories, including Kim Kardashian’s first pregnancy and Michael Jordan’s divorce.
In spite of the ‘gossip’ nature of the posts, media giants such as Good Morning America, The New York Times, BET Style, MTV News and Wendy Williams quoted the site’s content. Fred Mwangaguhunga, a former corporate lawyer, first founded the website in 2006. Since then, the site has experienced amazing success which only continues to grow.
A Final Word
While not all of Soulja Boy’s practices are good ideas for companies to mirror exactly, it does set a framework for marketing specialists to step up the game while representing brands. It also shows how dedication, luck and creativity go a long way in pushing brands to the forefront, even with limited resources.
Update: an MTV article revealed that Acosta’s manager, Charles Garner, told MTV News on Friday (September 25) that the rumors began after the pair was seen hanging out together in photos on the model’s Web site. The ring, however, was a gift from Rosa Acosta’s mother.