The blog team here at Simply Measured is full of hip hop fans, so naturally we wanted to find the connection between rappers and social media marketing.
We had a lot of important questions:
- How does a rapper find his or her niche on Twitter, and connect to fans authentically?
- Which rappers drive engagement on the social network, fostering interest in their brand without going overboard salesy or TALKING IN ALL CAPS TO REP THEIR LATEST RELEASES AND ENDORSEMENTS (I’m looking at you, P.Diddy)?
- How can brands learn from the rappers winning Twitter right now – and what does the data say?
If these are the questions that have been keeping you up at night, then you’ve come to the right place. As Jay-Z (who broke his almost yearlong Twitter silence a few days ago to congratulate the Raptors on a hard-won victory) once said, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man!” The rap game is big business, and here are some lessons that big business can take from the best.
Tactic #1: Drake often spreads the word on new songs by using Twitter. He provides unique content and a tantalizing taste of what’s to come on the next album, while also cementing relationships and sometimes starting beefs or making amends. This past week, for instance, Drake Retweeted his production company Octobers Very Own‘s news about a collab with Lil Wayne.
Take a look at Drake’s engagement summary from 5/1-5/9 to get an idea of this tactic’s success. Note that Drake received 37,161 bit.ly clicks in just 8 days, all generated from one SoundCloud link. It’s clearly a very successful content sharing tactic for him: That’s one of the highest clicks rates of anyone on my list, second only to French Montana, who has about 1/15 of Drake’s followers, but consistently shares links. Not that Drake necessarily needs to Tweet more, because his fan base is strong, and with 15 million followers, he gets a very large response (72,300 unique people engaging with him during the time period) from very few Tweets (only 3!). 2/3 of those Tweets publicize his new jam. The third was a direct Tweet at Rosie O’ Donnell, showing off Drake’s tactic #2 – playfully connecting (see also: flirting) with celebs on Twitter.
He did this again on May 11, receiving the most impressions of anyone on my list in May so far (3,794 Retweets, 29.6M Impressions), with a Vine of Erykah Badu –
– proving that the only thing people like more than staying updated on a favorite star is being surprised and given access to interactions within the celestial system. Brands can learn many lessons from this – first, the element of surprise and random connection (Wow! I didn’t know they knew each other!) is a great engagement-maker. Secondly, a sense of playfulness goes a long way.
Tactic #1: Joe Budden put out his best work in the mid-2000’s but finally garnered widespread notoriety for his promiscuous ways and illegal substance-loving lifestyle in the past few years thanks to his leading-man role in VH1’s “reality” show Love & Hip Hop. On Twitter, he often reveals the emotional, poetic side to his “rough” rapper exterior – a brilliant (possibly inadvertent?) branding tactic. This was his most engaging Tweet from 4/29-5/9.
As you can see from Budden’s recent Twitter activity below, he’s also a lot more vocal than Drake. That’s tactic #2: Joe Budden has way less followers than Drake (848K to Drake’s 14.9M), but is in the same league as Drake engagement-wise because of the frequency with which he Tweets – something to keep in mind for mid-size brands who want to grab some social media share away from bigger brands.
And then there’s tactic #3. Joe Budden replies to people like crazy. He’s sent 321 @replies already this month, blowing everyone else on this list out of the water.
Engaging on a 1-to-1 basis with followers (and even people who aren’t followers yet but who you want to follow you) is a strategy that finds great success in a social media era when personalization and customization are increasingly important. This is especially pertinent for big brands who want to stop being perceived as faceless behemoths and intentionally build authentic-seeming social media personalities.
Tactic #1: Fabolous loves to Retweet fan pics from shows, which is a great way of thanking fans for their support and also reminding followers that he’s on tour and they should buy tickets.
Fabolous also got a lot of traction in the past couple weeks with his commentary on Sterling’s infamous racist rant, which brings us to tactic #2 – during current event crises, Twitter looks to its celebrities (and brands) for reactions and expressions of their own outrage. By sending out well-timed, real-talk Tweets, rappers (and brands) can become an important part of the conversation. This, for instance, was Fabolous’s most engaging Tweet in the past two weeks.
Tactic #1: Be the performance. Juicy J loves keeping us updated on his nightlife adventures, play-by-play.
And Twitter loves to sit back and enjoy the show, as this engagement breakdown for the past couple weeks plainly shows:
Note that a substantial chunk of follower engagement with @therealjuicyj takes the form of Favorites and Retweets. This indicates a passive – yet raptly attentive and rapidly growing – audience in the (Twitter) wings [See what I did there?].
I say rapidly growing because Juicy J’s gained 3,657 followers in the past 18 days and currently stands at 1.68M followers with no sign of stopping. Which leads me to another lesson: Favorites and Retweets can be just as valuable as Mentions and Replies – while they don’t take a lot of personal effort, they do indicate an active level of interest and, more importantly, a desire to see what comes next and watch a narrative unfold, which means that the field for branding messages (delicately, always delicately) is wide open.
Tactic #1: Take a look at the number of Favorites and Retweets this exchange between newcomer Iggy and rap queen of the ’90s and ’00s Missy Elliot received. This is a great example of how social media vouching from a much-respected member of the hip-hop community – a part of hip hop culture’s call-and-response, narrative-defined roots – can generate astronomical support and even a whole new audience for an artist. Brands can learn a true lesson here by playing on nostalgia, the positivity of a supportive community, and the interplay between different generations and how they affect one another – something P&G carried out brilliantly with its Thank You Mom Olympics 2014 campaign earlier this year.
Tactic # 2: In the past week, Iggy received 14,117 Bit.ly clicks. That’s a whole lot, and it’s a number generated from only three links Tweeted out.
The Tweet which generated the most clicks by a landslide was Iggy’s Retweet of 102.7 KIIS-FM’s link to the live broadcast of Iggy’s appearance on their morning show.
What’s the lesson here? That events billed as happening in real-time are gonna drive clicks, and that, while they’re less “personal,” Retweets can hold a lot of power when they’re connecting followers to content they otherwise might not have been aware of.
Tactic #1: French Montana gets an A+ in harnessing his superstar friends to create buzz on Twitter. It’s terrific tabloid bait, the equivalent of the most popular girl in school Tweeting out spring break pics of her and her friends taking tequila shots with another group of popular girls you didn’t even know they knew. By associating himself with the “cool kids” and still remaining true to his hood brand, French is very quickly carving out a distinct spot in the Twitterscape, with great lessons to teach any brand that wants to remind people of its core values while continuing to grow, develop, and experiment.
And that leads me to tactic #2: if your brand is in a growth stage or is trying to move in a new direction, don’t feel like you need to be Tweeting out only one type of content or message to drill it in. People respond with greater interest when there’s a range of content showing them who you are and also who you want to come.
Tactic #1: Kid Cudi is one of Twitter’s hip-hop philosopher kings. He specializes in deep thoughts, and people pay attention, as with this Tweet – Cudi’s most engaging of the past two weeks.
What can brands learn from this? That Twitter uses respond to this kind of thoughtful content on a platform not typically turned to for its meditative nature, and that ideas which connect to users on a deeper level have great viral power that all brands should consider harnessing for themselves. As this competitive leaderboard of all the rappers mentioned here clearly shows, Cudi’s strategy is working.
He leads the list in engagement, even though he Tweets much less than the admittedly loquacious Joe Budden (and even less often than the average rapper on this list), and has way less followers than Drake. This speaks to Cudi’s followers liking the content for the same reason they like his music – a great example for brands who want their social media presence to reflect their core values and offerings.
Tactic #1: Always try to get your followers involved in the creation of your product. By calling on his Trill Mob (fans) to help design his crew’s upcoming fall apparel line, A$AP Rocky offers his followers some interactivity and gives them more reason to spread the word about his brand.
Tactic #2: Mob up. A$AP Rocky (who calls himself LORD FLACKO JODYE II on Twitter) is a member of a A$AP Mob, a hip-hop collective from Harlem of rappers, producers, video directors, and fashion designers who share similar interests in music, fashion, style, and art. By supporting his fellow collective members on Twitter and sharing the @ASAPMOB handle with them, A$AP Rocky proves there’s strength in numbers.
Tactic #1: Macklemore is a great curator on Twitter, sharing with followers all he considers important, whether it’s pure music, information on philanthropic efforts, or videos of interviews with his favorite artists.
Macklemore’s hodgepodge feed is a reliably diverse source of information on the State of the Industry (at least through Macklemore’s eyes), but I don’t think this quality is intentional. I think Macklemore is just directing followers towards content he finds engaging – his lens of interest and access just so happens to be panoramic and varied. Where do your natural strengths lie, personally, as a Social Media Manager, Community Manager, leader of Twitter strategy at your company? Where do those strengths and/or interests coincide with who your brand is and what it’s hoping to achieve?
The more passionate you feel about what you’re Tweeting, the more engaged others will feel about your content – that’s just science. So, is it more appropriate for your brand to work towards becoming the go-to filter of industry information, or should you focus on developing your own immediately recognizable and attention grabbing personality (à la Juicy J)? This is an important decision to make – and stand by – for brands looking to find success on Twitter.
Who did I miss?
And what branding lessons can we learn from those left off this list? I’d like to be clear – the hip-hop artists on this list aren’t necessarily my favorite artists to listen to or the most fascinating artists to me personally or even the hip-hop artists with the biggest follower counts, but they are all steadily growing their Twitter presences, and boast well-defined brands on the social media platform that all brands can learn from. Let me know what you think in the comments below!