What You Could Learn From … Soulja Boy’s Social Media Marketing Success

Using YouTube and Twitter, how a young entrepreneur took his strategy straight to the bank

In a recent chat with the Wall Street Journal, recording artist Soulja Boy detailed how he's used a social media strategy to gain profits.

Tell the truth: When you saw the name Soulja Boy in the headline, you grimaced, right? After all, what could the average professional or entrepreneur learn from a guy who has blown his nose with $100 bills and flaunted his perceived wealth via a video showcasing money stuffed in shoe boxes and lavish diamond-encrusted pendants? (And let us not forget his infamous “shout out” to slave masters and controversial lyrics, which have received significant backlash.)

But on Oct. 29, the 20-year-old platinum-selling recording star–whose smash “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” made him one of the youngest artists to have a No. 1 single on Billboard’s Hot 100–sat down with Lee Hawkins of the Wall Street Journal to discuss how he used social media to expand his brand and ultimately, his profits. Despite his controversial missteps, such a discussion brings to light social media marketing strategies that could benefit almost any burgeoning entrepreneur or BE Nexter.  

See the video below, and then read our tips for what you can learn from it.


Strategically using social media to build a fan/consumer/follower base on an independent grassroots level can provide a big boost to a company bottom line:

  • Positioning: Soulja Boy told the WSJ that as a high schooler he used a free music community site that incorporates social media called SoundClick to download his music. He says he “built his name” on the site, reaching Top 10 among artists and decided to expand, creating a Myspace profile where he began to get requests for performances.
  • Linking: He linked the pages so that users who visited his SoundClick profile would also be directed to his Myspace page, (which has now amassed more than 86 million views). With linking the pages, he says plays of his songs began to increase and, after he reached his first million, he says he then began making money from the downloads, generating over $100,000 via SoundClick with a deal that lets artists sell their songs for $1 (with 50% going back to SoundClick.) He says he averaged about 19,000 downloads per day via SoundClick.

Check out our related content on maximizing your social media strategy:

Social Media: The New Currency

What’s Your Social Media Strategy

Engaging with a consumer/fan base and presenting an idea/concept/product in a way cool enough to go viral can also expand your brand exposure and profits:

  • Independent DIY: As an unsigned artist, he created his own YouTube channel (which has garnered almost 30 million views) as well as his other Web pages, where he’d feature self-made videos. The “Crank That” dance which went along with his single “Crank That (Soulja Boy), (which broke records in 2008 with more than three million for digital downloads of the song) became viral and helped boost popularity for the single.
  • Viral Vision: The You Tube instructional video had more than 20 million views since being added to You Tube, and sparked the creation of tens of thousand of homemade videos featuring the dance.  Subsequently, the single rose to the top of the Hot 100 Billboard chart. Soulja Boy tells WSJ that he now has an ad-sharing deal with You Tube, generating quite a bit of revenue outside of what he takes home from the usual record deal funds.

Paying attention to new innovations in technology could help grow your business:

  • What’s next: Soulja Boy says to promote his new album releasing later this month, he is using a service called SayNow.com that allows users to subscribe to a phone number he is assigned, and when he leaves a voicemail message on that number, all of his subscribers (he currently has 4.9 million of them) will get his message. The rapper noted that he thinks it’s an even more effective way to actually talk to your fans than using Twitter–which limits you to 140 characters.

Read more: Check out our related content on how to increase your presence and monetize your brand via Web:

How to Capture the Eyes (and Wallets) of Web Users

How-to: Effective Marketing on Twitter

How to Increase Your Online Presence

What strategies have you used via social media to expand your brand/customer base/company exposure?

ACROSS THE WEB
  • Summer

    WOW IVE BEEN LISTENN TO U SINCE THE BEGINNING N I DONT KNW U BUT PROUD OF U REAL TALK KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK N I FEEL WE ALL CAN LEARN SOMETHING FROM U kisses

  • http://blackenterprise.com Janell Hazelwood

    Thanks Summer. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. And be sure to check out some of our other personal finance, careers, and entrepreneurship stories :)

  • sweetlittleme10

    Even though he has made good decisions in using YT and MySpace as avenues to promote himself and his music, inviting him to an event to speak is probably stretching it. I am almost positive he wouldn’t be able to articulate this process into anything remotely decipherable. Just because you make a video and know how to click upload does not make you a social media genius. Videos go viral for different reasons and there is no recipe for it. His music is clearly popular, but with whom and why? and are they who we are trying to reach? would they be receptive to something that isn’t about s.e.x, money, and drugs? Most people sheepishly follow the worst examples of role models simply because they don’t aspire to anything outside of their environment, and I dont think perpetuating this stereotype is a positive move.

    Also there are many black YT’ers, MySpacers, Facebookers, and Twitterers who have viral channels, successful business models and social media sites and are actually doing fantastic things in fashion, technology, media and broadcasting now because of it. How about doing a little RESEARCH and spotlighting them instead of giving shine to someone who would probably rather spend his time snorting his millions up his nose than attending your BE conference. Popular culture isn’t the only option (I know you need to sell magazines). I would rather hear someone speak about bootstrapping who isn’t the stereotypical “rap star” and who is actually living a life that I wouldn’t mind emulating.

    • cakinw

      in response to sweetlittleme10..he’s obviously not a great person they could have highlighted that has used social media to become popular,famous,etc. simply due to the fact that he doesn’t personify the ideal characteristics of what is expected or rather accepted. I won’t comment on your comment on his capability to manipulate the English language. I will say his very first mainstream hit had nothing to do with sex,drugs or money..it was just about a dance! Also, insinuating that he would rather be “spend his time snorting his millions up his nose than attending your BE conference” is quite presumptuous,harsh and is a very unnecessary comment. He is definitely not a “stereotypical “rap star” “,as no one before him has used this type of avenue to promote and sell him/herself. Actually most rappers before him have had DJs(underground and mainstream) and record labels do the work of promotion for them. So for that, I must commend him.

      As for my comment on the video itself,this is just what i expect from him,he did not surprise me with great articulation nor did he “put his foot in his mouth” with any stupid or silly comments. Simply, I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavours.

  • cakinw

    Another thing,having the ability to articulate oneself properly definitely does not translate to someone being smart or intelligent. Nor does someone being smart or intelligent necessarily mean that he/she can articulate him/herself .

  • malak

    ????

  • http://wakingupbroke.blogspot.com Lawrence

    Maybe not the ideal guest for the WSJ sit down interview, but I think we can glean so much from what is said and not directly said in this interview…..for the people making comments about him using drugs I think that is a sign that you do not understand the culture or implications of what Soulja boy said….the one thing I liked and I am sorry to say should be highlighted in another story is his relationship with his Father….unlike so many other “rappers” that focus their music on the pain of not having a father and make that an excuse as to why they sold drug etc….We should endeavor to find out more about the role of his father in making him a star.

  • TJ

    lol…I find it funny that some people are questioning whether or not Soulja Boy was “smart enough” or intelligent enough to handle an interview with the WSJ…well this kid was smart enough to make almost $10k per week while he was still in High School. I don’t care what you do for a living…you have no choice but to give props to Soulja Boy’s hustle.

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  • JZ

    Intelligence and “hustle” are not the same thing. There are a lot of idiots who can shake their tail and make money. That doesn’t mean they’re “smart”, or that they’re worthy of my respect. 

    • PS

      Is intelligence measured by success? Or is success based on the amount of intelligence one possess? I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, it never ceases to amaze me that we are so quick to judge. I am not a fan, but after reading this article regarding Soulja Boy’s accomplishments, it proves that we can all learn from one another. I am an MBA grad, and after reading how Soulja Boy was able to strategically take his career to entirely different level is pure genius! No, I don’t agree with music that has a negative impact on society. However, I will always give my sisters and brothers, the credit they deserve, using the intelligence they possess to move forward in life!

  • http://sides2truth.wordpress.com/ sides2truth

    Remember who you were and “where” you were at that age. If we had to look at a video of an interview of ourselves, regardless of how articulate we were (or believed we were) there may be a cringe or too. We may disagree and/or agree, but one thing is certain…this young man is not in jail, not on the block, and not in the cemetary. Think about it…

  • Alejandro

    Ms. Hazlewood,

    This was an insightful, well-written piece that delves into the love/hate relationship urban music consumers have with Soulja boy. Many of us despise his music but respect his hustle as an entrepreneur/business man. And if you don’t, you should, because he perfected the blueprint for social network branding.

    We live in a microwave society, where mainstream music is consumed & discarded within minutes, and, well, Soulja understands this. *shrug*

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