I am a life-long fan of hip-hop music, so I’m always pleased when my musical tastes intersect with my professional life. I attended the Watch The Throne tour last night at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, where hip-hop stars Kanye West and Jay-Z put on a great show in front of a sold out crowd.
Watching a legend like Jay-Z perform on stage, whose career has spanned almost 20 years (which is almost unheard of for a musical genre that heavily favours new sounds and emerging talent,while virtually ignoring more seasoned artists), was quite a sight. What struck me was his presence – the way he controlled the stage and was incredibly comfortable performing in front of so many people. I have seen him perform many times and I always impressed by the consistency and quality he bring to each show.
But what made me think of what lessons he can offer to you as someone promoting themselves or a product using social media was how Jay-Z has shaped his image over the years. For the uninitiated, Jay went from a petty drug dealer in his youth to a respected rapper to a multimillionaire business mogul in less than two decades. Quite a success story.
There are a few lessons from his rise that are important for you to keep in mind when promoting yourself online:
1. Have A Core Quality Product
While Jay-Z may own basketball teams and write book, at his core he is an excellent rapper: “best rapper alive” as he is fond of saying. And his peers acknowledge this. So while he may delve into a number of other ventures and projects, he know that first and foremost, he is a rapper.
It is important to identify, focus on and promote your core service offerings at all times, ensuring that your primary service never degrades in terms of quality. At the same time, just like Jay-Z’s delivery and sound as, it needs to evolve over time, while never losing its initial value. If people come for your widgets, make sure those widgets never disappoint – no matter how your brand evolves.
2. Always Be Authentic
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of posts from social media gurus telling you to remain transparent and authentic in how you present yourself in a social media environment. Jay-Z is a perfect example of how that can pay off. In the pursuit of appealing to a wider audience, there is immense pressure on rappers, artists, actors, business and brands to become what others feel the public wants. As Jay-Z is quick to remind us, “I ain’t crossover I brought the suburbs to the hood”.
Jay knew that his core product had a high value. He knew that if he presented it to an audience, he knew they would respond positively. He refused to change who he was based on the opinions/advice of others. But that takes confidence: in your product, your abilities, your plan.
But it has been proven time and again: whether you’re Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga or Jay-Z, if you’ve done your research and are confident of who you are, people naturally respond to that authenticity. Jay-Z doesn’t spend any time in the projects he raps about. But he never forgets that is what made him who he is, that is what people come to see and that is what he delivers.
3. Ensure Brand Consistency
Building on top of that, whenever I look at anything Jay-Z is involved with, I am always impressed that he never strays from his core brand: a man with humble beginnings from Brooklyn, New York who always has a pulse on the latest trends. Even in his early days, Jay-Z always represented what was hot in the streets and brought that to a wider audience. He was and is known as a tastemaker who is intuitively at the front of many popular waves.
But he always does so through the lens of his brand – a NY rapper from the hood with swagger to spare. He adopts trends and concepts and filters them through a gritty, urban culture, while putting his unique stamp on it. From websites to book covers, his brand reflects that consistency.
In the ever-changing world of social media, which is often at the forefront of popular culture, it is important whatever product you create and promote has that same rigid consistency. Decide what your brand means and how you want others to view it. Then maintain the discipline to ensure that same consistency over everything you publish and affiliate your brand with online.
Jay-Z realized early on that a successful career meant moving beyond merely being a rapper. But he also knew that in order to maintain any success he achieved, he would still need to remain one of the best to hold a mic. Holding that wider view, while being confident and consistent on who you are and how you present yourself is an approach that will serve you well in the online environment.