Yet another celebrity has entered into the social media world. This time it is Jermaine Dupri. Celebrities and the digital world have had a strange relationship. Count the not so great start- ups, such as Damon Dash´s BlockSavvy. Then you have Russell Simmons´ Global Grind hanging on. So why did Dupri not go for another market? A sure thing? The lure of the Internet is powerful.
The mega producer launched his Global 14 Social networking community late in January, which he claims will be the “coolest, hippest city” on the Internet. He told the press it will be different than traditional social networking sites in that users will be ‘social notifying’ each other rather than sharing information.
For digital media and branding expert Hajj E. Flemings (http://www.hajjflemings.com), Dupri will have to pull out, “Strategy. Strategy. Strategy. Social media starts with a strategy not with followers or friends.” Flemings adds. “Celebrities sometimes confuse their ability to get people to follow them, with their ability to establish, maintain and grow a thriving social network. The two are not the same. Social media is the new shiny ball in the room and many people want to create the next Facebook. Remember Facebook is not out making movies, writing songs, or modeling; it is singularly focused on its core business which validated its $82.9 billion valuation in Businessweek.”
But how will Dupri succeed when so many other celebrities have failed? According to Flemings, “It is hard to say what Jermaine Dupri’s chances of succeeding are without knowing his strategy. Let’s look at Myspace, which was an industry leader. Myspace in January reported cutting 47% of its workforce and is going through some major financial woes. Myspace has an established infrastructure and is owned by NewsCorp and they are having issues staying afloat. Since Jermaine is in the same industry, I would assume he wants to build Global14 with a similar model. My question is what is he going to do different than Myspace to engage his audience?”
Right off the bat, Durpi will have those surfers who want to check out just what Dupri is doing, but the key will be getting them as members. Says Flemings, “Jermaine will have no problem getting followers initially. Remember, adding followers/friends is not a strategy! For Jermaine to have sustained success he will need a strong strategy, infrastructure, patience, and be committed to this project. His social network will need to be integrated into the overall marketing structure of his business. It can’t operate as a stand-alone Web site. He has to clearly define his business model and answer the following questions: how is this social network going to make money for him? How do I engage my target audience in a way that makes them want to commit their time to Global14.”
But the question still remains: with minority users, especially African Americans, so tied into the Net, how come there aren´t any really successful social network sites that cater particularly to them?
In fact, according to research by The Pew Internet & American Life Project, part of the Pew Research Center, “Today, as mobile technology puts computers in our pockets, Latinos and Blacks are more likely than the general population to access the Web by cellular phones, and they use their phones more often to do more things…And Blacks and Latinos may be using their increased Web access more for entertainment than empowerment. 51 percent of Latinos and 46 percent of Blacks use their phones to access the Internet, compared with 33 percent of whites, according to a July 2010 Pew poll. 47 percent of Latinos and 41 percent of blacks use their phones for e-mail, compared with 30 percent of whites. The figures for using social media like Facebook via phone were 36 percent for Latinos, 33 percent for Blacks and 19 percent for whites. A greater percentage of whites than Blacks and Latinos still have broadband access at home, but laptop ownership is now about even for all these groups, after Black laptop ownership jumped from 34 percent in 2009 to 51 percent in 2010.
So can urban-oriented sites make it big? “They are competing with the mainstream social networks: Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter that already have critical mass. For the average person, they are already connected with their friends in one of the major social networks,” notes Flemings. “So they have to answer the questions: What is the value proposition? Why should I manage multiple profiles in multiple social networks when all of my friends are in Facebook?”