Kanye is a media owner, and he just owned us all on Twitter


Kanye West has 21.6 million global Twitter followers, and he follows only 1: His wife, Kim Kardashian, who herself sits at a doubly impressive 43.5 million. To put that into the context, CNN has 24.5 million, the New York Times has 26.5 million, and the UK’s BBC World has 14 million. In other words, he’s right up there with any global media brand.

In addition to having a lot of Twitter followers, Kanye certainly knows how to use them. Earlier this year he unleashed a Twitter tirade on the world, raising his profile in the three places that matter most in the modern media: the online press, the social networks, and the Google rankings. His musings covered everything from life to lust, art to Disney, content to commercialisation, and everything that’s in-between. It was an artfully executed social media campaign leading up to the release of his album, which used conversation to sell content and saw the rapper top the Twitter and Facebook trending charts on countless occasions.

Now, there are differences at play. For a start, the New York Times is not a rapper, nor does it commercialise its content through record sales, be they plastic, vinyl, or otherwise. But there are some key messages that media brands can learn from the success of the Pablo Twitter campaign, and here are my top 3: 

1.     PR not marketing

The biggest mistake that most brands make when taking to Twitter is to view it as a marketing rather than a PR channel. Remember, you are not on social media to sell your products, you are there to communicate transparently with the wider world. And that is public relations 101.

2.     From Content to Conversation

Cynical as I may be about the intent of his tweets, there is a genuineness to Kanye’s ramblings. They remain conversational, colloquial, and at times self-deprecating… Reflecting and leveraging beautifully the media shift in recent years from didactic content to conversational dialogue.  

3.     Breaking down the fourth wall

Like his reality star Wife, Kanye isn’t afraid to offer transparency, and crossover between his personal and professional life, even if it attracts criticism. Breaking down the fourth wall and showing a human side – at times as confused and vulnerable as anyone else on the platform – has been a key to his success.

It’s undoubtedly been a masterclass from Kanye in how to leverage the modern media to make music pay. As social networking has retreated increasingly away from public towards private, and channels such as Facebook have quelled organic reach, Twitter remains a particularly good outlet for this. But regardless of channel the challenge remains the same: go out into the marketplace and make your content conversational, because in a social world taking a transparent public relations approach is the only way.  

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