Many athletes and celebrities just can’t handle Twitter. Common problems are showing off drug use, female exploitation, or racism. We’ve seen all too often that the downside outweighs the upside, and more than a few athletes have been reprimanded or even lost their jobs over bad decisions made on social media. Bad idea. All of the jokers misusing Twitter could learn a lesson from Jay-Z, who set the web on fire for a couple of hours this week by simply connecting with his fans. Jay-Z’s latest album “Magna Carta Holy Grail” came out yesterday, noticeably without much personal press from Mr. Carter. But there have been huge advertisements online, as well as an exclusive app for Samsung phones. The application in particular caused quite a bit of controversy after an article in the New York Times took a closer look at the privacy of the app, with problems including auto posts on Twitter and Facebook. The controversy probably didn’t sit well with Jay-Z, someone who constantly writes lyrics about staying out of other peoples’ business.
Problems with the app and a lack of personal press gave fans the perception that Jay-Z was high up on his ivory tower, too busy and important to connect with his followers. It’s easy to understand why. Let’s face it, the man has built quite the empire over the last 15 years. He grew up in Brooklyn selling drugs, and now he is a rap icon, business mogul, sports agent, and #42 on Time Magazine’s 2013 list of the Most Influential People in the world, in addition to being married to Beyonce. His ascent is the true American dream, and he demands (and receives) respect. Over the last few years, the perception of Jay-Z (Sean Carter) has been elevated from ultra famous rapper to business man, and now practically royalty. With his status, it’s understandable to think that he might be unapproachable, making it difficult for listeners to connect with his music. But on Monday, Mr. Carter made it clear that he’s not one to shut out fans.
Jay-Z has had a Twitter account (@S_C_) since 2009, but has tweeted less than 250 times. It’s been his practice not to respond to mentions, throw up a retweet, or interact in any way. That all changed this week, when on Monday, the following exchange happened:
This conversation was a boon to Jay-Z’s reputation for multiple reasons. He was an artist finding difficulty making a connection with his fans, titling a song “Tom Ford” after a luxury clothing brand that 90% of people, including many of his fans, can’t afford. But Jay-Z redeemed himself, using self-depreciating humor after a fan teased him on Twitter about Hanes undershirts.
After this exchange, the floodgates opened. For the next few hours, Jay spontaneously answered over 100 questions on Twitter, shining light on the life of an insanely private person. He told us that his new daughter Blue will be rooting for the New York Giants and even created his own hashtag, #mylaugh, a version of an LOL, using his iconic quick laugh. He talked about business, gave his opinion on the improvements made in Brooklyn, and my personal favorite, even let us know his favorite cereal.
In an effort to use Twitter as his direct voice, Jay-Z used the hashtag #factsonly to dispel any rumors of inaccurate statements coming from the press or other sources. As news began to spread that Jay was doing a Q&A, even celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Aziz Ansari got in and teased him about the Tom Ford song.
Issues with the Samsung app and a hands-off perception threatened to tarnish Jay-Z’s reputation, but he turned it around by opening up to his fans on Twitter. Being accessible, with real honesty and humor, proved to be an ingenious method for bringing interest back to what made Jay-Z famous in the first place: his music. I’m listening Magna Carta Holy Grail right now with a new appreciation for both the musician and the businessman.