In a keynote speech for Social Media Week, song writer and producer Jermaine Dupri spoke with iCrossing Chief Strategy Officer Adam Lavelle and Esquire Senior Editor Richard Dorment about his new social network Global 14. In the talk, he explained how shared passion, conversation and direct communication fuel his increasingly popular site.
PSFK chatted with Jermaine about the challenges and secrets of building a successful online community.
Everyone online today seems to be trying to build a community. Most fail. What was special about your approach that made Global 14 work so well?
Global 14 has succeeded because it is genuine and personal. As CEO of Global 14, I’m committed to making the community flourish. I treat Global 14 members as friends, not as casual followers. I interact personally with my community, and I share myself on the site each day. When I respond to something you wrote on Global 14, you’re really hearing from me, not someone I hired to manage my brand. And when Global 14 members see me posting content each day and interacting with the “Lifers” (as I call members), they are encouraged to share of themselves.
I also believe Global 14 succeeds because its members are bonded by shared passions. It’s a tight-knit community. People join Global 14 not only because they know who I am but because they share my passions for fashion, style, and music. Although people on Global 14 interact with each other as individuals, they typically join communities they’ve organized around their own interests such as relationships and movies. And communities reach out to new individuals and invite them. The sense of belonging is important.
For anyone trying to organize a community or network around something they do — what advice would you give them?
Be committed. You might attract a lot of members to a social network based on your brand name, but if you don’t invest time and effort interacting with your community personally, your network will die.
And be genuine. Don’t create a site using your own brand name and offload its management to someone else. I launched Global 14 with the promise that its members would interact with me personally, not someone on my team pretending to be me. When I become your friend on Global 14, you’re friends with me, for real.
I think these lessons apply to you whether you’re an individual celebrity or a company like Nike. You want to build a community? Treat your fans like friends, not followers.
We understand that you’re looking to evolve Global 14 to a lifestyle portal. Can you explain what you’re trying to do a little more – and why?
I’m taking Global 14 members on a journey. Because of my reputation, it’s not uncommon for people to join Global 14 for the hip-hop music you’ll find on the site. But very quickly Global 14 Lifers see that my world – the Global 14 world – is about much more than hip-hop. I’m about being an entrepreneur, enjoying good fashion, and living life with style. The most popular groups on Global 14 are about relationships, business networking, fashion, and movies along with music. I was bold enough to believe that by sharing my own lifestyle interests and passions, I could spark more communities inside Global 14 to grow. And that’s exactly what’s happening now.