Mak­ing a So­cial Me­dia Im­pres­sion

Inc. (USA) - - LAUNCH - Pho­to­graph by Jeff Min­ton

After spend­ing his teenage years in the Mi­ami R&B group Pretty Ricky, Spectacular Blue Smith found a sec­ond call­ing as a so­cial me­dia guru. His Ran­cho Cu­ca­monga, Cal­i­for­nia–based com­pany, Ad­wizar, man­ages and mon­e­tizes the ac­counts of more than 100 ac­tors, mu­si­cians, and athletes. Last year, Ad­wizar’s ten­ta­cles reached Hol­ly­wood-size pro­por­tions, with more than 300 bil­lion so­cial me­dia im­pres­sions. —ASTOLDTOKATEROCKWOOD

I NEVER KNEW what an en­tre­pre­neur was, but I al­ways knew I wanted to make money. I re­mem­ber in fifth grade, my school had a candy drive and I went crazy—go­ing door to door for days, ask­ing my mom to sell to her friends. At the end of it, I’d sold more than $1,000 worth of candy and I got to pick out some­thing from the prize cat­a­log. I earned ... a yo-yo?!

I’M NO ID­IOT; I knew I’d been robbed. I de­cided to sell candy for my­self. But I was sell­ing out by sec­ond pe­riod. There was only so much candy I could carry, so I started ask­ing peo­ple if they wanted to make money. I paid $20 every Fri­day, and if they could sell three bags a week, they’d make an ex­tra $5. I didn’t know what I was do­ing, but I had pay­roll and an in­cen­tive pro­gram. I was killing it, mak­ing $2,000 some weeks—more than my mom, more than enough to buy a car when I was still 14.

I LEFT THE CANDY BUSI­NESS be­hind and joined Pretty Ricky with my broth­ers. A fam­ily mem­ber—our man­ager and la­bel owner—took care of all my money un­til my late 20s. He made some bad de­ci­sions and left me with noth­ing. I was liv­ing with that fam­ily mem­ber and had no re­spon­si­bil­i­ties or stress, un­til one day he got an­gry about some­thing and kicked me out of the house. I left with no money or clothes, and went to my girl­friend’s mom’s house.

ONE OF MY GUYS CALLED me up and said that I could make money off of tweet­ing, and my first ques­tion was: “Where do I sign up?” I worked al­most 18 hours a day on my girl­friend’s mom’s lit­tle com­puter in her den, build­ing up my Twit­ter page. Within the first 30 days, I started mak­ing $15,000 from mon­e­tiz­ing posts with ads sold against them. By the time I left my girl­friend’s mom’s house six months later, I’d earned about $100,000.

I LOVED IT— and I loved mak­ing money from it. Once I put my mind to some­thing, I go full throt­tle. After two or three months, it wasn’t mov­ing fast enough, so I cre­ated par­ody ac­counts. Jay-Z, Ed­die Mur­phy—who­ever was hot at the time, I’d make a par­ody ac­count, post in their voice, grow the fol­low­ing, and then sell against that en­gage­ment. My pages had six mil­lion com­bined fol­low­ers, and I could make some­thing trend within 30 min­utes.

ONE DAY, the whole busi­ness changed when I had a con­ver­sa­tion with Soulja Boy and Sean Kingston. They had six mil­lion and eight mil­lion fol­low­ers on Face­book, and they didn’t know how to mon­e­tize that. Busi­ness is solv­ing a prob­lem, and that’s a prob­lem. I knew how to solve it—at scale. I wound down all the par­ody ac­counts and went after clients re­ally ag­gres­sively.

THE THING IS, if you don’t know so­cial me­dia mon­e­ti­za­tion and some­one talks to you about mak­ing $20,000 a month, it sounds like blow­ing smoke. But I come from the mu­sic busi­ness, where ev­ery­thing is about ad­vances and get­ting the money up front, so that’s what I did. I gave peo­ple $20,000 or more, de­pend­ing on how big their so­cial me­dia fol­low­ing was. Then they knew I wasn’t blow­ing smoke—they lis­tened to how I was go­ing to re­coup my costs and then make us both money. Word of mouth spread, and busi­ness blew up.

LAST YEAR, Ad­wizar con­tent had nearly 240 mil­lion fol­low­ers. I don’t do it all my­self any­more:

I built a team of strate­gists, con­tent cre­ators, ac­count man­agers. You can see by the num­bers that we know what we’re do­ing. Celebri­ties see that. Ac­tors or mu­si­cians or athletes put in hard work to build this fan base, and they should be able to cap­i­tal­ize on that. I’m bridg­ing that gap.

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