Atlanta-based hip-hop mogul Jermaine Dupri is passionate about technology. He checks his BlackBerry and iPhone incessantly, pops in his Bose earbuds every chance he gets and is addicted to the popular video gameNBA 2K12.
But Dupri — the Grammy-award songwriter, rapper and producer known for collaborating with artists from Jay-Z to Mariah Carey and for previously dating Janet Jackson for more than eight years — calls social media his biggest tech love.
Although he has nearly 400,000 followers on Twitter
, he sought a deeper need to connect with fans and launched his own social network last year called Global 14
. The platform, which now consists of more than 30,000 members, gives people with common interests — from art and fashion to hip-hop and R&B — a place to discuss projects and passions in over 1,100 groups.
Dupri appeared earlier this at the Social Media Week keynote panel in New York City to discuss how he built that community online with Global 14.
“I look at Global 14 members as my personal friends,” Dupri told Mashable. “I’m not trying to take on Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg. I just created an environment where I can interact with my community and give people a place to chat about their passions. I have big plans for the site.”
The word “global’ in Global 14 refers to Dupri’s diverse tastes and aspirations to grow his community worldwide, while 14 refers to the letters in his name — “J” is the 10th letter in the alphabet and “D” is the fourth.
Dupri described Facebook
as a reunion site for friends, while he believes Twitter is a stream-of-consciousness site for updates and news. Instead, he wanted to create a place where like-minded people could talk about their favorite interests.
“[Global 14] started as a blog, where I posted pictures of cars, fashion, girls, art — all the things that I liked,” Dupri said. “A group of people started following the site and a direct dialogue began between me and the consumer.”
The site evolved into what Dupri calls “one big ‘Like’ button,” where people can comment and inspire others. One of the most unique aspects of the site is its music publishing section called G Jamz.
“I found a gap in the Internet social media world for music publishing — most kids don’t believe that someone like me could listen to their music,” Dupri said. “I found one of my signed artists through YouTube and it took me two months to have conservation with her because she didn’t believe it was actually me calling at first.”
“YouTube doesn’t have a person that calls up its members to help them get started in music,” Dupri added. “I started a contest designed for independent artists to help them get signed. My background is music and I owe it to music and to my fans to get involved.”
Dupri traveled to 14 cities in 14 days to promote his social network last year, encouraging people from the site to get together and meet each other in real life. Most recently, Dupri turned to digital marketing agency iCrossing to help boost the site’s search marketing and branding strategy.
Under iCrossing’s guidance, Global 14 recently joined Google+ and is gearing up to create original video content that addresses topics such as the future of social media and how to be a killer creative executive.
“I heard Steve Jobs
speak about putting his personal touch into the computer and that helped me understand why I love his products,” Dupri said. “You could feel that someone with such passion had gone over the products so many times before they came out. I make music not to make money, but because it’s in me. Things always work when I put my heart into it, and more brands need to do the same thing.”