By Randee Dawn
Once, he was Leonard McKelvey; today he’s Charlamagne tha God. But whatever you name him, a specific definition remains elusive. Charlamagne is just great at being Charlamagne, a man with the No. 1 syndicated hip hop radio show in the country (called The Breakfast Club) and a new MTV2 TV show, Uncommon Sense with Charlamagne. But Charlamagne is also a heavy user of social media, with more than 1.1 million followers on Twitter, nearly 650,000 on Instagram, and 96,000 “likes” on his Facebook page. He spoke with Cynopsis’ Randee Dawn about how he mastered social media and keeps technology (radio) fresh and new. (Hint: Use a knife and fork.)
Cynopsis: In the age of podcasting and streaming, don’t millennials see traditional radio as old school?
Charlamagne: I don’t think so, and we can’t allow those of us in radio to be irrelevant. The people I work for at iHeartMedia aren’t acting like old media guys; instead of fighting the internet, they embrace it. My show goes online immediately in the form of a podcast. You have to welcome the new ways of technology.
Cynopsis: How important is growing your social media presence to boosting your brand?
Charlamagne: Very. I grew up in the social media era. I’m a communicator, and this is another form of communication – like direct-to-consumer. I think it changed the game for radio. It made it appointment listening. It’s like a steak knife and a fork: Radio is your fork, social media is the steak knife. One makes it easier to cut up the other and eat it.
Cynopsis: What one post have you put up that drew you the most attention?
Charlamagne: The whole situation about [former NAACP chapter president] Rachel [Dolezal], who said she identifies with being African-American. I saw the outrage behind it, and it was funny to me and it made me think of Caitlyn Jenner, who made her [gender] transition. [Charlamagne posted multiple tweets on June 12 such as, “If Bruce Jenner can be a woman Rachel Dolezal can be black.”] TMZ had me on. I’m like, why is that a big deal?
Cynopsis: What advice do you have for people who want to raise their social media profile?
Charlamagne: Increase what you’re doing in real life. There are people who have a million followers and don’t tweet, but it’s what they do outside of social media that interests other people.
Cynopsis: What mistakes should they avoid?
Charlamagne: Treat social media the same way you treat [driving] a car. Social media is machinery. You may say things that rub people the wrong way and you can’t take it back once you’ve said it. If you tweet while emotional or under the influence, you’ll probably end up regretting it.
Cynopsis: There’s been a lot of discussion recently about the use and abuse of shaming people publicly using social media. Is public shaming a useful tool or something that is not of our better nature?
Charlamagne: There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with someone. But if I say something like, “I don’t necessarily believe a woman can live inside a man” and I’m not trying to be offensive, don’t attack me and call me trans-phobic. That’s how I feel. Everybody’s talking about how they feel. I’m having a conversation; it’s not shaming. How can we understand differences if we can’t have a conversation? Social media is a lot about groupthink.
Cynopsis: You’ve got a lot of fingers in a lot of pies. Is it more important for people to be well-rounded than specialists these days if they plan to expand their brand?
Charlamagne: Absolutely. That’s why I never pigeonhole myself. I don’t know what I’m good at until I try it. You have to master one thing first – I put in my 10,000 hours of mastery with radio. That allows me to experiment with other things. I’m no one-trick pony.
Uncommon Sense with Charlamagne premieres on MTV2 on July 10.
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