DJ Khaled: The King Of Snapchat
ADWEEK|Feb 15, 2016

Hip-hop's 'King of Snapchat' shares a message of unrelenting positivity, making true believers of 14 million followers and brands like Apple Music.

Kristina Monllos

King of Snapchat DJ Khaled wants you to know he’s up to something. Of course, if you follow him on the wildly popular mobile platform, you already know that. He takes to the app every day to share with the world exactly what he’s doing, and planning, and thinking—producing a record, paling around with hip-hop star Nas, praising Ciroc vodka, sharing inspirational life lessons—all in his particular brand of extreme magnetism crossed with blustering machismo.

As for what he’s most interested for you to know at this moment, maybe you caught his snap from last Monday when he was in the studio with artist Future, dancing along to music that those watching, however, were not allowed to hear. The text over the snap - “I wish you could [hear] this I’m working!!! [You’ll] see!”—is punctuated by his signature emoji, a gold key, signifying an alert about an upcoming project or one of Khaled’s keys to success. Later that day, a few more snaps in the same vein follow, with Khaled, in his distinctively gravelly timbre, promising that when he’s done with this album, “it’s going to be crazy.”

To the casual follower of his Snapchat, it would appear what we’ve got here is just another super confident hip-hop personality living large and boasting about it. That assumption would be woefully off-base. Khaled isn’t merely promoting himself and his work to millions - he has figured out how to use the ephemeral nature of Snapchat to his advantage by tapping into his followers’ voyeuristic tendencies and making the world of music, celebrity and mega-success accessible. Consumer brands like Ciroc, Sabra and Apple Music are tapping into Khaled’s massive social following, with some 6 million people checking out his day-to-day activities via Snapchat, he says. (Only Snapchat users know how many followers they have.) Khaled boasts 14.3 million total followers across Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

In 2006, when the 40-year-old, whose real name is Khaled Mohamed Khaled, released his debut Listennn… the Album—the first of eight records that showcase his mastery of the anthem and the Miami hip-hop sound—Snapchat didn’t even exist yet. Neither did mobile apps. Today, Snapchat claims 100 million users and 7 billion video views on any given day, and has the undeniable power to boost a career like Khaled’s. And while he’s been in the music scene for some time, his social media stardom has brought him to a whole new level. Last month, he signed with the Hollywood talent agency UTA and is set to appear in the forthcoming, untitled flick Judd Apatow is working on with The Lonely Island guys.

When asked to explain how a middle-aged guy became one of the hottest personalities on social media (The Washington Post bestowed that “King of Snapchat” on him), Khaled doesn’t so much lay out the steps to his success as he stresses that he has earned it. To him, the fact that he’s now blowing up in the social sphere is the result of years of toil— and in his mind, doesn’t have all that much to do with a now-famous Jet Ski incident last December that had him lost at sea for a couple of hours and posting snaps the whole time, in fact kick-starting all the buzz around his Snapchat feed.

Still, Khaled insists, “I’ve been saying these keys for 10 years. I’m just telling you what the keys to success to me [are], you know what I’m saying? And I’m telling my story, but you know what? A lot of us can relate.”

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