How Cardi B Used Social Media to Take Over the World: The Truly Social Blog
By Angie Liu, Multi-Media Coordinator.
NOTE: As I was writing this, Cardi B deactivated her Instagram account @iamcardib for a week. Since reactivating, Cardi has deleted all previous content on her page. Videos from her Instagram were reposted on YouTube.
In April, rapper Cardi B released her debut album Invasion of Privacy. This long-awaited LP follows Cardi’s massive success, first as an Instagram celebrity, then as a reality tv star, and now a musical artist.
Her single, “Bodak Yellow” was played all over the radio and in the clubs in 2017, topping the Billboard 100 chart. The only other female rapper that has ever hit no. 1 on the Billboard charts (without a feature) was Lauryn Hill in 1998. While that single made Cardi popular with hip hop fans, she didn’t get her big break in pop music until Bruno Mars featured her on the remix of his track, “Finesse” which hit no. 1 on Billboard’s adult r&b chart in April this year, proving that anything Cardi B touches turns to gold.
On Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B raps about the people who’ve doubted her success, expected her to be a one-hit wonder, and how she proved all of them wrong.
If you don’t know by now, Cardi B started her career as a stripper while she was living in the Bronx. It was during this time that she began posting videos on her Instagram account. They mostly consisted of rants about topics like sex, family, her work life as a stripper, and poverty.
She soon gained a huge following, and beyond the jokes and the memes that came from her videos, I could also see that this girl was smart and charismatic. The way Cardi vocalizes her thoughts turns some people off, but not because she’s wrong. She just says it her way. Unfiltered and unapologetic. In an age where I’ve been taught by everyone, from friends to teachers to potential employers, that I need to be careful of how I present myself online, I found Cardi’s voice so refreshing and relatable.
I remember seeing her videos for the first time on Tumblr around 2014-2015, on a post with hundreds of thousands of notes. I soon found her Instagram, which already had a couple million followers. A few months later, I heard that she was cast in "Love & Hip Hop: New York". Promoters started contacting Cardi to do club appearances and e-commerce brands like Fashion Nova paid Cardi to advertise their products. Fashion Nova was one of the first retailers to work with Cardi and they recently announced a clothing collaboration to be released in October 2018.
In recent years, the world has seen a rise in non-traditional celebrities including bloggers, Youtubers, and “Instafamous” personalities. (Djafarova, 2016). In a study conducted by Elmiria Djafarova, researchers interviewed women between the ages of 18-30 years old to determine how Instagram influences their buying behaviour. The study concluded that “users considered bloggers and ‘lower-end’ celebrities the most influential when listening to their opinions/stories.” One user said she considered non-traditional celebrities to be more trustworthy and relevant to her experiences. (Djafarova, 2016). This has proven to be true for Fashion Nova, who’s been known to partner exclusively with “instafamous” models and public figures the likes of Kylie Jenner and Teyana Taylor.
This makes me rethink everything I’ve been taught about appearing “professional” on social media. While I wouldn’t go so far as to post videos similar to Cardi’s style (I just don’t have the personality for it, TBH), I admire that her career started from her honesty and her IDGAF attitude.
In her Instagram videos, Cardi is often seen without her hair done, without makeup, and sometimes even without clothes. In her April 2018 cover interview with GQ, Cardi talks about her insecurities, her experience with gang life, and meeting Beyonce. She says, “When I met Beyoncé, people be like, ‘How that felt? I bet you was mad happy… It’s like, ‘Actually, I wanted to shit on myself.’” It’s that raw authenticity that makes her trustworthy to her followers. If Cardi B didn’t like something, she would declare it loudly, and therefore when she does advertise products, it must be because the product is good.
Cardi’s open and explicit nature seemingly renders her untouchable by rumours and scandals. Every brand that works with Cardi is aware of how she presents herself online. Even all her little catchphrases and noises are marketable, with companies like Amazon and Spotify cashing in on Cardi’s presence.
From a marketing standpoint, Cardi’s social media habits put in her a great position to engage with consumers. Her Instagram posts vary between single photos, albums, and videos. Khan, Dongping, and Wahab (2016) argue that levels of vividness in online content have a positive effect on brand fan engagement. Low vividness refers to images, whereas high vividness refers to videos, and we can see how much Cardi loves to post videos.
The study also argues that levels of interactivity and entertaining content have an impact on brand fan engagement (Khan, Dongping, and Wahab, 2016). Cardi has been known to interact with her fans in the comments of her Instagram page, and by replying to or retweeting fans on Twitter. Now that Cardi is a commercially successful artist, she doesn’t post as many of her rants anymore, but she’s still very open with her fans.
Some people might see Cardi B as too loud or too “ghetto” to be taken seriously as an artist. I see her as a talented, authentic self-starter who bends the rules to suit her needs. She’s on a different wavelength that fans and brands alike want to latch on to. Not to mention her music makes me want to dance and laugh at the same time.
I don’t know if Cardi ever meant for her personality to become her “brand” but the fact that she hasn’t had to change her outspokenness in the face of fame is admirable. I’m in awe of how she’s able to derail every single talk show or red carpet interview. How can someone be vulgar but so sweet and charming at the same time? It’s really an art, and one that she has perfected.
Djafarova, E., & Rushworth, C. (01.03.2017). Exploring the credibility of online celebrities' instagram profiles in influencing the purchase decisions of young female users Elsevier. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.11.009
Khan, I., Dongping, H., & Wahab, A. (2016). Does culture matter in effectiveness of social media marketing strategy? an investigation of brand fan pages. Aslib Journal of Information Management, 68(6), 694-715. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.library.sheridanc.on.ca/docview/1844295184?accountid=3455