Adwizar: Spectacular Smith's Approach to Media Marketing
"Spectacular" Blue Smith is best-known for his time as a member of the R&B/hip-hop group Pretty Ricky. But in recent years he has reinvented himself as a social media guru. While he's still a musician (a solo album is coming soon), the past few years have seen the majority of his time devoted to his business Adwizar.
Adwizar is a company that manages and monetizes social media accounts. The 25-person business, based out of Los Angeles, runs accounts for major stars, primarily in urban music, though they are opening up a sports vertical as well. Clients (or "partners," in Adwizar lingo) include Birdman, Jermaine Dupri, J. Holiday, Soulja Boy, Kevin Gates, Fat Joe, and nearly 100 others.
The company's main strategy is to post viral content on the partner's Facebook page, and then sell ad space on the resulting articles. I sat down with Smith at the offices of Big Machine Agency in New York to discuss his turn from musician to social media star. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Shawn Setaro: What can you tell me about Adwizar? What is it?
“Spectacular” Blue Smith: Adwizar is a platform for influencers, entertainers, or athletes to maximize off their following. We have a minimum of a million followers to even qualify. Once we have them on the platform, we will have engaging content for the audience. Whatever it is, it’ll be tailored around their demographic. So if it’s an athlete, then we’ll do sports content. Or we would create content that’s custom around the actual brand itself, and build a massive audience with it. We figured out a formula to grow at least 20,000 new fans a week and increase the reach at least five million a week for each individual person on the platform.
Setaro: You are providing this content? The person who is signing up with you doesn’t have to do anything?
Smith: Zero. I tell them, run your page exactly as you’ve been running it, and think of us as added value to your team. So you’re getting this whole staff of marketing gurus and social media experts for absolutely free. Once we get you to where you’re super-engaged, we monetize it with advertisers.
We do some of everything. We do deals where we would take their brand and put it into a product. Like, we created a Like Mike jersey for Bow Wow. We do advertising deals like that, and then we also post clickbait or stories that are relevant to their brand, that their fans would want to click on. And of course once you get to the actual website [that has the stories], advertisers bid on banner placements for the traffic.
Setaro: So any clickbait story would direct people to a separate website that you guys would build and maintain?
Setaro: So this works with their existing social media accounts?
Smith: Exactly. It’s their social media account. I give an example of being in a club and the DJ sucks. All these people are in the club, but everybody’s bored. You have the fanbase there, but they’re not engaged.
You can have a million followers and have 500 people liking your picture. So our job is to switch out the DJ and get the people partying. You have the people, so now get them active. Now since you've joined Adwizar, instead of getting 500 likes, your post is getting 5,000 or 10,000 likes.
Setaro: What can you tell me about how you're increasing engagement?
Smith: We know what viral content looks like, and we know how to duplicate the viral model. So we create fresh pitches, we do photo shoots, we create viral videos, and sometimes we even find viral videos that we have licenses to.
Setaro: You've claimed that Pretty Ricky made over $200,000 in a year using these methods.
Smith: Yeah. But that was starting from 400,000 followers. Now, another case study we did, a guy named Mighty Duck, we took his page from a million followers, and within a year timespan, he went up four million followers. Now he’s at 5.5 million. He does $12,000 a week from the advertisers who are bidding for banner placement.
Setaro: Prior to forming this company, what was your experience with social media? How did you figure out these ideas?
Smith: I was in a group, of course – Pretty Ricky. I was on top of the charts and touring and everything. But I’m an entrepreneur at heart. One of my guys called me and said, you can make money off of tweets. At the time, I had 50,000 followers. So I was posting and making money off of tweets. But I felt like, if I had 50,000 followers and I was making this much money, then if I had 100,000, I would make double. So I came up with creative ways to build a mass following without using my own social media network.
I came up with the idea of creating parody accounts. So I created Will Ferrell accounts, Beyoncé accounts, Katt Williams accounts, Angelina Jolie accounts. I was creating all these different accounts and speaking in their voices and building this massive following. People liked to follow my pages more than their actual pages because the actual Will Ferrell wouldn’t post funny stuff all day.
It grew so fast. All my networks have four million followers in total, and I was making $50,000 a month off of that. Two years ago, I decided to do it for more than just myself. I took that same formula to Facebook. I heard it was 20 times more viral. And that’s when I started the case study with Pretty Ricky. Once I had an actual, unbreakable system that I could do at scale, then I took on my first client, which was J. Holiday. So now I’m killing it. I’ve got about 100 clients – I say “partners” – and I’m building day by day.
Setaro: Why do people need at least a million followers before you'll work with them?
Smith: Because if you have a million followers, we can work with that. I’ll use the example of a club. I don’t want to come in and take over a club night, and you have only 20 people in the club. I want to come and have something to work with. We can make residual income off of it, and it’s going to be worth my while. I have employees. If I’m going to put a whole team that’s dedicated to your brand, I want to see something out of it.
Setaro: Do you plan on continuing to grow this company yourself, or is the endgame to sell it to a Facebook or an ad firm?
Smith: If you offer me the right price. I just launched Adwizard Sports with Mike Bibby, and we’re going to take off full throttle with the sports, getting these sports figures' pages up to where they’re supposed to be engagement-wise and making them some money off their social media.
Setaro: Facebook is always changing its algorithms and changing what people see in their feeds. How do you keep on top of that?
Smith: Knowing the right thing to post. The algorithm is based on the behavior of the users who follow you. If they’re engaging in your content, they're going to see more of your stuff. So by me consistently posting this engaging content, they’re going to show my stuff on their feed. Every time Facebook changes something I’m never affected, because I have engaging pages.
Setaro: How do you add viral stories to a page that make sense with the identity of the artist?
Smith: It all depends on how the artist wants to run their page. Some guys say, post whatever you want. Some guys say, stick directly to the niche and we’ll create custom content that’s around their brand. So if you’re a guy who likes shoes, and your fanbase likes shoes, then we’ll post different articles about shoes. Your fans are happy, you’re happy, everybody’s happy. We have to test and figure out what the fans like, and create it in bulk.
Setaro: Can you talk about building a business that depends on Facebook? Does that make you nervous at all?
Smith: It definitely makes you nervous, because you don’t know if it’s going to be the next MySpace – the biggest thing ever, and then it just disappears. But I have a lot of faith in Facebook, and I know they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
But that’s another reason why I added to my business model. I started off just using websites for advertisement, and now I’m bringing product deals to the table. If you’re getting royalties off of different things, then money is going to roll in whether Facebook exists or not.
We can build on any platform. We can build on Twitter, we can build on Facebook, we can build on Snapchat, we can do anything because it’s all this formula. I came from Twitter. So if I can do it on Twitter, I can do it on Facebook. If another social media platform comes, I can do it on that. I have 1.7 million on Google Plus. I know how to build a following. So no matter what platform comes, I understand social media. I can run any page, and my team is qualified to make anything grow.
Setaro: Is this business helping to grow your audience as a performer?
Smith: Yes and no. I’m creating relationships from this and bringing it towards my performance. Like, I do Master P’s page and we create a relationship for him to be my mentor, and that helps me with my career. We have Soulja Boy. I'm in the studio talking business with him, and we end up doing a record together. So everything pretty much goes together.
Setaro: What is the ultimate benefit to someone who partners with Adwizar?
Smith: The ultimate benefit is growing their fanbase and awareness of their brand. Some people pay a million dollars for commercials on the Super Bowl, and don’t know if one person is going to go out and buy their product. With Adwizar, you have this massive fanbase that you could continuously promote to no matter what.
You could take that influence that we’re building, that engagement and reach, and promote whatever you want – some glasses, a t-shirt, a clothing line, or whatever you want to do to capitalize off that audience that Adwizar built for you. That’s the main goal.
Setaro: When did you discover you had a knack for social media?
Smith: 2009, when I realized there was money to be made.
I can tell you a quick story. In sixth grade, everybody always used to be hungry, saying they want candy, so I decide I’m going to start selling candy. Now, once I started, I had $40 worth of candy, and my bookbag was only so big. My class had seven periods. By the time I got to third period, everyone was like, “Spec, I need more candy.” And I was like, “I’m sold out!”
So I started asking everybody, "You want to sell candy? You want to make some money?" At this time, I’m a kid, I didn’t know what I was doing – I'm only 11 years old. But I got 10 people to work for me. I said, meet me at the beginning of school and I’ll give you a $25 bag of candy. You sell this candy for a whole week, I’m going to give you $20. If you sell out of this candy more than three times in one week, I’m going to add another $5.
I was a kid. Nobody taught me this. Now I understand, I had incentive for them, which was the extra $5. I had them on payroll. And I was making more than my mom. Sometimes I’d make $1,500 a week, $2,000 a week.
So I started at 11, being an entrepreneur, getting something and taking it to the next level. With social media, I said, okay, it took me four years to gain this following I have on Twitter. Now what if I have somebody like Akon, with 40 million followers already? What can I do with that? That’s why I started.