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DJ Khaled’s School of Personal Branding

DJ Khaled is up to somethin’.

Being able to brand yourself is an essential skill in this era. He could easily tell you how. But it’s much more fun to watch the walking self-promo piece sing the praises of cocoa butter and place Ciroc in bamboo trees.

Call his Snapchat story goofy, stupid, or just entertaining. I’ll call it brilliant.

When DJ Khaled announced his foray into Snapchat in the fall of 2015, the world didn’t know it was being given one of the greatest demonstrations of social media use in the last decade.

In an interview with Tech Insider, Khaled explains he was reluctant to get Snapchat at first. But once he realized how directly he could engage those he wanted to inspire, he stepped it up.

“Snapchat is promoting my life. My life is that I’m a successful music man. I’m a mogul. You’re taking 10 years of success and now it’s being exposed to the masses in a different way. I’m giving you game.”

But one doesn’t simply serve life advice to millions of ravenous fans and not capitalize on it. Snapchat, as DJ Khaled said, has exposed him to people in a much different way. Seeing his infectious optimism play out in scenes as mundane as watering his plants has added layers to Khaled’s public image. He’s not just a producer/DJ anymore.

He’s the kind of guy you feature on Bloomberg Businessweek.


He’s the kind of guy you want talking to middle schoolers and college graduates.

From the Snap to the schools

In the Forbes article ‘Personal Branding Is A Leadership Requirement, Not a Self-Promotion Campaign,’ author Glenn Llopis explains that personal branding via social media has been done flippantly and irresponsibly.

A lot of folks really do believe social media catapults personal brands into stardom. But for all the independent artists, blogs, and YouTubers playing the followback game and spamming the fuck out of DMs worldwide, you would think everyone with a 6-figure following would be recognizable outside of Twitter.

Despite DJ Khaled’s preexisting fame, his Snapchat game is not garnering an audience because of his accolades or aggressive campaigns to watch him live his life. It’s because there is a feel to his life that people actually fuck with.

Going back to the Forbes article, Llopis stresses the importance of consistency in personal branding. And that doesn’t mean flooding people’s feeds with self-promo about all of your accomplishments. The requirement is, “to be a great role model, mentor, and/or a voice that others can depend upon.”

In other words, people should want to come to you for something. That something should be unique to you, and it needs to be consistent.

Nowhere else can you get inspiration in the form of egg-white breakfasts, skin care suggestions, and Miami beach views. Daily.

Nowhere else will you be reminded to never give up or secure your bag by a music mogul while he runs on his elliptical or sits in a jacuzzi. DAILY.

And take notes on Khaled’s techniques of self-valuation. It’s one thing to self-promote, but it’s another to actually convince people of what you think you are worth. Sure, some of his catchphrases could be considered obnoxious. But the significance of some of those sayings can stretch beyond that 2-minute Snap story:

  • “I’m up to somethin”- We all know you’re grinding, but only tell us if there’s something you’re going to give! When Khaled does break out this phrase, he provides us with informative yet slightly guarded clips of what it is that he’s up to, all wrapped up in that optimistic charisma of his.
  • “Another one”- When DJ Khaled completes a task or a project, he emphasizes the accomplishment with this fan-favorite phrase. You can’t avoid it when he offers a product or service to the world. He also makes sure his collaborators get their shine alongside him when, for instance, a record or one of his We The Best radio shows is out.
  • “My price went up”- I distinctly remember him shouting this while he Snapped a video with Naomi Campbell. It absolutely killed me. However, consider what it does to your perception of him. DJ Khaled uses this phrase when he’s associating himself with another high-profile figure, or he’s working on a project that will diversify his résumé upon completion. It’s hilarious, but he is getting you to realize that whatever you are currently watching him do is adding value to his name. Aside from the marquee phrases that are thrown onto his merchandise, this one does the greatest job in terms of framing DJ Khaled’s social media content into effective pieces of personal branding.

(Photo courtesy: TechCrunch)


Social media can be a sea of bullshit. But learn how to emphasize unique aspects of yourself, and you can rise out of the bullshit and be the shit.

It’s one thing to spam people with self-advertisement, and it’s another to be modest and not say anything about yourself. But I love seeing people who can sensibly and confidently place a value on themselves. Doing it while in the public eye is even more commendable, and something people need to learn how to do in an increasingly connected world.

With a professional life—covered here by Lee Seymour in Forbes—that has forced him to rebrand himself multiple times, I’ll leave it to Jonathan Goldsmith, better known as Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World” from 2006-2016, to sum up what I think about self-valuation:

“So many of us let others determine what we are worth. It’s our duty to make that determination ourselves.”



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