Some people use Twitter to talk trash, Instagram to share photos of food and sunsets, and YouTube to punk friends on video. Then there are those, with the skills of an entrepreneur, who are using social media to build a brand. Brand building doesn’t happen overnight on social media, but there’s already a blueprint in place. Let’s call it the Issa Rae model. Produce compelling content, share it via social media networks and build a core audience. Rae, whose award-winning Web series Awkward Black Girl catapulted to success after one season, has seen her brand grow into a force bigger than just online content. Fans are now awaiting a comedy series that she’s producing with HBO and producer Larry Wilmore.
Rae is in good company with other black content creators on social media. With strong followings, it’s only right that more YouTube, Twitter and Instagram stars are reaching out farther than the Web can take them. Take a look at 15 of our favorite people who have used social media as a tool to boost their brands.
Five years after Guy started uploading natural-hair videos on YouTube, she has gained more than 21 million views on YouTube and thousands of followers across social media. In 2013 she launched the Luv and Learn Your Hair tour, where she hosted seminars—often sponsored by natural-hair-care brands—for natural-hair beauties across the nation. This year she took the tour international and traveled to London, Paris and Amsterdam. And it’s clear that Guy is just getting started: In January she plans to launch Areya TV, an online network dedicated to health and beauty.
Kid Fury and Crissle
Kid Fury and Crissle have two of the sharpest, shade-throwing—and truth-telling—tongues on Twitter. It was only fair that they took their wit from the keyboard to the mic. In October 2013 they launched The Read, a weekly podcast about the latest news in pop culture, current events and, of course, all things Bey. Shortly after, the New York City-based duo began a cross-country tour hosting live podcasts. If they come to your city, make your way to a show for some laugh-out-loud fun.
“YouTube and doing hair got me out of my mom’s house,” Monet recently told Essence magazine. Monet has been weaving up her crown and glory on YouTube since 2008 and has amassed more than 34 million views—and counting. She also started her own wig-and-weave company, Crowned by Monet, and has clients all over the country. Based in New York City, Monet has used her hair-styling skills and YouTube tutorials (often with brand sponsorships) to earn six figures, all before the age of 30.
Desus and Mero
Like Kid Fury and Crissle, Desus Nice (right) and the Kid Mero have smart mouths on Twitter, but they’re just a bit more brash and unapologetic. In December 2013, Complex launched a podcast with the two “Bronx bullies” called Desus vs. Mero and quickly expanded those podcasts to videos. Desus recently appeared with Anthony Bourdain when he brought his food-and-travel show Parts Unknown to the Bronx, N.Y. Calling VH1—these guys might be ready for the small screen.
If you’re fit, or trying to be, most likely you’re following Arias—also known as Mankofit—and her life in fitness on Instagram. From 30-second exercise demonstrations to quick, healthy meal recipes, Arias says that fitness has saved her life, and she wants to help everyone else get on the right track, too. Interested in online personal training? Check out the packages she offers on her website. Mankofit’s brand only got bigger this year after she co-starred in Trey Songz’s sexy workout-focused video for “Na Na.”
At just 5 years old, Cece already has more followers than you. Yes, this kindergartner has more than 500,000 followers on Instagram. So why is everyone tuning in to the Cece Show? Cece is hilarious, with her homemade costumes, celebrity impersonations and special brand of little-kid humor. She’s a big fan of Tamar Braxton and Tameka “Tiny” Harris—both of whom she affectionately calls “auntie”—as well as Kevin Hart and Floyd Mayweather. Earlier this year she was a guest on The Steve Harvey Show; she has also toured the country hosting events. You may even have caught a glimpse of her on a recent episode of T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle.
Ward, aka Beatfacehoney, started out as a beauty vlogger on YouTube, showing her followers the latest looks and trends in makeup in 2009. Singer Brandy saw her work on YouTube, and Ward’s YouTube viewers, whom she calls the Beatface Brigade, bombarded Nicki Minaj on the rapper’s blog when she was looking for a makeup artist in New York City. Pow, Ward’s rising star shone even brighter. This year she started a series called Behind the Beat, in which she travels to different cities to share her beauty knowledge.
Stewart is another YouTube natural-hair blogger we love to follow. And apparently readers of The Root love her, too. This year she was voted the People’s Choice winner of The Root 100. Stewart is the founder of KinkyCurlyCoilyMe and has amassed a big following of naturally coiffed women who look to her YouTube channel for tutorials and inspiration. Stewart has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and in several other news outlets.
Robby Novak—Kid President—is only 10 but has already interviewed two of the most famous people in the world, Beyoncé and President Obama. One of his most popular YouTube videos, “A Pep Talk From Kid President to You,” has garnered more than 34 million hits. This year the Hub network offered him his own show, Kid President: Declaration of Awesome, which premiered in June.
Dennis Dortch and Numa Perrier
Perrier and Dortch are the forces behind Black & Sexy TV. With a number of Web series under their belt—including Roomieloverfriends, That Guy and Hello Cupid—the duo are partnering with HBO to develop one of its first Web series, The Couple. Spike Lee has joined the project as an executive producer. For the first time this year, Black & Sexy TV asked its viewers to pay $3 for its shows’ season finales. A 30-minute finale for $3 to support a show you love? Worth it.
Have a health issue? Most likely, Medina—or Hey Fran Hey on Twitter and YouTube—already has a DIY natural remedy for it. Want clear skin? Try the oil-cleansing method. Tired of painful menstrual cramps? Pick up this ingredient at your local health food store. This summer, Medina traveled the country on the Celebrate My Beauty tour, sponsored by NaturallyCurly.com, with Jasmine Lawrence, the founder of Eden BodyWorks.
Elon James White
White joined Twitter in 2007 before there were enough black people on the network to form a “black Twitter.” Since then he’s gained more than 37,000 followers and has honed his social media voice. He is also the founder of TWiB Media, a digital platform that includes his award-winning podcast series, This Week in Blackness. He’s appeared on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show and All in With Chris Hayes. A contributor to The Root, he has appeared as a comedian and pop-culture critic on VH1.