The Soulja Boy Strategy

When I was a kid, I discovered a rapper named Soulja Boy who curated music playlists and posted them on a website called SoundClick, where he had one of the top-10 biggest audiences.

He was new to making music, so people only followed him for his taste. As his audience grew, he diversified onto YouTube and MySpace. One day, he slipped his song into one of his playlists. People liked it so much that the song rose to the top of the music charts. Coupled with an iconic dance, “Crank That”  spent seven weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. In retrospect, the song was successful not just because of quality but because of his curation-driven distribution advantage. 

Like Soulja Boy, if you want to start creating but don’t know where to begin, start with curation. It’s a gateway drug to publishing your own ideas because it gives you the license to experiment without the pressure of coming up with new ideas yourself. Besides, you’re already doing most of the work because sourcing and consuming ideas is 80% of the curation process. Write a description about each recommendation, as if you were talking to a friend. Then, publish it. 

To be sure, curation isn’t aggregation. You can find a list of links anywhere. It’s the commentary that differentiates you. Add your own interpretive layer to the links you gather so you can save your reader time. Include enough context to inform your reader, but not so much that consuming it becomes a slog.  

Like a high-end restaurant, the fewer options on the menu, the better. In my weekly Friday Finds newsletter, I add a short description to links I share every week (never more than five). I aim to make the premise original enough that it makes the reader say: “Hmm, I’ve never thought of that before.” While I have my audience’s attention, I pull a Soulja Boy and include my own links too.


Cover Photo: Arialyssa CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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