I've been listening to a lot of Wu-Tang Clan lately, and the similarities between these verbal Shaolin Swordsmen and social media are uncanny. For those of you that don't know, Wu-Tang is a rap group that formed in New York in the 80s and has since their album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), they've gone on to create a multimedia enterprise consisting of a clothing line, and even their own line of drum machines and samplers. Oh, and they also just came out with another critically-acclaimed album.
As hood as the members of the Wu-Tang try and seem, they're actually huge nerds. How else can you explain their obsession with Kung Fu movies, their frequent references to Voltron and the fact that they made their own comic book?
(If you need further evidence, you need only look at the Bobby Digital concept album that RZA (one of the Wu-Tang members) put out in 1998. In it, RZA takes on the role of Bobby, some sort of crime-fighting cyborg pimp from the future. This guy was 1337 and pwning before anyone even knew what that meant, and he gets nerd points for mentioning Johnny Mnemonic) It should come as no surprise that even back in 1993 when 36 Chambers first came out, they knew how things were going to work. I've taken some of their lyrics from that album and dissected them here.
Shame On A Flack For Trying To Run Game On A Hack
The actual wording of this Wu Tang song is a little bit more offensive (and, apologies around, my paraphrasing is as well), but the the message is the same. PR pros need to be open and transparent when dealing with the media. One need only look at case studies like the Edelman/WalMart fiasco to see what happens when someone tries to "run game". They might not get "their teeth knocked the f*ck out," but its the corporate reputation equivalent.
As if they realized the power of user generated content and crowd sourcing, members of the Wu Tang continually make references to swarming bees. The Wu knows that the power of their brand is in the hands of their fans and supporters, and by supporting them as part of the Killah Bee Army, they'll get just as much support back.
The Shout Out
While this one isn't unique to Wu Tang, a particularly good example of it can be heard on the track "Clan In Da Front." For approximately the first minute of the song, the RZA can be heard naming a number of his colleagues. This is the equivalent of linking to someone, putting them on your blogroll or otherwise acknowledging them and pointing others in their direction. Just like this: Props to Chris Clarke for hooking me up with a ticket to the RZA concert here in Toronto a few weeks ago.
"Cash Rules Everything Around Me" is another Wu-Tang anthem and it is the hip-hop equivalent of ROI. As great as it is to be part of the "conversation," everyone is still here because they are making money, and its no different for corporations. As Colin McKay recently wrote, "companies under the gun, facing the knife, don’t really give a f*ck about what the public has to say."
Make sure you own your own domain name. Otherwise you're going to end up with something silly like WuTang-corp.com for your homepage instead of Wu-Tang.com (I'm not even going to link to it).
Well, that was a fun Saturday. By next week I'll be talking about Nas and SEO.