Pitbull joined Facebook May 17, 2009. The timing was auspicious: In a March 2014 interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Pit had laid out his six-year play for global domination, saying, “2009 is freedom; 2010, invasion; 2011, build empire; 2012, grow wealth; 2013, put the puzzle together; 2014, buckle up; 2015, make history.”
And: He was right, more or less. Now, at the tail end of 2015, the diminutive, 34-year-old Cuban-American rapper is seemingly everywhere: Just in the last month or so alone, onstage with Taylor Swift during the Miami stop of her 1989 tour and at the iHeart Radio Fiesta Latina, rocking white jeans on a cruise ship for a ribbon-cutting ceremony; playing Good Morning America’s 40th anniversary show. Perhaps nowhere is Pit’s dominance clearer than Facebook, where he has managed to harness his own native, relentless optimism and unencumbered thirst for followers to become one of the platform’s biggest stars. Pitbull currently has more than 60 million fans on the social network, making him the 18th most followed celebrity on the platform — just above Bruno Mars and Selena Gomez, and in company with international powerhouses like Beyoncé, Shakira and Justin Bieber.
And unlike his celebrity peers, Pitbull appears to be doing it largely on his own: The page has largely remained advertisement free, has rarely focused on monetizing its fanbase, and remains, a full 10 months into the “make history” phase, charmingly low production value for the most part.
While Beyoncé’s social media manager posts yet another uncaptioned, professionally styled Instagram, Pitbull posts a blurry shot declaring “im in love with the hustle….im in love with the journey.. the grind. with LIFE! DALEEEEEEEEE!!!!” If Taylor Swift’s page is a stream of professionally shot tour photos and links to the singer’s merch shop, Pitbull’s page is more like flipping through a desktop motivational calendar peppered with Spanglish slang: “Dreams don’t work unless you do.” “Always do your best and you will never have regrets.” “Everyone has a story, a struggle.” “Reach for the stars, and if you don’t grab them at least you’re on top of the world.” “Everyday is my birthday gracias a dios y pa lanteeee ya tu sabeeeeee daleeee live life don’t let life live u.”
It’s an endless feed of uplifting quotes, inspirational videos, and lessons of perseverance, modified slightly to fit Facebook’s trend du jour: In 2012, Pit jumped on the like-baiting trend along with many other brands, posting statuses such as “LIKE if u r never going 2 give up on ur dreams!!!!!” “LIKE” if u believe that every day is a gift!!!!!!” When infographics and photo posts took Facebook by storm in 2013 Pitbull released a series of photos overlaid with inspirational text messages declaring things like “You can’t be what you can’t imagine.” The posts functioned like self-help flashcards and racked up hundreds of thousands of shares. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising: A 2013 study by Jonah Berger, a social psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, found that not only do people tend to give their own status updates a more positive spin, sharing more positive life events than negative, but that the more positive a news article or piece of content, the more likely it is to be shared on platforms such as Facebook.
In a 2014 Hollywood Reporter article about the rapper’s quest to be a “billion-dollar brand,” Shirley Halperin wrote of Pit’s “relentlessly upbeat attitude.” “That’s his most powerful gift,” she wrote, “winning loyalty of everyone he encounters, from strangers on the street to dealmakers in a boardroom.”
But the internet has always been ready to love Pit. In 2012, GQ magazine named Pitbull one of the “25 Least Influential People Alive.” The magazine asked “who could be less influential than a guy whose music sounds like the aborted offspring of Nelly and Will.i.am?” Rather than shy away, Pitbull immediately posted a follow-up interview he did with GQ to his Facebook page declaring, “I luv 2 be underestimated…” The post garnered nearly 30,000 likes.
A few months later, Pitbull haters teamed up to stuff the ballot box in a Wal-Mart-sponsored Facebook contest that promised a live performance from the artist at the Walmart location that received the most Facebook likes. The hashtag #ExilePitbull quickly began trending, and various corners of the internet banded together to co-opt the contest and banish Pitbull to the most remote Walmart location possible, in Kodiak, Alaska.
True to form, Pitbull wasn’t fazed. “Wherever the fans want to have a party, I will be there,” he said on Good Morning America when the results were announced. He gave a blowout concert in Kodiak, received the key to the city, and even flew David Thorpe, one of the prank’s organizers, up to Alaska to see the show. “Just met Pitbull. He shook my hand and said ‘Keep bullshitting. Next thing you know we’ll be on the moon,’” Thorpe tweeted. Around the same time, Pitbull posted a Facebook status that read, “always remember…. only the best are bullied DALLEEEE!!!!!!”
By 2014, Pit had hosted the American Music Awards, appeared on Dancing With the Stars, was named the new global face of Playboy, sold out shows in 25 cities, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and his song “We Are One (Ole Ola)” was the official song for the 2014 World Cup. His 2014 success is outlined in a BuzzFeed Community post titled “11 Reasons 2014 Is Pitbull’s Year.”
“Pitbull is only going to get bigger,” Rolling Stone journalist Simon Vozick-Levinson said in June of last year. “He’s someone who’s not going to stop until he takes over the entire world.”
But recently, in his quest to dominate the music industry and the larger world, Pitbull’s Facebook presence feels like it’s starting to take a backseat. As Facebook native video becomes ever more prevalent in News Feed, celebrities like Tyrese Gibson (27 million fans) have been quick to exploit the boost by uploading stolen viral videos to grow their own pages. While Facebook has vowed to crack down on stolen content, in the meantime celebrities and brands are racking up millions of new likes. Some have also begun creating more of their own native video content with apps like Facebook Mentions.
Pitbull has dabbled in native video, but his posts are mostly links and reuploaded YouTube videos. In the past six months, they have also taken on a decidedly more corporate tone. He still shares clips of his “biggest inspirations” along with photos captioned “Don’t talk about it, be about it” and “Patience, Passion and Perseverance,” but they’re sandwiched between an ever-increasing number of promotional messages like, “Only 7 days until #DALE and today starts Amazon.com enter-to-win” and “Join us now as we drop a 64 hour commercial free Mega-Mix weekend with the Globalization DJs on SiriusXM Radio CH4. It’s now to Sunday night, DALE!”
The posts still have that Pitbull energy and copious use of the word “dale,” but it’s beginning to feel like Pitbull’s hustle has faded, at least on Facebook. Maybe in order to make history in 2015 Pitbull has finally had to hire a social media manager.
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