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How Michael Blackson (host, BET Social Media Awards) became a social media powerhouse


Posted Saturday, February 10, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Michael Blackson is not quite a household name to the tune of, say, Steve Harvey or Kevin Hart. But social media - especially Instagram - has expanded his fan base by the millions.

BET, aware of his 2.4 million Instagram followers and 2.6 million Facebook fans, rewarded him with the hosting gig for its first annual BET Social Media Awards, airing on Sunday live on BET at 10 p.m.

BET invited me to watch rehearsals at Tyler Perry Studios today and speak to Blackson. He gets to open the show with a few jokes (Kevin Hart - watch out!) before dancers perform a medley of hot social media-created dances.

Blackson, 45, was born in Ghana and moved to Philadelphia at age 15. He became a stand-up comic and actor ("Next Friday") who worked steadily through the years.

Then Twitter came along around 2009. He tried to sign up as his name but somebody had already taken it and stolen his persona. Flattering as that was, he ultimately had to get an alternative Twitter handle verified by the company before he was able to snuff out the copycat. (He eventually was able to nab @MichaelBlackson for himself.)

Like a lot of comics, he used humor to gain followers. One path: roast more famous comics like Hart and hope they respond. Eventually Hart did. "We went back and forth for hours," he said.

At that time, Blackson said, Hart had a half million followers. Blackson was able to nab 50,000 of them and away he went. "Everyone wanted a piece of me," he said proudly. "Marlon Wayans. Terry Crews! That's how I built my Twitter following."

Around 2013, he jumped on Instagram. He said it took awhile to figure out what might work. One day he said he wore this crazy outfit: a pink blazer and white shirt. Someone turned it into a meme with the phrase "Neapolitan ice cream." That went viral.

Eventually, he'd post wacky photos of himself and folks would try to create funny memes. He'd post his favorites. This type of interaction grew his Instagram fan base even faster than his Twitter following. He now has triple the Instagram followers over Twitter: 2.4 million to be exact. (Impressive compared to my feeble 659 followers. Maybe not so impressive compared to Hart, who has a whopping 56.9 million.)

"People look forward to what I'm going to wear and make fun of it," Blackson said.

He also became a personal counselor. After one woman asked him for advice, he publicized it and others began asking him questions as if he was some sort of therapist. "I'd provide advice, then roast them," he said.

One day, he did a silly dance and that went viral, too. "Every rapper was reposting it," he said. It got tens of millions of views.

This all does translate into dollars by drawing people to his comedy shows and broadening his following to a much younger demographic. He said he is going to be part of an upcoming (not yet officially announced) comedy show at Philips Arena hosted by Martin Lawrence.

And while a lot of younger folks don't watch TV traditionally, he hopes this live social media show might get them to catch BET.  Plus, BET viewers who aren't normally social media mavens might get hooked on some of the featured social media stars. (Categories include best social media comics, the best social media personalities in terms of "clapback" skills, best podcast, best memes and best social media power couples.)

TV PREVIEW

"BET Social Media Awards," 10 p.m. Sunday, BET


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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.