As the first person to have 25 million followers on Twitter, Lady Gaga is no stranger to the world of social media. Add her 50 million Facebook fans, 33,000 Google+ followers, one billion YouTube views, and more -- and there is no doubt that the Lady Gaga brand leverages social media to build community engagement -- one little monster at a time. In fact, Lady Gaga is paving the way for brands to take back some control via the social web.
Lady Gaga, Little Monsters, and Relationship Brands
The social web is a powerful place for brands to deepen relationships with consumers and build the loyalty and advocacy that allows the brand to grow. For many brands, social media content has been published by consumers, fans, and people who simply want to discuss the brand, their experiences, their expectations, their perceptions, their wants, their needs, and their disappointments. In other words, many brands have been listening to social media, but they haven't taken control of those conversations.
But wait a second! The power of social media marketing comes from a brand's ability to give up control of the online conversation and let content spread and grow at the hands of consumers. After all, consumers build brands, not companies.
That's absolutely true, but companies are finally realizing that providing a core branded online destination where consumers and brand advocates can find the information and conversations they're looking for is a huge opportunity. It should be the cornerstone of any social media marketing plan, but many companies are just catching on to its importance.
High profile brands that have finally created their own core branded online destinations this year include the Harry Potter brand with Pottermore and now, Lady Gaga with the Little Monsters social network (expected to come out of private beta soon). Not only do these branded destinations allow people to interact in the way relationship brand loyalists want, but it also opens the doors for the brands to sell products directly, launch promotional campaigns, and more. Consumers can purchase Harry Potter ebooks through Pottermore and the team behind the Little Monsters social network expects the future to include new music for sale, concert ticket sales, and more. Streaming content will also play a big role in the future of LittleMonsters.com.
Branded Online Destinations and Big Data
While brand engagement and experiences are a primary purpose of sites like Pottermore and Lady Gaga's Little Monsters social network, there is another reason why these branded online destinations are more important to brands than ever -- data mining.
Purchase data, audience segmentation data, behavioral data, social data -- it's all available and in the brand's control when consumers are motivated to come to the branded online destination to get the content and conversations they want and need. Troy Carter, Lady Gaga's manager, explained the vision for LittleMonsters.com, powered by Backplane, to Wired magazine as follows:
"Up until this point, we've been data dumb. If a kid goes and buys a CD at Best Buy, we have no idea who the person is, how many times they listen to it, or anything like that. But we're building to the point where one day we're going to have access to all of the data. There will be a time where we'll be able to release music through the Backplane, where we'll be able to release music videos through there, we're going to be able to sell all our tickets through there. Over a period of time, we'll be able to build that audience so they'll know exactly where to come. For us, it's important to be able to identify who's listening to what. We want to own that data. We have to own that data."
-- Troy Carter
While Lady Gaga and Harry Potter are both entertainment brands, the social strategy both brands are following is one that any brand from any industry can benchmark. Brands have to prioritize initiatives to develop core branded online destinations where consumers can engage with and experience the brands. Doing so will enable them to evolve into one of the most powerful types of brands -- relationship brands.
The process starts by conducting market research, listening to online conversations, and building a site that people actually want to visit, stick around for more than a few minutes, come back to again, and tell other people about. If you build it, they won't necessarily come. You need to give consumers a reason to visit. To succeed, you need to add value to the online brand experience through your core branded online destination -- not clutter and noise.