business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kate McMahon

For the ultimate primer on how to maximize your brand via social networking, take a page from Lady Gaga’s songbook.

The pop culture diva took New York by storm last week, and I was fortunate to experience Gaga-mania first-hand at the second of her three sold-out concerts at Madison Square Garden. The Monster Ball production delivered what it promised – pounding disco/rock music, outrageous costumes, eye-popping antics. One New York critic summed it up perfectly as a “mind-meld of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ “

But what struck me most was Lady Gaga’s intensely personal connection with her fans – her “little monsters” as she calls them -- which galvanized the Garden and is reaffirmed daily in her unprecedented online presence via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. She is not only the glam/rock Queen of the music world, she is also a marketing genius and reigns supreme on the internet.

Consider the following:

Just last week Lady Gaga hit 10 million Facebook fans or “Likes,” surpassing President Obama and becoming the first living music artist to cross that threshold. By yesterday that number jumped to 12.1 million, closing in on the Facebook page of the late Michael Jackson, with 15 million fans.

She has 4.9 million followers on Twitter, and tweeted with her “precious lil monsters” who camped out in Rockefeller Center before her Friday performance on The Today Show, which drew a record-setting 20,000 spectators in the early-morning rain.

She recently became the first currently producing living music artist to reach 1 billion YouTube views.

Her album “The Fame” this month became the best-selling album in U.S. digital history.

And that’s just the topline. So what is the retail and business takeaway on this 24-year-old
phenom? Here’s what I think.

Lady Gaga, who was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta and attended Catholic schools in New York, rocketed to fame in the past two years due to talent, passion, originality and incredibly hard work. She’s true to her art, and is not afraid to outrage or offend (and she has many outraged and offended detractors out there).

She’s also true to the fans who have supported her, including the gay community and those who dare to be different. I’ve heard many performers shout “I love you, New York” in concerts, but hers resonated on a deeply personal level as she thanked her hometown, her family and her die-hard followers. She reaches out to her fan base daily on Facebook and Twitter, always crediting their support for her success. How many retailers, marketers and service providers out there make such an effort to show appreciation for loyalty?

Before the “Today Show,” she knew her “little monster sweeties” well enough to send pizza and water and tweets signed with “i love u” and “Amen.” How many retailers make that kind of an effort to reward customers waiting on line or for a delivery?

Lady Gaga specializes in delight and surprise – how many companies can make that claim?

Here at MNB, we note that the power of social networking lies in establishing a true connection with the customer, a two-way dialogue. In this arena, along with so many others, Lady Gaga rocks.

Comments? Send me an email at .
KC's View:
Thank goodness for Kate. I write about Jimmy Buffett. Michael writes about James Taylor and Carole King. I’m glad someone here is paying attention to performers who are actually younger than we are.

Which is, by the way, itself a good lesson in marketing. We always talk here about how important it is to “be the customer.” But that doesn’t always mean that we are the customer. It’s important to know the difference.