By Danyl Bosomworth, the co-founder of Smart Insights and MD of First 10 Digital
Lady Gaga is renowned for her prolific following in Twitter (near 27m) and Facebook (52m Likes), Google+ (near 3m) -- as well as Tumblr and recently her first pic on Instagram. Let's not forget there's also a plethora of fan sites and endless coverage in mainstream and niche media. If that weren't enough "Mother Monster" (that's what her fans call her) has opened her own social network fresh from private beta testing -- you can see it here: Littlemonsters.com. We think it can help all marketers think differently about social media marketing…
What is it all about?
I'm not going to review the site in-depth, but suffice to say that it's now the official community hub for the Gaga brand. Anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account can now register. It offers all the latest Gaga news and the chance to socialise with other Little Monsters (Gaga fans). It wasn't long ago that the rich and famous were content counting Facebook Likes… is this a new trend, what does it mean and what can marketers learn from it?
It's a powerful brand hub
The key observation is that this is a first and foremost is that it's totally unique, naturally. We've commented before how brands (in this case a performer) can create the best free content through niche vertical networks that they own or co-own, and Littlemonsters.com is demonstrating this to full effect.
Here are five things brands could genuinely learn from this:
Authenticity: There's a clear sense of purpose and camaraderie between the Little Monsters -- cheered on clearly by Lady Gaga (she's renowned for Liking and interacting on others content). You'll see a lot of talk about "the haters" -- people who knock other people down. A shared purpose around supporting creativity and being all you can be. I'm not particularly a fan of Lady Gaga, yet I can appreciate this, a shared purpose is what would keep people coming back and feeling connected to others (let's face it, most of the time she's not there to interact with!).
Content: Gaga is a prolific generator of content that's worth talking about (mostly pictures, some video), it's the fuel from which the social aspect of her brand feeds. Fans have things to share and comment on. The Littlemonsters.com website is about everyone generating their own content too, though from what I can see most of it is currently pictures of Lady Gaga!
Interaction and integration: She works hard in her own community, is it really her -- who knows. Either way she appears in the community frequently and across the Gaga outposts. For example tweeting about someone's content that's in the Littlemonsters.com community. It's smart to see someone using the outposts as tools and focussed on creating the inbound effect.
Control: I don't mean control in respect of her brand amongst her fans, but control in bypassing the media channels (including the mighty Facebook) and going direct. There's no reliance on other peoples channels and platforms. Though there's content from other channels on the site, as a Little Monster you're clear that this is the only place you need to be, for anything Gaga. However, the site does use social sign-on - to integrate log-in and sharing with the main social networks.
Connection: Between fans -- is what the site is fundamentally about. Gaga is continuing to help the like-minded, anti-haters to connect with each other, the Gaga brand is the social object around which they interact.
Little Monsters has been created by Backplane, which last year raised around $5.5m in capital from Sequoia, Greylock Discovery Fund, Battery Ventures, Advance/Newhouse Investment Partnership (owner of Conde Nast), Google Ventures and Lady Gaga herself.
If you're involved with building communities online, it's worth checking out. You can read more insight about Backplane and the business behind the Gaga brand.
Find out more about turning consumers into fans at the ad:tech London conference. Taking place on 19-20 September 2012. Sony Music insight manager, Martin Vovk, will be speaking on how the music label hardwired followers into its business