What Lady Gaga’s Manager Can Teach You About Marketing

The June issue of the UK version of Wired Magazine featured a great article on Troy Carter, Lady Gaga’s manager and the brain behind her social media dominance. The article dives into Carter’s merging of music and tech as he manages Gaga’s career from LA and a team of 20 engineers in Palo Alto. His team in Palo Alto is developing a platform called Backplane – a social media platform that will allow celebrities to manage all of their social channels and make closer connections with fans. The platform, in beta, is currently powering Littlemonsters.com, a community for hardcore Lady Gaga fans.

There is a ton of great information in the story, so absolutely read it, but below are 4 great nuggets and thought starters that are applicable to your personal brand and company.

Own The Data
A huge part of Troy Carter’s strategy with the LittleMonsters community is to have a meaningful ownership of the customer data. The goal of Backplane is to allow artists to do that. It’s great and necessary, for example, to fire up a free Facebook page for your company. But Zuckerberg ends up knowing much more about your customers than you do. Think about the things you can do to leverage Facebook and other platforms to pull some of that data back into your ownership.

Carter on Owning the Data:

“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.”

Quality Over Quantity
This is a simple, common sense lesson that always gets lots in the shuffle. One million casual Facebook fans isn’t as cool as 500,000 deeply engaged fans. Period.

Regarding Littlemonsters.com:

“They’re highly motivated fans,” Carter replied. “This one isn’t for the passive. It’s for the die-hard die-hard. We could go to Facebook for pure numbers. But give us 500,000 really engaged people, and the blast radius will be enormous.”

Communicate Directly with the Core
The hip hop industry has been doing this since the beginning of time. Traditionally, before the music industry was turned on its head, a hip hop artist would release a mixtape that only the biggest fans would purchase or listen to. Then the feedback from the mix tape would help to inform the studio release. The thinking was: if the kids in New York City liked it then the kids in middle America would follow suit. Of course, lots (read: everything) has changed in the music industry, that strategy remains key. Delight the core and the masses will follow. And when that fickle mainstream turns on you, your core fans will still be there, so it’s critical to build a direct relationship with them.

Example from the Wired UK article:

In late 2010, Lady Gaga called Carter. She was on the Sony lot, where she’d just seen an advance screening of The Social Network. “Why don’t we start one of those for my fans?” she asked. Gaga already had a huge social-media footprint — she updated her own Twitter feed more or less daily, but Facebook and Twitter weren’t really “moving the needle”, as Carter puts it. The true Gaga enthusiasts were spending their time on independent sites such as Gaga DailyGaga News and Lady-gaga.net. There were about 30 of these around the world, in a number of languages. Carter considered these sites the core of the Lady Gaga empire. His staff communicated daily with the fans that ran them, sending out early warnings about tour dates and helping to dispel internet rumours. Gaga occasionally visited the sites’ messageboards to interact with users. “It’s almost like having an underground network,” Carter says. “There may come a day when you don’t have the cover of Vanity Fair, or you may not be able to get on that big TV show. But it’s important that you have that direct communication with that audience so they still know what you’re doing.”

Another good example of on communicating with the core:

One of those fans was Laura Lyne, a journalism student in Dublin who had cofounded the fan site gaganews.com. She’d met Lady Gaga backstage at a concert in Ireland in 2010. Gaga said that she’d put her in touch with her management, and she kept her word. Now Lyne communicates with Gaga’s people all the time. “When it’s really busy, we get an email from them every day,” she says. “I’ve heard of fan sites being in contact with management, but I’ve never heard of them being so involved. It makes you feel appreciated. It makes you feel like your work has gone towards something.”

Build Authentic Communities
This is important. Facebook doesn’t matter (well, FB matters a little bit). Twitter doesn’t matter. Pinterest doesn’t matter. There will be a new platform next year. What matters is the community and the authentic content that feeds that community.

I love this quote:

People are not Twitterers or Facebookers,” he says. “They’re Deadheads. They’re Christians. You have to create an identity for people within that authentic experience.”

Your Afternoon Donuts – May 23, 2012

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