Lady Gaga: Queen of the Self Brand

(As of July 17, 2011)

Facebook: 40, 726, 316 likes

Twitter: 11,696, 933 followers

The numbers speak for themselves. Lady Gaga is more than just a pop icon. She’s a branding genius. Named by Forbes Magazine as one of the most powerful women, Gaga has branded herself in the world of Hollywood through her style, her attitude and her success. Although a bit quirky, the young artist is a very smart entertainer. Gaga has leveraged the strength of her image to create a community. She calls her fans “little monsters.” She has also leveraged her power to help put up a fight for gay rights. She is confident in herself and she is determined to reach the top. This is most apparent in her efforts to promote her self-brand.

As defined in the review, “Lady Gaga, Guru,” Gaga has taken the perfect steps to carve her brand into Hollywood. Many marketers can learn from the singer’s actions, as her branding process is identical to the suggested steps in “Reinventing Your Personal Brand,” an article in the Harvard Business Review. If you combine the two lists, you get something like this:

Establish: Lady Gaga knows who she wants to be. She has defined her own role as an eccentric entertainer.

Enhance: Lady Gaga recognizes her strengths. Her image is consistent at every touch point as all successful brands are.  She exploits her image for all that it is worth.

Endorse: Lady Gaga promotes herself consistently in every aspect of business. From her performance to social responsibility, the star has established trust and a strong fan following from the authenticity of her behavior.

Execute: Lady Gaga performs. Meant not to be taken literally, the star successfully carries out her message as a means of establishing relationships with all of her constituents. She comes full circle with her delivery as she maintains these relationships using the tools of social media.

The success of a self-brand does not solely come from a successful promotion. Paired with necessary effective management, brands thrive on consistency, authenticity and perseverance. These values are best supported through social media. As seen with Lady Gaga, a brand can flourish if social media is effectively implemented to promote a consistent message and foster a promising identity. And while social media fosters it, an individual must live it. Just watch Lady Gaga.

3 Reasons Why Twitter is a Great Platform for Comedians

Celebrities are everywhere from the television screen to the computer screen. Social media platforms act as great venues for celebrities to relish in their own brands. This is particularly useful when your talent is yourself. Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Martin and Katt Williams have made their way to the social media site, Twitter. Twitter, just as all social media platforms if used correctly, is an effective setting to develop and promote a self-brand. However, it is specifically useful for comedians and here are a few reasons why:

1. It’s personal.

With the increase of Internet use of mobile phones, users can tweet at any given moment. This ability allows users to get into the minds’ of whom they are following and it lets users see what they are thinking. It is personal because Twitter serves as a giant status update newsfeed. It encourages the sharing of thoughts. This is extremely helpful for comedians, because the sense of relevancy granted creates common conversation. With the “retweet” option, this ability is enhanced as users can agree or like the tweet can share with his or her own friends. For comics who get the bulk of their materials from their everyday observations (like Seinfeld for instance) will thrive on Twitter, because it fosters a casual and relevant conversation.

2. It’s functional.

In 140-characters, users are, in a sense, forced to say what they mean to say. Because there is a character limit, Twitter users don’t have the space to ramble. It is easier to keep the attention of an audience by only being able to tweet key chunks of information. For comedians, this is perfect. In their line of work, the “punch-line” is usually only one line. According to Scott Meyer’s Basic Instruction, aspiring jokesters should speak bluntly, honestly and simply. For that reason, Twitter is an ideal platform to share the punch line on.

3. It’s a showcase.

While they may be created in reality through traditional media, brands continue living on social media sites. The shelf-space granted by social media acts as a complemental point of contact to an already established message. In other words, the show does not end when the curtains close. Comedians, specifically, are able to empower their brands on sites like Twitter because Twitter is designed for users to present themselves to an audience at any time. This is great for not only developing a brand, but maintaining one.

YouTube: The Online Skywriter

YouTube is the big gorilla of video sharing sites of Web 2.0. Its functions are basic as users can create, upload and share videos quickly on a wide distribution scale (as addressed in the Social Interaction and Co-Viewing With YouTube article).  A leader of its kind, it is an innovative resource that has grown to its size organically through individual use. YouTube fits into the category of social media as it offers a dynamic and interactive interface to promote transparent practices. And like all social media, it is social in the ability to call one another out in front of an audience of billions of people.

Just ask Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake.

The two leading actors of the newly released film, “Friends with Benefits,” were the subjects of two YouTube date proposals. The first video features a male marine requesting Kunis as his date to the Marine Corps Ball as a bet.

It was reported that Kunis’ co-star, Timberlake, was the one to show her the video as well as the one to encourage her to accept. Shortly after news of her acceptance made its way back to military bases, Timberlake was put in the spotlight by a female marine, popping the same question.

Both stars accepted the invitation. Below is Timberlake’s acceptance in a press conference.

Justin and Mila are two talented young stars with very promising careers. Kunis is the process of making a successful transition from television to the big screen while Timberlake, as illustrated in my previous post, is in the early stages of building his own media entertainment empire. As each strive to define their careers, brand development is more important than ever. The idea of a self-brand is not only defined by physical and tangible attributes, it is also defined by the intangible attributes such as behavior and decision-making.

If Kunis and Timberlake chose not to respond, they could’ve compromised their brands. These ‘call-to-action’ videos set in motion by two members of the military spur the two stars to act just like corporate communicators in a time of crisis. The steps are parallel as illustrated in the PR Daily article, “4 Important Basics of Responding to a Social Media PR Crisis.”

1. Listen: Mila & Justin listened to the request and considered it.

2. Respond quickly: Mila & Justin responded in an urgent fashion.

3. Justify: Mila & Justin provided reasonable justifications for their responses.

4. Execute: Only time will tell if they actually go through with it. They’ve established the expectation and from a branding perspective, they left themselves no choice but to go.

The two soldiers were smart to utilize YouTube. It is direct, it has the capability to become viral, but most importantly, it has an observant audience who require a response. Social media, like YouTube, hold brands accountable, but it can’t do it alone. In order to protect their self-brands and not damage their reputations, Kunis and Timberlake cannot just talk the talk; they will have to walk the walk and make good on their word.

Homer Simpson Tweets

Homer Simpson, the four-fingered father on the cartoon, “The Simpsons,” is an active Twitter member. Simpson, just recently acknowledged by a Mashable article as a “must-follow” account, proves that life exists off the screen. The television screen that is.

On today’s most relevant screen, the computer screen, social media is providing a platform for television immortality. This is made possible through the idea of connectedness, where viewers are transferring what they see on the TV screen to the Internet in his or her own context. It may be through conversation or through the function of sharing. Homer Simpson, although just one character, is a representation of the 21 year old show. In a sense, he is a mini-brand within a much larger one.

Judging by the Twitter verified checkmark, it can be assumed that @HomerJSimpson account is being managed by the show’s writers. The posts, in the trademark idiocy tone, speak to a variety of subjects on and off the show. This shows dimension to the character as readers witness him interacting in a common environment. Some may be skeptical to the idea of a fictional Twitter, but to those familiar with personal branding tactics can recognize how it works.

Homer’s Twitter account runs off on the idea of brand experiences. As illustrated in the article, “Brand Experience,” the experience is constituted by sensory triggers and can be linked to brand loyalty. In the case of Homer’s Twitter, users who follow the cartoon are exposed to the character’s personality through the personalized tweets. Fans are able to relate and connect.The tweets are comical as well, therefore users are more likely to follow the account and re-tweet (as according to The Appeal of Reality Television to Teen and Pre-Teen Audiences). Therefore, the brand is spread organically.

The success of Homer’s Twitter may not directly coincide with an increase of television viewers, but it can be attributed to the successful retainment of fans. The humorous tweets are intended to trigger audiences’ memories as a way to renew a sense of pride and ownership over the childhood experience of watching “The Simpsons.” This is also known as cognitive dissonance. The brand isn’t necessarily increasing its fan base, but it’s certainly maintaining it. This is a key social media solution for keeping a brand alive especially one older than twenty years.

Can Justin Timberlake Revive MySpace?

MySpace is in dire need of a social media face lift and Justin Timberlake is just the man to do it.

MySpace, the fallen leader of social media, has just been bought for the second time in less than ten years. Sold for $580 million in 2005, MySpace was just recently sold again to Specific Media for $35 million this year. Proven in numbers, MySpace, like any new fad, has rapidly faded to the back of the line. What was once the most popular social network, according to the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, is now the least used as compared to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The site, once praised for its networks and customization, has faced the grim reaper of society: age.

According to the article, Social Network Site Changes Over Time, MySpace attracted the demographic of teenagers best through its customizable experience. The article justifies the appeal through the idea that teenagers are an impressionable group because they value identity so highly. The original MySpace interface allowed users to not only tailor their information, but to personalize their graphics, the background and their music. Music, a form of expression and major source of identity for teens, serves as MySpace’s best ally. It may even be what saves it.

One report suggests that MySpace will be one of 12 brands that we will see disappear by 2012. Justin Timberlake thinks otherwise. Part owner of the Specific Media, the popular singer/actor sees a glimpse of potential within the MySpace context. To some this may seem strange, but Timberlake is no stranger to the business trade. As Chairman and CEO of Tennman Records, a musical venture in partnership with Interscope Records, Timberlake has had his hand at finding young talent online. One popular artist is YouTube sensation Esmee Denters. In collaboration with Specific Media, Timberlake plans to implement what he knows best into the reconstruction of their latest purchase.

The Timberlake team recognizes MySpace’s niche market: independent musicians. One popular artist, Colbie Caillat, can attribute her success to the original MySpace. Through the built-in music player feature, the singer/songwriter collected over 22 million plays, the most MySpace has ever seen for an unsigned artist. She didn’t remain unsigned for long.

It was the success of artists like Caillat that inspire the most recent MySpace facelifts. Just last fall in October 2010, MySpace was rebranded as the social entertainment destination. After a very apparent failed launch, Specific Media stepped in. It has been reported that Timberlake hopes to make a talent competition out of the MySpace remains. Could this be what MySpace needs?

MySpace was hurt most by what it does best. Because it can be so tailored, users caked on their own personalities and in turn, branded MySpace. While the decline of the MySpace fad can be attributed to age, Facebook is also held responsible as a driving force in the shift. With its simple and clean interface, Facebook’s design is more as functional and timeless as compared to MySpace. MySpace allowed its users to paint its own face. The amount of control users’ had became a volatile risk and in the end, it was the kiss of death. Facebook simply had the stronger brand.

In my opinion, if done correctly, this rebrand will work as it plans to tap into its niche market of unsigned music artists. Because of the size of this audience, we will never see MySpace grow to the size of Facebook, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see it succeed. It is the idea of the long tail. It will work because it serves a small, niche market that can be satisfied with more tailored approach.  Justin Timberlake is a smart man.

Having Cake And Eating It Too: Tumblr vs. Twitter

Why pick sides when you can have both? In 2010, Singer/Songwriter John Mayer vocally announced that he was dumping Twitter for Tumblr. A fan of the artist myself and as an advocate for social media, I was intrigued as to how he justified his switch. A few questions came to mind as I continued reading.

What is the difference between Tumblr and Twitter?

Tumblr is like a giant swap meet. I personally like to think of it as an art blog. With over 22 million blogs, Tumblr is defined by its variety of content which ranges from audio and video to text and images. It is predominately visual with no text or character limit. Users can follow one another. Once you follow a blog, you will receive its updates in your homepage feed. Conversation comes in the form of asking questions and in sharing (or in Tumblr terms “reblogging”). It functions much like Facebook’s sharing or Twitter’s retweeting.

Twitter is a microblog. In 140 characters, users can share and send informative messages to his or her group of followers. Tweeting is the act of posting a status. It can be sent @somebody or it can go unaddressed. Users can read the tweets of whomever they are following. Like a blog, the tweets scroll down in a giant newsfeed, only at a much faster pace. Twitter also functions as an intermediary. With shortened link effect, users can include URLs to redirect readers to other sources.

Who might choose one over the other?

Tumblr, according to The Social Landscape, is a social-networking site, but I have to disagree. Social networking sites are only valuable through the visible networks. On Tumblr, you cannot necessarily see your followees’ (who you’re following) feeds. Only until items are reblogged do you see the original source and the makings of his or her network. Tumblr is a platform for expression. It’s best for individuals who have something to say (in more than 140 characters) and who like to share ideas.

Twitter, as a microblog, is a more information friendly venue. It is a text-oriented platform that is used primarily as a referral. Twitter itself does not allow other media to be shared on its platform. That is what the shortened link is for. For many this may be a perk. For some, it may be inconvenient.  Twitter is ideal for people on the go who may only be interested in key points of information. While Twitter is still a means of expression, it is a limited means of expression.

As a musician, is one outlet a more effective means of promotion?

According to the social landscape, Tumblr is a prime platform for creating brand awareness. Because Tumblr offers the option to upload multimedia directly onto the blog, it acts as the ideal forum for artists. Twitter, on the otherhand, does not allow users to directly post music onto their page.

For a branding perspective, the two complement each other. Tumblr gives the option for bloggers to send automatic tweets whenever something new is posted. This is a great way to direct traffic to a more personal site. Who wouldn’t take advantage of both of these free sites?

Does John Mayer really know what he is talking about?

It is ignorant to think that Twitter isn’t useful. I Tweet Honestly, an article written July 7th, 2010, reports that Mayer, before he deleted his account, had over 1 million followers while only following 47. He left Twitter with 3.7 million followers. From first glances, it looks like Mayer was unaware of how to properly use Twitter to its fullest potential. Mayer would be smart to engage his large Twitter network directly to not only create brand awareness, but to maintain the relationship between him and his number on constituent: his fans.

Why Rebecca Black Could Use a Publicist

The saying goes, “Any publicity is good publicity,” but is that necessarily true?

Just ask 14-year-old YouTube sensation Rebecca Black. Black is the pop singer in the viral video, “Friday.” Spring 2011, the video had a crashing effect on the world of social media. Obtaining over 160 million views, the teen singer was instantly introduced to stardom. Sadly, it wasn’t the kind of notoriety most would prefer. Black and her infamous music video were labeled by most as… for lack of better words, terrible.

Publicity can be defined as public awareness. This includes taking the good with the bad.  Because of the immediacy of Web 2.0. and the engaging format of social media, Rebecca Black now is a household name. The impact of the video made its way to other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Black currently holds the top position as the most tweeted topic for the first half of this year. Unfortunately, the bulk of the young star’s success can be attributed to the influence of negative comments.

According to the study, “Following The Fashionable Friend,” the generation of publicity through blogs versus online magazines, researchers concluded that blogs (a representation of social media) have a greater effectiveness of gaining publicity versus the online magazines (a representation of traditional media). This conclusion was supported by the idea that blogs foster para-social interaction, the social media version of word of mouth. While we cannot completely compare this study to the Rebecca Black  (due to the difference of mediums), we can find similarities and relevant suggestions in the study’s findings.

Social media warrants a certain level of personal interaction. According to the “The Social Landscape,” an infographic by CMO.com, on the social landscape scale, YouTube is a great medium to facilitate a brand, next to Facebook. It is also a good platform for encouraging communication. ARK Music Factory was smart in considering YouTube as an effective venue, but unless used to its fullest potential, YouTube will act like a TV channel (one-way communication). Rebecca Black shouldn’t be blamed for the poor management of communication from her party. The finger should be pointed at whoever choose YouTube as the platform and at whoever failed to maintain the page.

YouTube is a great forum to generate communication, but in order for communication to transpire, both a sender and a receiver need to be present. While viewers bombarded Black’s video with negative and nasty comments, Black’s representation remained nearly invisible on the site. Black herself responded to tweets, but there was never a direct hit on the real source of negativity. It was up until mid June that the original video was taken down.

This video is not the original. It is the correct music video.

This is where a publicist would have come in handy. These conversations were happening and because nobody hit the direct source of negative publicity, the bad press became almost uncontrollable. While much of the bad publicity does come from para-social interaction, we mustn’t discredit the video. The song was poorly written and unfortunately, the real victim is Black who was only responsible for singing the track.

The study highlights that because blogs work best for gaining publicity, transparency is more important than ever in gaining credibility. Social media platforms, because they can be so personal, run higher risks in establishing credibility. As a result, the return of investment is more than likely always worth it. Maybe if Black had established herself as a credible online presence first, she would’ve had a strong foundation of followers to defend her on online forums. There would’ve been more to lose, but on the other hand, much more to gain.

Perez for President

Hard work pays off. Just look at celebrity blogger, Perez Hilton. Named by Forbes Magazine as the #1 Web Celeb for 2007, 2008 and 2009, Hilton is one of the most relevant examples of how social media, if used for what it’s worth, fosters effective personal branding. Hilton’s social media use has generated enough exposure for himself that he not only does he have a full time job, but he is also frequently presented with several other job opportunities as well.

Hilton’s claim to fame comes from his bold, scandalous Hollywood gossip blog. His vibrant personality paired with his outspoken nature has created a following, a community, around himself and his work. His apparent success has networks like Oxygen and E! calling to offer positions such as reality show host and fashion commentator. Perez is being paid to just be him, the goal of any self-brander.

Like any smart social media guru, Hilton recognizes the many communities in which he thrives. Last fall, devastating news rocked the gay community after the world learned of consecutive gay teen suicides that were prompted by peer bullying. Hilton, a homosexual himself, chose to stand at the forefront. The celeb blogger, emotionally moved by the tragic events, vowed to stop bullying himself. The vow was attention grabbing amongst the blogging community for Hilton’s trademark was his cutthroat analyzing. The change of attitude did not slow Hilton down in his devotion to the cause online.

Using his resources as a popular blogger, he has helped promote the campaign, “It Gets Better.” The campaign is a viral effort to help raise awareness and help stop suicide among homosexual teens. Hilton’s role in the campaign not only displays his values, but it also reveals a multidimensional layer to the blogger. This level of personality helps audiences emotionally connect better with the brand (in this case, the brand being Hilton). It is the idea of connectedness. It is through this connection that Hilton is able to engage his audience in order to distribute information and provoke organic arousal of the subject. More specifically, it could be in the form of a retweet on Twitter or a shared video on Facebook.

Video plays a huge role in the success of this campaign. The emotional appeal granted by the combined elements of sound and sight truly triggers a sense of obligation within the viewer. This ripple effect, facilitated by YouTube, had famous figures such as President Barack Obama, Anne Hathaway, Ellen DeGeneres and the staffs of Google and Facebook (just to name a few) making their own videos to support the cause. The response is extraordinary and the exposure of the cause is phenomenal. Before the birth of YouTube, would this even have been possible?

Hilton is the perfect example of a self-branded professional in the 21st century. It is undeniable to admit that Hilton could not have done what he has done without the capabilities of Web 2.0. Through his blog, YouTube channel, Twitter and Facebook page, Hilton is able to leave an effective and frequent impression on his audience, something that was not guaranteed with traditional media. Thanks to two-way conversation and online interaction, Hilton is able to cause a stir and get people talking.

“Real Men” of Social Media

An established model, actor, producer and venture capitalist, Ashton Kutcher has become a powerful businessman with an aggressive attitude. He is far from dumb. Like all successful, well-rounded individuals, Kutcher practices social responsibility. Partnered with his wife, Demi Moore, Kutcher has tapped into his vessel of connections to help create awareness on the issue of human trafficking.  He has hired fellow entertainers such as Drake, Justin Timberlake and Sean Penn to participate in the viral campaign, “Real Men Don’t Buy Women.” The normally goofy actor has audiences raising more than just their eyebrows with his campaign. Concerns and doubt have risen among various groups, especially New York news source, The Village Voice, in regards to the factuality of Kutcher’s statistics.

The problem doesn’t lie with the cause, it lies in the presentation. The Voice claims Kutcher is presenting inflated figures. Kutcher, a well-connected personality (and brand) in social media, has rooted his “Real Men” campaign into the foundation of social media. The star uses Facebook, Quora and Twitter to promote the cause and YouTube to host the videos. According to the study of Corporate Social Responsibility in the Blogosphere, social media isn’t a bad venue for him to take. The study reveals that while some online forums are smaller in size, the participation level is much higher as compared to other forms of mass media in regards to CSR. It is the idea of quality over quantity and frankly, it’s an example of the long tail. Kutcher has called on his niche market of fans and followers to help promote awareness of his cause.

The star, according to Biography.com, was the first Twitter member to reach one million followers. Who can blame him for using Twitter to fight back? Kutcher has bluntly tweeted to the Voice not only in defense of his case, but also in offense of their argument.  The so-called Twitter feud continues not only in the hands of both parties, but also in the hands of many followers. Kutcher has leveraged his large fan following to indirectly generate an army of support.

A positive result of this petty argument comes from the attention Kutcher is drawing to himself. Using blunt and informal language (and all CAPITAL letters), the actor is causing a stir not only to his pages, but also to his videos and to his cause. Looking at the glass half full, any publicity is good publicity. In my opinion, while the claim made by Village Voice is legitimate, they lose credibility by taking cheap shots at the actor’s casting stereotype, claiming the “Real Men” videos are reminiscent of something out of a frat house. Therefore, my problem doesn’t lie in the cause; it lies in their presentation. It simply looks like they are just picking a fight just to be picking a fight. Some sources say the there is an underlying political motivation in the Voice’s strategy, but to any outside eye, it just looks childish. They certainly do not gain any respect in my book by writing an article titled, “Real Men Get Their Facts Straight.”

Kutcher is no fool for continuing his rant. With a current Twitter following of over 7 million people, Kutcher has all the ears he needs. Whether he is bashing the Voice or directly supporting his campaign, he is creating all the awareness he needs. Job well done.