What You Can Learn About Digital Media From Lady Gaga

May 27, 2011

ThinkTank Digital served as pop superstar Lady Gaga’s digital agency of record for two-and-a-half years ending in November 2010.  The New York-based digital media agency, co-founded in 2006 by chief executive officer Tynicka Battle and chief officer of operations Amina Elshahawi, develops and executes plans to maximize online exposure for brands.

The agency specializes in social media promotions, online brand awareness, and application design and promotions.

Learn how you can generate the same online excitement that propelled Lady Gaga into the social spotlight.  — Amy Jacques

Talk about some of your social media efforts for Lady Gaga during your two-and-a-half year campaign — and their success.

At the start of  Lady Gaga’s digital campaign, ThinkTank was responsible for building awareness of Lady Gaga’s name, her music (along with various videos, performances, TV show appearances) and her tours (at this time, she started touring with New Kids on the Block).

Twitter and Facebook were not priorities, as they were not the leading social networks. It was all about Myspace at that time.

Both served as hubs for all Gaga-related media and were the platforms we utilized to engage her fans/followers. 
We worked closely with Myspace to secure home page features, in turn increasing her friend count there — that would eventually translate into high Facebook and  Twitter numbers as people made the transition from Myspace. 
Then our efforts to engage and interact through promotions, apps and widgets became almost entirely focused on Facebook and Twitter in 2009.

With so many voices in the digital space, how did you make Lady Gaga stand out and achieve such a huge digital presence?

We never took credit for making Lady Gaga stand out. She does a heckuva job doing that all on her own. We do take credit for a relentless approach to introducing her and her music to influential bloggers and tastemakers well before “Just Dance” even went to radio.  We call that a site-by-site win.

Gaga herself takes great pride in directly addressing and pleasing her fans. That philosophy makes her a natural fit for any platform. Once each platform was established we were sure to “feed the monster,” [as Lady Gaga affectionately calls her fans] making sure each network offered unique content. User engagement should be a 24/7 job for any brand. If your team is on the fence about the value of this medium, then you might as well pack it up.

How do you stay on top of all the emerging social media trends and find the channels that are the best fit for clients?

In this space, you wake up each morning feeling a little inadequate — or at least you should.  We read several trades each morning.  When we find a compelling new app or platform, we discuss as a team the best way to beta test.  You have to be upfront with your clients to make sure they are game to test as well. For example, when Tumblr functionality started to expand, we tested it with clients who were open to publishing and sharing options outside of  Wordpress.

What tools do you use to measure your reach on social media platforms?

We do not focus on measuring reach on social media platforms as much as we focus on what each respective audience best responds to.

We pay close attention to which platforms we can leverage to help others grow in the same ecosystem.  There’s no real advantage to having several platforms completely independent of one another. Fragmenting your own audience for the sake of keeping up is not a strategy.

Social media sentiment is also something we report pretty regularly to our clients.  We use analysis tools such as socialmention.com.

What advice do you have for others looking to form an agency like ThinkTank Digital?

You have to be equally passionate about digital media, the industries you target, sales and customer service. We’ve seen colleagues start companies because they are veterans in the space and they feel it’s [the right] time, or because digital campaigns are lucrative — but it’s an extremely competitive space.

You can be brilliant, but unable to close a deal. Or you [may] know you’re a killer salesperson, yet you yearn to work in a B2C environment when your focus is B2B.  These kinds of deficiencies have a way of killing momentum.

One practical piece of advice is — generally speaking — digital agencies can be launched with little capital, so don’t fret about not having a huge nest egg to get started. Our tweet-sized advice is: Keep overhead low and never be afraid to invest in talent.

Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.


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