Google Goes Gaga

This feature was originally published for The Social Times, a division of MediaBistro, where Amanda contributed as a digital culture columnist

Google Goes Gaga

Lady Gaga at Google

Now here’s a celebrity who’s with social media. Or, I suppose I should write, “here’s a celebrity who’s with social media BUT is leveraging it for positive rather than negative purposes (ahem, Charlie Sheen).

Since her rise to fame, Lady Gaga has been on the cutting edge of music, fashion and performance art, so it should come as no surprise that the singer/songwriter/performer/ role model and media icon is “in” with social media.

Lady Gaga is on a social media tour. After hitting up the Google offices, the pop performer stopped by the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. Twitter co-founder Evan Williams tweeted this . “Just interviewed @Ladygaga at Twitter HQ. What a trip. Lovely, smart, and articulate”

Gaga visited the Google campus last week to appear before fans and Google employees to discuss her new album, “Born this Way,” and to chat with Marissa Mayer, Google V.P. of consumer products.

But what does Google have to do with Gaga? On the one hand, we have an internet search enterprise, and on the other, a pop princess. Though the two may seem like unlikely bed-mates, Lady Gaga would not be an international pop star if it weren’t for social media.

Lady Gaga is no longer a girl with a piano; she’s the queen of a kingdom and she’s the head of an enterprise. The kingdom? Popular culture. The enterprise? Social Media.

Lady Gaga is an expert in Fame. In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Gaga says she has studied stardom her whole life in an attempt to master the art of fame. And, like any good star, Gaga is as fresh and innovative with her music as she is with reaching her fans. The artist recognizes that—like a concert stage—social media is an effective platform for spreading her sound.

Gaga is sharply aware of the potency of new media, yet she remains grounded in the components that are at the root of every legendary artist since Elvis—passion, dedication, and real, raw, talent. Take away the glasses and shoulder pads, and this girl can still sing, and you’d be ignorant to deny it. (Seriously, check out her earlier solo performances, easily accessible on YouTube.) And it’s not just the sound of her voice, it’s the spirit of her sound; everything, from her lyrics, to her dance moves, to her beats are infused with her wonderful monstrosity.

Gaga learns from fame artists from the past, but this is only one step in cultivating fame; the next step, for any artist, is successfully employing the social tools at hand. In the nineties, that social tool was the music video, an art form mastered by Madonna. The music video layered a visual narrative onto the musical one and create a multi-sensory experience for listeners/watchers. In our current climate, social media provides more of a pervasive experience.

How has the star used social media? Well, for starters, she’s garnered more than 5 million Facebook friends and three million followers on Twitter. “If there is someone out there who shows the potential of the union of social media and celebrity, it is Lady Gaga” writes Caitlyn Burns in her article for The Social Robot. Burns discusses how Gaga keeps hungry fans satisfied through her pervasive social media presence, with being the center point for all Gaga’s work and ongoing projects.

What’s more, Gaga has a team of monsters working for her, circulating her videos through the blogosphere (it’s no coincidence that Gaga’s Telephone video with Beyonce, had more than seven million views just three days after being released). And Gaga is the first to admit what she’s doing: In her interview with Google, Gaga says she spends much of her day googling, searching for fan videos and interpretations of her work. She has even launched a section on her website where fans can submit video questions for her to answer, making her more accessible than ever.

Caitlyn Burns goes onto argue that Lady Gaga engages with social media to partake in telling her own story: “Lady Gaga seems to know that a pop star’s own life is a story they are telling, and whether a celebrity takes an active role in the telling of that story or not, the story will be told.” Brilliantly stated, but I think we need to add something: in addition to using social media to author her own story, Lady Gaga is also using the internet to engage her fans, to invite them to participate in the shaping of the Gaga enterprise. What’s more, she inspires fans to “be brave enough,” as she says, to author their own stories.