Madonna on Twitter: 24 Hours to Express Yourself

In a move that seems more like a misstep, Madonna’s promotion for her new album, “MDNA,” includes a brief encounter with fans on a one-day-only Twitter account, @MadonnaMDNAday, starting tonight at 10 p.m. (EST).

For many years, since she first appeared on the scene in the ‘80s, Madonna seemed especially connected to her fans through new mediums, like music videos. Madonna’s music transcended her talent and engaged fans in powerful and empowering ways. Which is why I’m surprised to find the singer making such a token effort at outreach in this era of proven social media campaigns, whether they be for Lady Gaga or for films like “Hunger Games,” which rallied fan support on social media channels for a full year before its successful opening weekend and wound up spending a fractional amount of the millions doled out to push Disney’s bomb “John Carter.”

Queen for a Day

What Madonna’s doing feels more like descending from the throne for a day to mingle – at keyboard’s length – with the little people. It might be the kind of thing a real queen could get away with, but not an over-50 pop star whose records need to reach the lucrative teen and tween audiences.

I was going to suggest perhaps true Hollywood royalty could be forgiven this type of obvious promotional approach – someone, say, like Elizabeth Taylor – but Dame Elizabeth had a Twitter account and did engage her fans on a regular basis for several years before she died.

Yoko Ono – artist, musician, mom, peace activist, and keeper of the Lennon legacy – is another public figure who, by all lights, probably doesn’t need to involve herself with Twitter. Yet she’s an active tweeter, keeping fans up-to-date on her latest exhibitions, music remixes, philanthropic efforts, and news related to John Lennon’s vast musical oeuvre. She also uses social media to gather and answer fan questions about any subject under the sun every single week, not once every few years when a new album drops.

Lady Gaga engages her Little Monsters in much the same way on Twitter. These are great examples of utilizing social media rather than cynically using it.

I thought we’d reached the point where it’s understood that social media can’t be an afterthought or glued onto the back end of traditional marketing efforts. One-time social media outreach isn’t community-building. While existing fans may take advantage of such singular offers to see if, in her meager time online, Madonna will deign to answer their questions, a short Twitter Q&A isn’t the way to draw new fans and build a committed community. That takes time and transparency and, frankly, responsibility, because once you’ve grown a community, you are to an extent responsible for it and accountable to it.

If you’re in it for the long haul, you’re going to behave in a way that isn’t just about self-promotion and personal benefit, you’ll want to be friends and an advocate and a news source, and be receptive to all the same kinds of input from your followers. And isn’t that what makes these communities so much more rewarding (and not just in the monetary sense) and meaningful over the long run?

What do you think? Is this a brilliant marketing move that makes fans crave more or a social media misstep? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Writing that inspired me this week:

“Everybody’s talking and no one says a word.”
~ John Lennon, “Nobody Told Me”