It's been a month (since July 10th, to be exact) when a social youthquake tremor rumbled under the tweets and Facebook posts of the olds when Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters social network opened its doors to the public.
A raucous riot of visual updates from Gaga's legions of fans — with shades of Ticketmaster, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr and Facebook thrown in for good measure — the highly anticipated site defines the next iteration of fan-based social networking. Two weeks after launch, on July 25th, the site passed a quarter of a million users.
Powered by the Backplane, it was engineered by Gaga’s manager, Troy Carter, who's also a cofounder of Backplane. “The goal of Little Monsters and Backplane is to unite people around affinities, interests and movements,” said Matt Michelsen, co-founder and CEO. And to keep out all those aforementioned old-timers cluttering up Facebook and Twitter and ruining the party for fishnetizens who worship at the altar of Gaga and nonconformity.
The intention is for LittleMonsters to become an "ocean of videos, songs, posts" and artwork and images galore — and to break through that clutter for the causes that Gaga cares about while creating meaning and connections for fans. Smart digital features include multilingual chat rooms with proprietary instant translation; or as Gaga put it, "My network coders developed a seamless translating system. Your seeing your native language when you type, and I am seeing mine. Cool huh!"
It's a savvy next stage for the most followed person on Twitter with more than 28 million followers, which amounts to roughly 5% of Facebook’s total users — or as Gaga tweeted, "equivalent to the entire population of Australia and New Zealand combined."
Now Little Monsters “is creating a new type of social corridor, [filling] a gap in the current social spectrum by empowering sharing and conversation that is effortless but not automatic.” She's present if not hyperactive on LittleMonsters, posting comments such as teasers for her next album under the moniker "Mother Monster," while leaving the spotlight, as much as possible, to her fans.
Wired UK back in May looked at Carter's goals in launching a Gaga-branded social network, observing that “For several years, Carter has been plotting a digital disruption of the music business and, by extension, the whole entertainment industry.” With enough followers on Twitter alone to fill the state of Texas, Gaga’s reach is virtually unprecedented, as is her power to marshal her mass of little monsters.
“South by Southwest (SXSW) actually conducted a panel this year entitled “Celebrity and Causes” that focused on the best way for stars to use their 'celebrity megaphones. They discussed the attention Lady Gaga brought to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal effort. Gaga tweeted and posted Facebook statuses asking people to call Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and urge him to bring Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to a vote. She also asked fans to phone Reid when she brought four gay veterans to the fall 2010 VMAs as guests. The Senate switchboard crashed from the amount of calls it received.”
Reid used Twitter to respond to Gaga with news that a vote was scheduled, which Little Monsters retweeted and posted on Facebook, and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed.
“Facebook is people you went to high school with,” says Backplane CEO Matt Michelsen in a video interview with Reuters' Anthony De Rosa. “Little Monsters is people you wish you went to high school with.” Or at least Lady Gaga concerts with:
"You can go on somebody's Facebook profile and see they like Lady Gaga, but you don't know to what degree. Little Monsters shows how many concerts they've attended and their overall level of participation around a common interest."
On the digital disruption business side, while Gaga currently has a deal with Universal Records, “there will come a time when she’ll release music through her own site. It’s not just going to be about sells. It’s going to be about the streams coming through the site. For us, it’s important to be able to identify who’s listening to what. We want to own that data. We have to own that data,” Carter told Wired.
“Are single-brand social networks the future of digital marketing? Will new compensation models have to be made for celebrities and athletes to post for particular brands’ networks? Will Nike’s LittleSwooshes.com be Backplane’s next hit (URL currently available, by the way), or will this be a one hit wonder?” asks lonelybrand.com.
Backplane and Lady Gaga are forging the way for a deeper, wider digital dive that lets fans define their identity and interaction, and offers major celebrities a platform for heretofore unseen personal brand sway and success. It’s also a lot more personal and digital-savvy than some other personal branding efforts we've seen lately.