People’s Insights Volume 1, Issue 7: Little Monsters

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Lady Gaga’s stupendous success on social media prompted her to plunge into a bigger project that would do justice to her digital clout. www.littlemonsters.com is the pop princess’ attempt to create a network built around her fans, which she dubbed as ‘Little Monsters’. Fans now have an outlet to create or share Gaga-related content, interact with fellow Little Monsters and vote on each other’s posts.

The network was built by Backplane, a social media start-up that helps celebrities interact directly with fans. Lady Gaga is an investor in the firm. Matt Michelsen, CEO and co-founder of Backplane, told Mashable:

Backplane is about bringing together communities and Gaga’s community just so happens to be the community we’re using to learn about proper functionality. We think we can really change the world

Little Monsters makes the most of online trends by offering users a chance to vote on content and post video, images and text on a public board. As described on The Web/Tech/ Gadgets blog :

With a look like Pinterest and an popularity-vote feel like Reddit, the Little Monsters website appears to be latching on to what’s hot on the web right now: sharing visuals and rating content

Most social media user interface designers nowadays want to make networks look like Pinterest. Facebook Timeline, other social bookmarking websites and now Little Monsters have joined in. The site has been compared to Pinterest (a fast-emerging mobile app that lets users ‘pin’ locations and items they like), because of its heavy focus on aesthetics, imagery and similarity in design. The design is reminiscent of Pinterest also because of the grid-like, image-based content architecture. Clicking on an image enlarges it and, in some cases, links to an article or video.

The site resembles Reddit and Digg because it emphasises sharing and creating photos and videos, as well as letting users promote content from others that they like.

The resemblance is clear in the slide above. It will take users a while to experience it as the network is in the beta and invite-only phase.

The website features an image of the singer, created with pictures of her fans and a registration form. The opening message says:

Register now to be among the first to experience a new community only for little monsters. Because you were born this way!

After filling in the name and e-mail fields, visitors can request an invite. A confirmation is mailed to the user with an assurance that he/she will be welcomed to Little Monsters soon.

So, why does Lady Gaga, who already rules the social media roost, want to create her own network? She boasts of more than 19 million followers on Twitter and has more than 47 million likes on Facebook. Between the two, more than 66 million accounts interact with all things Gaga. To top it all, she has more than one billion views on YouTube. This consolidated fan base seems like just the start of things to come.

What does a pop star do when she masters most media platforms? Create her own! That also ensures that other companies and networks don’t cash in on her popularity and social media savviness.

Lady Gaga has always been a step ahead of all her competition on the web. As user Robyn Smart said on Mashable:

I like the design of the new site! I think Lady Gaga and the marketing team do a great job of creating a digital brand. They use all digital channels effectively – Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even Foursquare. Last year they teamed up with Starbucks to do a QR code game.

Lady Gaga is a real guru when it comes to engaging fans with every available resource. Google executive Marissa Mayer said:

At Google, we’ve seen Gaga build her career by embracing technology … as well as constantly innovating for her fans.

Lady Gaga wants a more personalised and interactive fan experience through Little Monsters. She wants the quality of engagement and interaction to improve between fans and between fans and herself.

For example, one Little Monsters user tattooed her wrist with the site’s name. Lady Gaga herself ‘liked’ the post, which made the comments section go ballistic.

Aggregating a variety of interest groups also helps Gaga reach out to a wider variety of fans through images, videos, text and exclusive content.The network aims to unite people around interests, affinities and causes.

As a range of interest groups explore and find new ways to be part of the community, Backplane’s ambitions for Little Monsters are growing: It aims to help power community sites for a wide range of interest groups, covering everything from celebrities to niche topics.

One of the mainstays of the community could be people sharing and discovering talent in fine arts, music and stand-up comedy through images and videos, popularising talented artistes by voting up their content pegs. The network could also be used as a social movement forum, as a user suggested on Hypable :

I guess its cool if its going to be used a social movement forum like for organising protests, political campaigns, etc like with her Born This Way Foundation but if it’s just facebook for little monsters I think it could get weird… and not in a good way.

Lady Gaga set up the network with clear business objectives in mind: greater control over fans by leveraging her popularity through exclusive content, advertising and merchandising deals, which would in turn propel the sale of her albums.

As described by blogger Carlton Jordan in his article ‘Lady Gaga Breaks Twitter History and Launches Little Monsters’ :

Forget her fan base, can you imagine Lady Gaga’s server costs? I am sure her advertisement ship has sailed already, soon ladies & gents you, me and the lovely ‘Little Monsters’ will have Gaga pop ups to look forward too not as if I haven’t seen thousands already! #ImJustSaying!

Congratulations to Lady Gaga, she is setting her mark in Pop history not to mention the World and now the WorldWideWeb! The social network is another revenue stream for Lady Gaga, which is difficult to control and measure on Facebook and Twitter.

At least, she can now control her online message and provide a safe place for Little Monsters to hang out.

Social microsites are a new form of digital marketing for brands and celebrities. Marketing on the web has evolved from brands hosting official websites to having a presence on social networks to creating personal social networks, taking the idea of the ‘fan’ to a new level.

While celebrities have had official websites for a while, they haven’t had a dedicated space to interact and engage with fans in fun and meaningful ways. A lot of these websites integrated social tools such as Facebook comments and Twitter shares, but still the websites weren’t deemed social enough. Enter social websites such as Nike+, which tracks runs, sets running challenges and challenges friends.

With artists themselves reaching out to their fans with videos, posts and comments, there are bigger things in store for this type of web marketing. The sky is the limit for such portals.

The major advantage is that personal social networks don’t live in fear of content being moderated or a page being taken off Facebook or tweets being removed by a government or a new feature acting as a deterrent for users.

Popular social networks, however, are unlikely to be affected any time soon by this new form of social media marketing. Brands and celebrities will engage with followers on these networks as long as there is traction. It’s only when niche networks lead to a drop in traffic will networks like Facebook and Twitter feel the heat.

An excerpt taken from popular social media blog The Next Web explained :

Twitter and Facebook are a great place to cultivate a fanbase, and without question the virality of shared content won’t have artists jumping ship just yet, but I imagine that in a few years, these artists will be hosting platforms of their own, like Little Monsters, and pushing content to these big social networks.

There is little doubt that the switch will happen. When it does, these social networks will compete with each another instead of with Facebook and Twitter.

Even with Lady Gaga’s massive social media presence, there were doubts over whether a social site devoted to her would drive fan views. All doubts have been put to rest – in less than four weeks, it doled out about 10,000 codes.

If Little Monsters is successful, other celebrities and brands with massive fan bases and evangelists like Cristiano Ronaldo, Apple, Coca-Cola, etc, will certainly follow suit.

(MSLGROUP’s People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform and approach helps organizations tap into people’s insights for innovation, storytelling and change. The People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform also enables our distinctive insights and foresight approach, which consists of four elements: organic conversation analysis, MSLGROUP’s own insight communities, client-specific insights communities, and ethnographic deep dives into these communities.

As an example, 50+ thinkers and planners within MSLGROUP share and discuss inspiring projects on corporate citizenship, crowdsourcing and storytelling on the MSLGROUP Insights Network. Every week, we pick up one project and do a deep dive into conversations around it — on the MSLGROUP Insights Network itself but also on the broader social web — to distill insights and foresights. We share these insights and foresights with you on our People’s Insights blog and compile the best insights from the network and the blog in the iPad-friendly People’s Lab Quarterly Magazine, as a showcase of our capabilities.

As you can imagine, we can bring the same innovative approach to help you distill insights and foresights from conversations and communities. To start a conversation on how we can help you win with insights and foresights, write to Pascal Beucler at pascal.beucler@mslgroup.com.)

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About Rooshabh Doshi

Rooshabh Doshi is the community manager for MSLGROUP People's Insights blog.
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