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Is Lady Gaga a Facebook Killer?

Friday, 25 May 2012 | 2:33 PM ET
Singer Lady Gaga during an announcement of her long term partnership with Polaroid as the brand's creative director on a speciality line of imaging products.
Getty Images
Singer Lady Gaga during an announcement of her long term partnership with Polaroid as the brand's creative director on a speciality line of imaging products.

Lady Gaga is launching her own social network this summer, but the niche social website isn't meant to lure people from Facebook, says the CEO of the startup that's building her hangout.

"We love Facebook, we embrace it. Facebook's around your social graph; we want to organize people around interests, affinities and movements, so to actually push them into places of things they love, like their church or being a Little Monster," Matthew Michelsen, CEO and founder of Backplane, said on CNBC's Street Signs.

Lady Gaga, who already has a strong social media presence with 24 million Twitter followers and 51 million fans on Facebook, named her website Littlemonsters.com, her nickname for her fans. The site is a one-stop destination where fans can find all things related to Lady Gaga.

The social network is currently invite-only, but people wanting to join can request an invitation. The official launch is not until later this year, Michelsen said.

The site’s setup is more Pinterest than Facebook with tools that allow Gaga fans to share news, photos and videos. The site also has Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ hooks so users can share their posts across their other platforms.

Still, it could be one more worry for Facebook, in light of its IPO mess. Ahead of last Friday’s debut, Facebook had warned in a SEC filing that advertising growth has been slower than user growth. This week, investors learned that lead underwriter Morgan Stanley took those warnings seriously enough to lower its 2012 projections — advice that Morgan allegedly only shared with institutional clients.

Even with 900 million users, Facebook is still trying to figure out how to make money beyond online display advertising, which makes up the bulk of its revenue.

At Backplane, Michelsen said he’s not looking at advertising in the traditional sense.

Lady Gaga's Little Monsters vs. Facebook
Lady Gaga's "little monsters" are getting their own social network this summer, as one of the first ventures out of start-up company Backplane. Matthew Michelsen, Backplane founder and CEO, offers insight.

Backplane is a "social platform aimed at helping niche communities build, host and grow robust and engaging online systems," according to the company blog. As part of the niche social platform, the company is working to make it so that fans will also become tools for advertising. Engaged users, or "influencers," are a powerful way to spread a message, Michelsen said.

"When we look at traditional forms of advertising, we like to actually look at influencers, so if I have Lady Gaga advertising something or endorsing something, it doesn't carry the same weight, especially with the Little Monsters, as if we actually have our 20 top influencers carrying that message. So we are actually trying to reverse this trend. We want to be what's next in advertising," Michelsen said.

For now though, the goal at Backplane is launching LittleMonsters.com and creating a great user experience, he said.

Michelsen started Backplane in 2011 with Gaga’s manager Troy Carter, ex-Googler Joey Primiani, and Alex Moore—formerly of Palantir Technologies. There are other former Google and ex-Facebook employees on the payroll, and the company's investors include Sequoia Capital, Greylock Discovery Fund, and Battery Ventures.

Beyond building fan communities like the Gaga site, Michelsen said his goal is to “bring large groups of people together” around social movements. “We want to enable people to come together quickly.”


email: tech@cnbc.com

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