Twitter allows artists to communicate directly with fan audiences. The platform can also be used as a tool to build a more complex “star” persona.
In pre-digital days, fan magazines and fan clubs would be the prime medium to satisfy the desire to know more of a star’s back stage life. This would be produced as articles, photo spreads, posters or question and answer sessions. “Intimate” details such as favourite colours, pets, heartaches would be revealed. Fans had to wait to be satiated with their monthly fix when it arrived in the mail or was purchased at a book or grocery store. This slow moving old media iceberg (we really got to see the tip) meant that building a star brand required significant resources. The publications were produced as commercial items, most often, separate from the artist or their record company management.
Web 2.0 and the arrival of social media changed that. Twitter has provided Stefani Germanotta the opportunity to message her 41 million followers directly with the frequency of her choosing. From the mundane to the spectacular, every tweet adds to a construction of the ‘Lady GaGa” while giving the fan a greater sense of intimacy. On-stage and back-stage content mesh together in one stream. “Fan mail” can be remediated immediately providing free images and insights that adds to a sense of “community”. As Marwick & Boyd are quoted “The fan’s ability to engage in discussion with a famous person de-patronizes the parasocial and recontextualises it within a medium that the follower may use to talk to real-life acquaintances”.
I sought out her missives to her “Little Monsters”and attempted my first close reading of tweets.
Lady Gaga’s status as a maternal figure provides the opportunity for an outpouring of messages of acknowledgement on Mothers Day. Her reference to God suggests a divine destiny, a spiritual influence, brings GaGa and her fans together. By highlighting the number of tweets received she is drawing attention to her role as Mother. But she also reveals her back stage persona by mentioning she spent the day with her own mother and sister, just like any good “ordinary” girl would.
The second tweet here shows when signing on to being a “monster” you join a democratic movement. Money and power (except GaGa’s) are swept aside as fans can be reseated in VIP spots at concerts. Her retweet of a fans tattooed back highlights the commitment of her monsters and provides an opportunity for approval declaring the effort “Bad Ass”. The reading mentioned impressions of fans that her tweets were less commercial than other artists, but sensibly she does promote upcoming shows in her stream.
The final tweet I’ve selected shows her as vulnerable, stripped of makeup and costumes, cuddling soft toy. This selfie could have come from any young women suffering from wisdom tooth extraction and posted for empathy. Except not every person is about to go “on tour”.