up close: with Beyoncé Legion, The #1 Beyoncé Fan Source
As a card-carrying member of the network of Beyoncé super fans known as The Beyhive it's only natural for me to thrive on content about this queen. Arguably one of the most private celebrities in entertainment and simultaneously the most adored, Beyoncé has created an air of mystery around her life. Every photo, every video, and album drop is carefully timed unbeknownst to her fan base. So how does one quench their thirst and stave off "BeyHydration?"
Enter Beyoncé Legion, the fan account that has become the #1 source for all things Beyoncé. Its Twitter account alone has reached nearly 300k followers strong for being the quickest and most reliable outlet for news on Queen Bey. I caught up with the head of Bey Legion, to learn more about the ins and outs of running such a powerful force. He was kind enough to correspond with me from overseas. Outside of managing the fan account he is a normal guy who works and is a student. We dug deep into the mechanics of growing social channels, the choice to remain anonymous, team building and of course our mutual love of Beyoncé!
You are the originator of the Beyoncé Legion account, do you choose to remain anonymous? If so, why?
I do. My team and I felt like it was the best thing to do considering the amount of attention we were getting, especially in the beginning. It definitely helped us separate our personal lives from what we do online, and it helped make our audience see us as one team as opposed to separate individuals.
We like to refrain from posting personal opinions as well in order not to influence our followers, though I feel like they can tell when we really like something.
Beyoncé Legion began as a Tumblr page in 2011, what was your initial motivation to start a fan account?
Beyoncé. Besides my family, Beyoncé is my motivation behind most of the things that I do. She was kicking off the era for her then-new album 4 and I thought it would be nice if I could express my love and share my anticipation for her new music with other stans somehow. Tumblr was kind of the new wave at the time and I’ve always been a visual person so it seemed like the perfect platform for me to start all of this.
What does Beyoncé mean to you, personally?
I honestly don’t even know where to begin. I could write a Song of Ice and Fire-sized book on all of the different ways she's impacted my life. Coming across Beyoncé and her music when I was a kid was one of the best things that could've ever happened to me and it has truly been a privilege to witness her evolve and grow as an artist and as a woman throughout all these years. I’ll never forget how excited I was every time Survivor came on TV and I would keep wondering who that girl with blonde hair, dancing and singing her heart out was. That overwhelming feeling of thrill and joy happened again when I saw Crazy In Love and Baby Boy, and again when I saw her in Lose My Breath and then Déjà Vu. And it hasn't stopped ever since.
When I watched her live performances for the first time, that was a whole another experience. The way she commanded the stage made me feel such a way. I couldn’t believe it.
Beyoncé is what it means to be excellent and to serve nothing less than. I appreciate talented people so much and I think the amount of talent that she possesses is something rare that you have to pay attention to because no one else comes close. She’s definitely someone that I’ve looked up to my whole life.
Do you have a favorite Beyoncé story or memory?
As a stan, I think my favorite memory is the drop of Self-Titled and everything leading to it. From the Super Bowl and the Mrs. Carter Show tour to the commercials and fashion spreads. It was very frustrating but being in the Beyhive made it highly entertaining and fun. It was also around the time when Bey posted our fan project on her website and Instagram account so it was a special time.
Have you ever met King Bey?
Sadly not in a personal setting. That remains a dream yet to come true.
BUILDING BEY LEGION
Take me through the growth and evolution of Beyoncé Legion.
I launched the Tumblr blog. There was a new Beyoncé era on the horizon and I was excited to post and reblog new Beyoncé pictures and gifs with fellow stans. I didn't have a schedule or a strategy to follow, it was all just for fun.
I decided to use Twitter more often, especially with a Beyoncé concert coming up. It was her comeback performance after giving birth to Blue Ivy and I thought it would be great if I posted pictures and videos from the concert in real time so that the fans who couldn't attend were still able to get a glimpse of what the concert was like. As much as I enjoyed doing the coverage, I still wasn’t very invested and had too much going on in my life to be able to post regularly.
I launched beyonce-legion.com. I had been working on it for two months prior with a friend who would later become part of my team. We didn’t have many followers at the time so only a couple of people cared enough to visit the website. We continued doing those live coverages for the Super Bowl, the documentary, and The. Mrs. Carter Show tour, as well as posting news and pictures whenever she would announce or release something new. The quicker and the more often we posted, the more followers we got. I was happy about it but I didn’t really think it would become what it is now.
Beyoncé dropped "Bow Down / I Been On" with the cover art being a picture of herself as a child standing in front of her trophies. I was inspired to create a fan project where fans could participate and submit their own pictures as kids and I would stamp the "Bow Down" logo on the pictures just like the cover art and post them on a grid-style page. Beyoncé and her team really liked it and she ended up posting it on her website and Instagram account.
Beyoncé liked something I did and posted about it. I was over the moon.
We got access to some exclusive content and we were excited to share it with the fans but I thought what if Bey wasn’t okay with it? Why not try to contact someone from her team and see if that's something she’d be okay with? We got in contact with them and they told us what we could post and what we couldn’t. We got a lot of hate around that time but we kept going strong and just continued doing our thing. We ended up getting a lot of followers because of it.
December 13, 2013
We were the first to post the link to Beyoncé’s Self-Titled album. We tweeted the link and then what happened was just complete chaos. We’re not believing it. People are not believing it. We were all in denial after all the wait and the snippets and the absolute BeyHydration we had experienced during that year. I had heard a few songs from the album sessions a couple of months prior but I didn’t think it meant anything because they all sounded unfinished and really different from each other and it seemed like it was just a mixed bag of random tracks, not intended for an official release. I remember her team telling us that they were in meetings around that time and I remember thinking what that was all about. If only we knew what was going to come and how it would literally change the game forever.
I think that’s what kind of set us off and people were like no, we have to follow that account. We were getting thousands of followers. Between the amount of attention we were getting and the masterpiece that was the visual album, we were completely overwhelmed.
We decided to launch our gallery beyonce-contour.com because Beyoncé was gonna make her first televised performance of the era at the Grammys and we needed a place to store all of the photos from that night so the fans could browse through them whenever they wanted to.
Between running the website, updating our social channels, and my school, I wasn’t able to keep up anymore. So I decided to expand the team. I created a page on our website where people could apply and then we would email them back and forth to see how they fit that in their schedules and be in alignment with the way we do things. That didn't work out as I hoped it would so I started reaching out to a couple of people I knew and asked them if they were interested in co-managing this kind of thing and they said yes.
I decided to put the website on hiatus and just focus on growing our social channels until I had enough time to work on bringing it back with a revamped look.
February 6, 2016
We posted the link to Beyoncé’s Formation before anyone and, once again, it’s complete chaos. Super Bowl performance, followed by controversy and a tour announcement, and then the new album movie was announced and released. The difference was that we had experienced something similar before in 2013 so we knew what to do. We knew what to post and how to post it, and what we should focus on to get the most impressions from our audience.
August 28, 2016
We planned ahead to do the live coverage for the VMAs and we knew it was gonna be a success as usual. Except this time, during the coverage, we reached a point where we were getting 1000 retweets by the minute. Literally, 1000 retweets by the minute. That might not be a big deal if you were a celebrity or a politics account but for a fan account, that was incredible. And it only speaks for how great and big of a star Beyoncé really is- to have this amount of people being this interested in what we post.
We’re now known as Beyoncé’s biggest and most reliable fansite on the web. Our audience keeps growing on a daily basis and we only plan to evolve and improve and get even better.
Who runs the day-to-day posting for the Beyoncé Legion accounts?
We all do. The whole team. It depends on whoever is online and is able to post the news at the time.
How did you establish Beyoncé-Contour.com the photo archive site for Beyoncé?
I think it was the natural next step for us. We wanted to have a place where we could store all of her photos for the fans to be able to browse them easily. We wanted it to be like a Beyoncé photo archive.
Do you make money from your Beyoncé Legion accounts?
Aside from being affiliate partners, we considered putting up our own ads on our website to generate funds for the domains and hosting services but we ultimately decided to keep it non-profit.
How do you balance this incredible project and your personal life?
It’s very challenging. I can’t tell you how many times I would be working or studying or having a meal with friends and then something would happen in the Beyoncé world that I hadn’t been made aware of or the date it’s being released on beforehand, so I would immediately stop whatever I was doing and almost break my fingers trying to get online to post it so our followers could receive it as promptly as it was released. It’s a big responsibility because a lot of people are counting on you and it does interfere with my personal life a lot. Or at least it used to. It’s much better now that I have my team.
In 2016 your team was all young men in their twenties, have any women joined the team since then?
We haven’t gotten any more applications because our website has been on hiatus since then so it’s still the same team.
As creatives many of us struggle to seek help or understand when it’s time to build a team. How/when did you know it was time to expand?
For me, it was when our audience was growing at such a vast pace and the workload was getting too heavy. I wasn’t able to balance between my school work and the fansite anymore. I knew I liked doing everything by myself because I wanted to make sure it was done right, but I felt like bringing in more people to help was definitely the right thing to do and it's been a blessing.
How do you communicate with everyone spread out on different continents?
We are located in the Middle East, the United States and Europe. We mostly communicate through Twitter, Skype, and Whatsapp.
Beyoncé Legion is an extremely well-organized account, how did you build your content strategy?
I’m a bit of a neat freak so that’s probably where that comes from. I like for everything to be categorized and in its right place, to be minimal but still informative and accurate. I make a lot of lists and take a lot of notes. That helps me to be more organized and productive because I can’t rely entirely on my memory.
I’m sure keeping up with the ever-changing digital landscape is important to the success of your endeavor - how do you stay on top of it all?
I’m always researching. I’m always looking for what’s new and trending and what could help us improve and provide better content for our audience.
What are some websites or publications you read to stay current about media trends?
I like to read about many different things online. I like Billboard for music and Entertainment Weekly and Hollywood Reporter for my daily Hollywood fix. I like to read Mashable, The Verge, and Tech Crunch to see how far technology is taking us and which Black Mirror episode is coming true this time around. I like IGN for gaming. Bustle is also good for keeping up with trends. I like their design layout a lot. It’s very clean and everything looks like it's where it’s supposed to be so that encourages me to browse it more often. The things they write about are great, too.
I love Medium because it gives a lot of people the chance for their voices to be heard. These not-so-known, incredibly talented writers who have great stories to tell, that’s what I’m most interested in. So I end up reading more and more articles as I go.
This one is not necessarily about media trends but xoNecole is one of my absolute favorites as well and it’s become part of my daily morning routine. It’s so uplifting and the pieces are so beautifully-written and they just make me feel better about everything. I always have a great time reading it before I walk out of my door and get hit with reality.
You’ve said before that Tweetdeck, Google Alerts, and press releases allow you to stay current on all things Beyoncé. What other platforms or tools do you find helpful?
We use TweetDeck and HootSuite to manage our social channels. We use Wordpress as a publishing platform for our website and Coppermine for our gallery. I use Adobe Photoshop and InDesign for all my photo editing needs. VideoPad Editor from NCH is also great for quick video editing. It’s very fast and I’m always happy with the result. There are tons of tools and apps you could find on Product Hunt or app stores that could really help make your digital work a lot easier and get it done faster.
In general many want to know how to create a significant online presence to reach more people. What advice do you have for creatives or artists who want to build their fan base online?
Stay active and consistent. Communicate directly with your fans and involve them in the growing process of your work. Use trending and viral topics to engage in conversation to get noticed.
I found reaching out to people in the same field and collaborating with them being really effective as well in terms of increasing visibility and reaching a wider audience.
You never post rumors, only confirmed news which has garnered trust in the BeyHive community. What does accountability/credibility mean to you and the Beyoncé Legion team?
It’s our number one priority. Before we post anything, we always make sure to verify that it’s factual and comes from a reliable source. We’ve built a reputation of being trustworthy and it’s one of the main reasons why we have all these people counting on us. They know that if we post it, then it must be true.
What are some other ways you’ve distinguished Beyoncé Legion from other fan accounts?
Consistency. I think a lot of people with fan accounts at some point get bored or tired, or get too much hate and decide to get rid of all the negativity, all of which is understandable. What we do is we focus on our work and we keep going no matter what.
Also just as important, quality. People come to us because they are looking for high-quality content. Hi-def videos and hi-res photos. That’s what they’ve come to expect of us and we’re always happy to deliver.
Beyoncé is probably - or at least in my eyes! - the greatest living performer of our time but also one of the most private. How do you continue to obtain exclusive content?
I would go as far as to say she is the greatest performer of all time. This is no stan delusion. I’ve seen countless performances by all kinds of artists and I’ve come to the conclusion that Beyoncé is the greatest performer of all time. She is. No one is able to do what she does as good as she does it and still make it look so effortless, all the while being present and aware of her surroundings at all times. All due respect to the legendary performers who have definitely worked hard and deservedly earned their status, no one did it like her. Combine that with her amazing ear and insane work ethic. She is one of a kind.
As for the exclusive content, I think that’s one of the things that should remain arcane. Otherwise, it loses its value.
How can others start fan accounts for their favorite stars?
Create the account on your preferred platform, start posting updates regularly and follow other fan accounts so you’ll get noticed. Starting the account is easy, the challenging part is getting the fans to follow you and share your posts and the key to that is to be dedicated, quick, and accurate.
What do you think many people are missing from their online presence?
Dedication. I think a lot of people are just not dedicated enough to work on building their brand value and growing their audience online so they eventually end up losing interest.
What’s next for Beyoncé Legion?
We’ve been working on revamping our website which we plan on launching this year. It will have all-new sections and all sorts of awesome Beyoncé stuff that hopefully the fans will like as much as we do. We are also working to provide a platform dedicated for the Beyhive where they can share their thoughts and opinions and discuss all things Beyoncé so that’s exciting as well.
What advice do you have for young creatives in general?
Work on things that could lead you closer to your dream and do it as much as you can. The more you work on things like that, the more you grow and improve, and the closer you get to fulfilling your dream. And whenever you feel like quitting or procrastinating, just ask yourself, what would Beyoncé do?
Also, have faith in yourself first and foremost. We don't all have a good support system to lean on so it’s easy to feel like you’re inferior or like you’re not good enough, especially when you're going through a tough phase and feel like you’re failing. So believe in yourself and your capability to be even more amazing at what you do.
A question I always ask my guests is how do you live your best life?
By being the best person that I can be. As cheesy as it might sound, being your best self reflects amazingly on your life. I believe that there is no better way to live better and grow than to help others grow and live better. I believe in good karma and that all the good you do will come back to you.
I used to look at the world through gray-colored glasses. I used to be very pessimistic and I would complain a lot. Once I realized how miserable that was making me, I started looking at things from a different angle. From a brighter side. I became kinder and more generous, more understanding and tolerant. All the positivity reflecting on my life made me a lot happier and healthier and more inspired than I’ve ever been.
I am so grateful to Beyoncé Legion for speaking with me. I'm sure I speak for Bey stans everywhere when I say that we are so thankful for his contribution to our community. Look out for the new Beyoncé Legion website later this year and be sure to follow @Bey_Legion on social media.
Are you dying over this interview as much as I am? So many gems dropped, comment below your favorite part or if you think we should do a PART II!