“Your social network is owned by advertisers.” Paul Budnitz claims in his bold manifesto for his new social networking site, Ello. “Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.”
Ello is a sleek and streamlined social media platform that promises a pure social experience — with no ads or marketing. “We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment,” the manifesto says. “Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate— but a place to connect, create and celebrate life.”
The site is still in beta and can only be accessed by people with invitations. It’s attracted several drag queens after the Facebook fallout over its real name policy, as well as creative types around the world.
With Ello proclaiming to be the anti-marketing social network, how should online marketers respond?
So far, it doesn’t seem like there’s a restriction against creating Ello business pages to increase organic reach, if you can get an invite to the website. But since the community of Ello is still struggling to define itself, it’s difficult to know how users will react, or if creating a page violates an unspoken taboo.
There are at least two brands with Ello pages, including the bike shop owned by Ello founder Paul Budnitz and speaker manufacturer Sonos.
Ben Breier argued in a Valley Wag Medium post that these brands ignore the “digital ‘No Trespassing’ sign covered in so much barbed wire that it may induce tetanus just by looking at it,” and that the branded content doesn’t belong.
Warning signs aside, it may simply be too early for brands to jump on the Ello bandwagon. Though users were flooding to Ello in the tens of thousands a week ago, many accounts have stagnated, and several users have posted joking tweets about not knowing what to do with the new site.
Some users have also complained about the site’s functionality, citing the lack of search capabilities and privacy settings. Ello founders have responded to these complaints by reminding users that Ello is still in beta testing and needs time.
Ello critics also wonder how the social media platform plans to sustain itself financially without advertising revenue. There’s been some talk of premium content, but the specifics are unclear.
Whether or not Ello becomes a real competitor to sites like Twitter and Facebook, the emergence of Ello might be a sign that marketers need to revise their social media presence. People are flooding to Ello because they’re discontented with current ad strategies. If online advertisers fail to address this discontent, it may damage their chances of success in the future.