‘ello ello. Nice to Meet You.
One of the hottest discussions in social media today is the emergence of Ello – a new social media platform. Right now, Ello is restricted to users with an invitation. So, today I thought I would bring you a behind-closed-doors view of this new social platform.
What is Ello?
Ello is a new social media platform that was launched as a private network between friends early in 2014. The small network of friends that enjoyed this very simple platform quickly began to talk about it. Next, they shared it with their friends. All of a sudden, Ello was the talk around town. This new platform was built by a group of designers to be stylish, simple and (most importantly) ad free.
What Makes Ello Different?
If you want to know what makes this network different, all you have to do is read their manifesto. According to its author, social media networks are plagued by noisy advertisements. Other social media networks, like Facebook, are owned by their advertisers. Advertisers are privy to every action you take or piece of data you share online. Ello promises to be different. It will not track what you do. It will not share data with companies. It will not show a single ad.
But while Ello is positioning itself quite clearly as the anti-Facebook, it is a lot like Facebook. It’s just the hipster version. It has the same profile picture, cover photo and newsfeed. Sure, some words are different and the look is very unique, but at its core, Ello is a lot like Facebook. My issue is that it has tried so hard to be different that it actually jeopardized ease of use. Its look is clumsy and very hard to follow. This will hurt Ello. It’s the same problem that Google+ had.
Is This Advertiser-Free Model Realistic?
In order to answer this question, let’s look back at some of the biggest social media platforms and how they evolved.
Facebook, the social media platform that Ello rebels against most, started ad free. It was a network between college students. Today Facebook is not only the largest and most populous social media network, but also the largest ad medium in the social world. Next let’s talk Twitter. Twitter also started as an ad free environment in 2006. In 2010, they launched their first advertising platform. Later, as Twitter prepared to go public, it launched one of the most robust advertising platforms outside of Facebook. In our business, Twitter has been used to very effectively reach some specific target populations. Next, on to Pinterest and Instagram. They too, started as advertising free environments. Pinterest has launched their advertising platform and one is not far away from Instagram.
Finally, Google+ is the exception to the rule. Shockingly, Google+ has always been ad-free. It’s hard to believe the social platform that came from the largest advertising platform online, is ad-free. But Google has the financial assets to forego advertising in an attempt to build its active user base.
The Ello Revenue Model
Facebook’s main revenue comes from advertising dollars. They have monetized their social network by building one of the most robust advertising platforms online. They needed to in order to support the $50 million they spend annually on their data centers. Ello plans to sell add-ons (or apps). There have been a few times where rumors circulated that Facebook was going to charge for usage and users were livid. So for a consumer-based social network to charge will be difficult.
Are Ads That Bad?
My final question of the day is about advertising as a whole. Are Facebook ads all that bad? I don’t think so. If they are relevant, I appreciate them. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, my firm makes money from advertising on social networks for clients. But I casually asked a bunch of social media users about their experiences with ads and no one really complained. In fact, much to my surprise, people overall didn’t mind them as long as they were relevant.
We are still in the early stages of Ello. In fact, it is not even available to the general public yet. It will be interesting to see what happens next. In 2013, Facebook brought in $7.8 billion in advertising and only a small fraction of that in other, non-advertising revenue. Will Paul Budnitz and his crew of merry designers turn away that revenue amidst their impending infrastructure costs? Will users sacrifice their user experience for an ad-free environment? Are people ready to jump ship to try out another social media platform? I’m not sure but can’t wait to find out.
Follow me on Ello at @BoxlessMedia (or any other social network). Do you want to try it out? Leave a cool comment and I will invite you.