If you’ve been on the Internet at all over the last couple of weeks, you couldn’t have missed Ello taking the social media world by storm — and like many nascent social networks before it, Ello has already been dubbed a “Facebook killer.” Of course, it seems unlikely that Facebook, which is 1.3 billion users strong, is going anywhere. Still, with reports that Ello is doubling in size every three to four days and getting as many as 38,000 new user signups an hour, the network is impossible for social media professionals to ignore.
But even with impressive numbers like that, your best move may be to keep your brand off Ello. While some businesses have already made the jump to add Ello to their social portfolio, the fledgling network’s anti-advertising stance — which has been a key selling point in coaxing users away from Facebook — isn’t exactly business-friendly.
Further, if your potential customers aren’t the sorts of early adopters who have already joined Ello themselves, you might be wasting time and energy promoting your brand to people who aren’t interested — or, worse, promoting your brand to people don’t welcome a business in their social space.
To help you decide where Ello might or might not fit in your social strategy, let’s look into just what Ello is and then weigh the pros and cons of using it for business.
Just What Is Ello?
Ello is an ad-free social network with a clean, uncluttered interface, which bears some resemblance to both Tumblr and Twitter. Though the network launched this spring, it didn’t really start generating buzz until September, when users unhappy with Facebook began to see Ello as an ideal alternative.
The main reason for users making the switch? Facebook was enforcing a real names policy, locking out individuals who used names that didn’t seem legitimate. That sweep included users who don’t go by their given names as well as artists and performers with stage names.
When these users were locked out of Facebook, Ello was perfectly positioned to welcome them with a policy that told users “You are not a product.” Ello also promises members that it will never sell personal data or show advertisements, which sets it apart from other networks. This attitude was an additional draw for people who were concerned about Facebook’s possible use of their personal information.
Though this strong anti-commercial stance would seem to make business activity a no-no, Ello has no policy against business accounts, and Ello’s founder, Paul Budnitz, even has an account for his bicycle business on the service. Other, larger businesses have already jumped on the platform too, like Sonos.
Are Your Customers on Ello?
Ello doesn’t have huge banks of demographic data for advertisers like Facebook does, and though that’s part of the appeal for its users, it makes it difficult to say just who’s using Ello. However, it’s safe to say that the current crowd is primarily comprised of two groups: the LGBT community that was particularly affected by Facebook’s real name policy and tech-savvy early adopters who are always among the first to check out new networks.
If these sound like your demographics, Ello could be a good place to reach out to them. But if you’re looking to offer B2B services or talk to different consumer groups, this probably isn’t the best place to find them. Could Ello grow to include your demographics in the future? It’s certainly possible — but if your customers aren’t there now, there’s not much reason for you to be, either.
Do Businesses Belong in Ello’s Non-Commercial Space?
Perhaps the biggest conundrum of Ello is where businesses fit into the network’s non-commercial space. Though businesses aren’t being turned away, Ello is anti-advertising, which could put a dent in your social strategy if it focuses on ad-style messaging. At best, the wrong kind of messaging on Ello won’t gain you any new customers — but at worst, it could mean you’re alienating an audience that isn’t interested in being pitched.
If you feel your audience is on Ello and your messaging isn’t too traditionally corporate-sounding for the platform, it could prove a useful way to reach customers. Of the brands currently on Ello, Netflix seems to be a great fit: the brand offers a consumer-focused service and its messaging has a friendly, casual tone. Its voice seems tailor-made for Ello because instead of feeling like advertising, the Netflix account seems like a fellow movie-lover who just happens to spend a lot of time talking about what’s on Netflix (which is hardly a stretch).
If both your product offerings and your messaging are consumer-focused and friendly, Ello could be a match. However, most businesses probably can’t just jump to Ello and use their usual social messaging. Be prepared to adapt if you want to join this network.
Does Ello Have Staying Power?
Though there’s certainly some value to being the first business to adopt a new social platform, it’s worth considering whether Ello is likely to stick around before you rush to join. We’ve seen plenty of new social networks that were also supposed sweep Facebook aside, but didn’t: Path, Diaspora, and even Google+. It’s hard to tell if Ello’s just the latest social fad.
There’s also the question of its business model. The company plans to make money by offering premium services for a price rather than relying on ads. Currently no other network uses this concept, and whether that model is sustainable is yet to be seen. There’s certainly a possibility that the network could cool off in the future or fail outright.
Depending on the resources available to your social team, it may not be worth devoting time to building out a presence on a new, unproven network. Could your time and effort get your business better results on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Tumblr? Just how much time your team has available and how you can best utilize that time is a question that only you can answer.
Make an honest assessment of what your company wants from social media. If Ello can help you achieve those goals, then create an account and work on a strategy that will reflect the network’s unique environment.
Our advice: be cautious. While it’s tempting to jump on the next big thing, Ello isn’t necessarily the next big thing for your brand.