Described as the "Anti-Facebook," invite-only social network Ello has been the talk of the social media town in recent weeks. While most are considering whether this platform will once and for all kill Mark Zuckerberg's dorm room invention (as it did to MySpace), advertisers are clamoring at Ello's bold declaration that "virtually every other social network is run by advertisers. Behind the scenes they employ armies of ad salesmen and data miners to record every move you make. Data about you is then auctioned off to advertisers and data brokers. You're the product that's being bought and sold."
So, as those "salesmen" and "data miners," marketers want to know what to do next — if and when Ello does become the next not-Facebook Facebook. Before that, though, it's important to remember that Facebook never began as a way to share information or collect data: it grew into a place where marketers could communicate with the consumer. Some would argue it's a place where the customer is empowered and the brand gets to know its consumer at an intimate level. All this cool, not-so-scary stuff sprouted from a once college-student networking site with no real business plan. Though most social networks start out ad free, they rarely stay that way, and, for some of the brand-consumer relationship reasons listed above, it may not be such a bad thing.
So far, it seems, there's a lot of anti-marketing bark with little bite on Ello. According to Ian Tornay, associate director of social strategy at ad agency Ayzenberg, there are some obvious work arounds for marketers that can get other users' attention about their brand. You can, for example, set a wallpaper on his profile clearly championing a specific brand with no push back from Ello.
The takeaway, for now, is that it's too soon to tell if Ello really is an anti-Facebook, anti-marketing, anti-data collection overhaul, and should, instead, be taken as an indication that the consumer doesn't really like the way brands are marketing to them right now. With the rise of anonymous social outlets like Whisper and Secret paired with the anti-The Man sites like Ello, there is a larger conversation marketers need to have about how they engage with the consumer on social media.
One way companies can revive the growing consumer distrust, suggests Alexandra Samuel, vice president of social media at customer intelligence platform Vision Critical, is to move beyond the initial pitch. Samuel suggests in a recent Harvard Business Review blog article that things like co-creation and meaningful (hint: not boilerplate) conversations through networks could reinvigorate a brand's consumer relationship. In fact, new social networks may offer a much needed change for marketers as well, Samuel says.
"You can’t leave it to the established social networks to create the platform that helps you connect with your customers," she writes. "You need to find a way to convene the conversations you want, in a context that will actually work for both you and the customers you serve. And as the sudden rise of Ello suggests, that will probably need to be a context in which your customers feel like you are treating both their data and their attention with the greatest respect."
Image via ello.co