From ‘Ello’ to ‘goodbye’

As we covered data mining this week we were asked to read about the anti-advertising stance of the social network Ello. Ello has vowed to never data mine and thus remain anti-advertising. Initially, this sounds like a great idea, but what could it mean for the future of this network?

Ello might seem attractive because of their stance and the ability to post with more creativity. However, the average American uses about two social networks. When you consider how deeply rooted many users are with friends on platforms like Facebook, it would be challenging to get them to switch over to Ello as their primary network if their friends don’t follow.

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With advertising, we can learn about things that we might not see otherwise. Even though Facebook uses Edgerank to show users posts that they have been known to like, some things we want to know about might never make it to our newsfeed unless they are promoted. Additionally, “more than 50%…are connected to brands.” Advertising attracts brands and brings in resources allowing networks to add new features. Ello plans to also offer upgraded features to their users, for a price. We want to use the network to enjoy the experience, whether it’s catching up with friends or playing social games. The ability to share content from Ello to other social platforms could help bring others in but it would open users up to data mining from those platforms. This goes against the whole point of using Ello in the first place. Users would deactivate posts to prevent others from sharing it on other networks.

From a different perspective, Jonathan Crossfield explains that, “Ello might be anti-advertising, but it’s clearly not anti-marketing – particularly if the content is stylish and interesting enough to fit in with the celebration of creativity and design that Ello aspires to be.” Depending on the brand, marketers could do well in nurturing intimacy with their Ello audience. All of the focus would be on giving to the community and asking very little in return. Without advertising and promoted posts, content would rule!

Who might use platforms that share Ello’s stance? Perhaps artsy types who don’t care if Ello’s numbers ever reach the likes of Facebook’s would embrace it. The fact that it’s different is the most attractive characteristic. Using it makes a statement, like wearing patchouli oil. Others might not be the types you want to be around. Because all of your data stays within Ello and you aren’t subject to data mining, those who want access to adult content can live free without worrying about others impeding on their lifestyle or learning about their preferences.

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My prediction for Ello and other networks that share the same stance? They will be the perfect network for few. Creative minds will flock to it and people who have something to hide might spend time looking for others who share their unsavory interests, but they will never reach the numbers that we have seen with Facebook or Twitter.




8 thoughts on “From ‘Ello’ to ‘goodbye’

  1. Thanks for adding the Tweets about Ello, I didn’t even consider to look at what people are talking about the company. I thought the examples you used were relevant to this conversation and also indicative of the future of Ello- there is little future.

    I agree with you that the creative thinkers will enjoy Ello, not for their privacy stance but rather for the investments made to the website- aesthetically pleasing etc. I think that Ello also will be embraced by hardcore privacy advocates and the libertarian minded people who are concerned about their online uses. For those who don’t mind having their data being used or those who have just accepted that data mining takes place on the internet, Ello is not the right social network.

    1. Hi Hampton,

      Thanks for your comment! I’m sure even some of the creative thinkers might find it hard to pay for features but they will definitely have their place in the network. I think hardcore privacy advocates would feel better about using a platform like Ello but even some might prefer to stay offline all together. Everyone else who pokes around to see what it’s all about probably won’t stay long.

  2. Erin,
    Your post was great! You it all the key points and was very well thought out and supported with statistics. With regard to Ello, you bring up an interesting notion with how will Ello play with others? They recently allowed YouTube videos to be shared, but as you mentioned this opens the window for data minor. I think Ello is tying their own hands. I remember when Facebook’s privacy and concerns with advertising first came to light. In one of my classes someone asked the question, would you use Facebook if you had to pay for it? Nearly 90% of people said probably not or not as often. Is it the approach to social media that lends Ello success with this pay to upgrade option? I personally think this will grow in the same way as an online gaming forum, but I do not think it will feel like a social platform. I have been on the site and it feels stiff, it does not feel easy or carefree. I will certainly be interested in seeing where Ello lands itself in 10 years. I also think Ello’s followers will be of a certain demographic with less ability to afford the leisurely costs of social network; with a few ads one can use the largest social platform in the world for free. What would you choose? I guess only time will tell if it will be successful and if they will be able to keep their promises.

    1. Hi Alicia,
      I think you’re right that Ello is tying their hands. Even if they wanted to use ads down the road they couldn’t. At this point, I am so deeply rooted in Facebook that I MAY be willing to pay a small fee if it came down to it. With any new network though, I would never pay. I have so much value in Facebook that I could justify it. I’m sure some people will also see enough value in Ello to pay. It just comes down to what you value. I value my existing connections. Others may value privacy over existing connections and make the switch very easily.

  3. Erin,

    Thank you for your post. It was interesting to read the statistic you provided that 50 percent of posts are connected to a brand. Also, thanks for the link – I liked going through the presentation and thought you gave some very good facts about social media. With a captive audience of millions of users, I can’t say I’m surprised that half of the posts are sponsored or tied to a company. Both Facebook and businesses figured out pretty quickly the power and capability of social media in getting their message out to their targeted audience. So why not charge for it and make a little (AKA a lot of money) off of it?

    It was interesting to learn that Ello is registered as a public benefit corporation. So like Facebook, Ello is a for-profit company, but instead of being focused on provided return on capital or a return on investment for shareholders, it’s changed with a return of public benefit. I struggle with how you measure this and how you demonstrate it – by giving a platform free of ads? I don’t know if that cuts it.

    So how can Ello make money? I think the fundraising will only go so far – and when funds dry up – what other sources of income will they have to create? What are your thoughts on public benefit corporations? Are they truly giving a public benefit, or are they just more transparent and socially responsible – or do they just do a better job of communicating they giving and corporate citizenship? I’d really like to see more measurable guidelines – i.e. x % goes to charity or public good, etc. otherwise how do I know the company is living into its promises.

    I agree with you – I think with so many entrenched friends and family on Facebook, I don’t see them leaving for a new network. Not only that, I don’t see them leaving and then being advocates for more people to leave and join Ello. Are there examples of consumers leaving an established service or product that you can think of? The only thing I can think of is mass transit and the switch from train to plane. But again, I think that is rooted in ease of use, speed and convenience. What does Ello provide that’s better than Facebook (aside of from no advertising or selling of data)? You’re right, Ello will appeal to some audiences but to the masses – not really. I saw another reaction that related Ello to Google+ and how there was a push for that platform when it first came out, but that new craze has fizzled.

    Even though Google + hasn’t gone away, and I agree with your stands – Ello will continue to operate as a niche social media platform.

    1. Hi Frank,

      Thank you for your comment. Charging for upgraded features will only take them so far. I don’t know what they are going to do once their niche audience has settled on certain features and no longer want to pay for upgrades. If they truly are trying to make a profit, it will be extremely hard to maintain.

      The only example I can think of regarding people leaving one thing for another is when everyone left MySpace for Facebook. I was so reluctant but I couldn’t resist once I realized how many friends were on Facebook. They were all using MySpace at one time and I was perfectly happy there. Ello has far more challenges trying to get all of these people to now leave something so grand for something so young and small. There’s just no comparison.

  4. Hi Erin,
    I don’t feel as optimistic about Ello as you do. Similar to Google+, I feel that Ello will be a big party that no one is really at. You mentioned that the new social media platform provides a good opportunity for brands to become more intimate with their customers instead of pushing promoted posts into their news feeds (like Facebook and Twitter). If no one is really using the platform, why would marketers want to continue pushing resources into creating messaging for the platform? Because there are so many platforms available for marketers today and those marketers have limited resources, they need to be able to play in an arena where they can get the largest impact for their effort.
    On the flip side, you mentioned that perhaps Ello attracts the more artsy type. If that type of customer is a marketer’s target audience, perhaps being on the platform would pay off. Similar to how Myspace has become very niche-oriented, I feel that Ello will end up being for a niche group of people- which isn’t a bad thing! But as social media networks continue to grow and evolve, it is almost impossible to predict what society will adopt as the new “cool” social platform. Great post!

  5. Hi Whitney,
    I definitely don’t think Ello’s future looks promising, but I wouldn’t compare it to Google+. Although G+ isn’t Facebook, it’s not not too shabby. There is more brand engagement on G+ than on Twitter ( You also get huge benefits with indexing from G+. Ello on the other hand, doesn’t share either of those qualities. As long as a platform appeals to SOME audience, it will sustain life. I feel that any brands trying to reach their audience on Ello will have to be one in a niche market. The reason they would spend any time there would be because of their unique audience’s preference to hang out in more of a private, intimate, artistic setting.

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