Last week, the new social network Ello sparked a tremendous amount of attention with its promise to become the Anti-Facebook. Ello is now receiving 45,000 hourly requests to join, based primarily on a short manifesto on advertising and social media:
“Your social network is owned by advertisers. 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 … We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life. You are not a product.”
Whether or not Ello becomes a real player, this sudden backlash reveals an undercurrent that is important for all marketers — many people are sick of how advertisers act in social media. That’s because brands typically bring an advertising mindset to social media. I think this is a potential wake-up call that brands need to earn their place in people’s lives.
Ello may be anti-advertising, but it is not anti-brand. Some brands such as Netflix (and ironically Adweek) already have a place there. Ello won’t change the bad habits of brands in social media. At the moment, a Netflix post on Ello is the same as a tweet, but it will be interesting to watch as brands scramble to figure out their identities on Ello and how they communicate in a community that shuns advertising.
Any social network is only as powerful as how you use it. The default mode for brands is to shout louder to gain attention, rather than engage deeper to gain a relationship. This social media backlash creates an opportunity for marketers to question how brands connect with their audiences.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Ello or social media marketing in general.
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed cartoon print. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post by 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)
15 CommentsJoin the Discussion
It is a tight rope to walk isn’t it. When does an update email start becoming Spam? and when does a Tweet start becoming blatant Advertising? Blogger @ http://travelingnoodles.com/
Ellen s. says
Ello came out of the gate large and loud… except was it premature? There isn’t much to offer folks on the site yet. It’s still technically in Beta and my facebook feed has been an alternating mix of folks looking for an invite and others making fun of how buggy Ello is. (So very interesting to be on one social networking site talking about another).
Clearly they have tapped into an emotional wave of (slight?) discontent in facebook. To that regard, they are marketing well — they’ve identified a need and are (supposedly) innovating to get there. But did they fall into the trap of a lot of entrepreneurs who fall so deeply in love with their own idea that they forget about packaging it appropriately for audiences? Could the launch have gone more smoothly if they had waited a bit longer? Were there really other competitive threats that pushed them to launch (what appears to be) prematurely? Did they end up doing themselves a larger disservice? It seems they had a stellar start with all of the sign ups not because folks are really excited about the reality of Ello, just the promise of Ello. With online audiences being more finicky than ever, if you don’t get folks to stick with you from the beginning you might lose your window of opportunity. Launching a superior product that delivers and then using word of mouth to spread over time is what will most likely lead to long-term transition away from the incumbent of facebook. Instead, they have launched a rough draft… they launched an “anti facebook” instead of launching an Ello.
There is no better recent example of this intersection of information hijacking than Apple and U2’s collaboration to launch U2’s new album. Offer the album and give the purchaser a choice, promotional but acceptable. Pre-load the album, not acceptable. Free does not equal cool. It is amazing to me that a company like Apple hopscotched over”engagement” and went to “push”. Ello’s timing is spot on.
A fair question to consider is whether people even want a relationship with a brand in the first place. That word, like “love,” is overused and risks being emptied of its meaning. We have real relationships with people, not toothpaste or even a mobile device. Brands can try to be relevant and take a soft-sell approach all day long in whatever channel they please, but when the dust has settled, all they are doing is selling a product or a service. That’s it. There is no relationship, nor do most people want one. Until that dawns on companies and their marketing folks, they’ll continue to chase their tails, ever frustrated that they aren’t able to connect on some deep level with their target audience.
Annie Pettit says
I’m pretty sure every brand starts out with amazing intentions of delighting its users. Didn’t facebook start out as a fun way to connect with friends? Only time will tell how ello reacts to the real world if and when it becomes large enough for companies to want to throw money at it.
Scott Monty says
Couldn’t agree more, Tom. The advertising model has been broken for years, with banner ads representing the lazy co-opting of billboards to the digital world; and we’ve seen the same broken model applied to social after digital.
In my experience, social has been more useful in brand building, creating broad awareness and improving reputation than it has about lead generation or sales. The content and the strategy need to reflect that, and sadly, for the most part, they don’t with current brands.
Britta Dihel says
These 7 deadly sins of social are our exact watch-outs for what our social strategy will do in the future. As I am currently looking at the social media strategy for my department I read this and thought, nailed it. We originally got into social media because that is where our consumers were, we wanted to be able to market to them but also speak and listen to them to understand how to improve. However, each one of these sins creep up as you see each follower add, or each comment or retweet it gets exciting and the original intent can be lost. Great cartoon, love it!
I always enjoy my weekly cartoon from you but this has to be one of your best yet!
Robert V. Bishop says
Clever and well thought out! Ello may be an example of ‘niche marketing’. Another example is “Marketing for Hippies”. I would consider both selected audiences not ‘anti-social’.
I miss: We treat our customers as lobotomy patients. There are so many brands out there, regarding their customers from a higher perspective and playing messages, as if their buyers are plain stupid.
Ello is a joke.. I think what it shows is the power of facebook and how we still trust it! Just look at everyone jumping ship to Ello.. It’s a viral trend happening on facebook. The reality is there may be tons of people aboard USS Revolution, but no one knows how to engage or navigate the waters. In my opinion, it’s just another cog in the social media wheel. If people want to really change the way they’re engaging and being engaged, they’d leave social media altogether and go play outside.
Someday, advertisers will figure out their way in. But I hope, not that soon.
I love Ello, thou I am a new user. I find it awesome that people are going back to basic. I will be comparing facebook and ello from now on, and specifically the difference between having an account on a social media that was dominated by the advertiser and another one where they want to stop all of this shouting products. Let’s see if peace is fun. If silence is great than the usual stuff we are accustomed.
Dianna Huff says
Agree with Stephen. I use lots of “brands,” but I do want an online relationship with my dish detergent or grated cheese? Not really. I’m tired of social media in general.
Davina K. Brewer says
My thoughts FWIW are:
1) I’ m slack for not coming here more often, as you are both funny and spot on w/ what you do.
2) I’m waiting to see if Ello becomes a thing, as I have with the various other flashes in the social media pan.
3) I’m in love w/ this. “brands typically bring an advertising mindset to social media” and the wrongness of that mindset. Even more a fan of this “Any social network is only as powerful as how you use it.” I’ve been writing, saying much the same for years now.. all for not b/c no one is listening. It’s all sales and ROI vs. the handful of companies that ‘get it’ and smarter people already have my dream job.
Having taken VC investment, I don’t think it can hope to be what it aspires to be.