This Week in Social Media

Social media is abuzz this week with talk of a newcomer network, promising an ad-free and sans-data mining user experience, and touting the slogan, “You are not a product.” You may have heard the name floating around the office – it sounds like a cheerful Cockney greeting – the site is called Ello and it has already been dubbed by MarketWatch “the Facebook killer.”

Currently invite-only, much in the same way that Facebook and Twitter originally started, Ello is marketing itself with a pay-as-you-feel / freemium model to artists and performers, as well as activists taking issue with Facebook’s advertising policies. This comes on the heels of a rough response to Facebook’s recent public announcement that it would mandate users to use their “real name” in profiles. According to BetaBeat, the apparently sole source of Ello’s much bandied about growth statistics, the site has “exploded in popularity” and is “seeing 4,000 new signups each hour.” The network’s designer and co-founder Paul Budnitz promises that as soon as they’ve reached a large enough user base they will open up access to the broader public, presumably to avoid the site taking on the feel of yet another digital ghost town among the already-dense sea of failed social networks.

The site has something to offer those fatigued by the imposing presence of giants such as Facebook and Twitter. The UI is simple and unique, allowing the sharing and posting of content in all the usual forms (including compatibility for the Tumblr community’s adored .GIF animations_. Users can sort their social feed into either “Friends” or “Noise” as a way of filtering through what’s worth reading and social media’s usual ceaseless torrent of baby announcements, wedding photos, and your college room-mates latest Game of Thrones recap.

So, should marketers be concerned? Not quite. Not yet, anyway. Here is something to consider: Facebook offers the lowest barrier of entry for small businesses, distinguishing it from basically every other digital advertising platform on the planet. Due both to its capacity for hyper-local targeting and a total lack of minimum spend requirements, any mildly social-savvy entrepreneur with $50 in their pocket can buy a round of promoted posts to boost their brand’s image.

While it’s perhaps a novel idea for idealists, a social network free of any kind of marketing, there is nothing stopping forward-thinking brands from starting their own Ello pages once the site goes public. Once Pandora’s revenue Box opens, it is nearly impossible to shut, as Facebook and Twitter both have discovered as their advertising revenues continue to soar. Early adopters of each respective platform will recall that they both started as ad-free platforms too. Moreover, Gizmodo calls Ello’s user experience “a nightmare,” while The Guardian’s Comment is Free blog points out that, despite the social media public’s current appetite for an anti-Facebook, Ello is “crawling with bugs.” There is a long way to go for Ello before Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey will need to worry about making rent.

It’s widely understood that there are well over a billion users between Facebook and Twitter. The Pew Research Internet Project stated last year that in the United States 71% of adults use a social network, with Facebook far and away the leader. Statistics are comparable here in Canada, where Facebook use is among the highest in the world (50% of Canadian internet users log in every day_. In order to shake the foundations of either site a cataclysmic shift in interest would need to take place. In an era of constant innovation, with a digital revolution unfolding right before us, that isn’t impossible – but it won’t happen overnight either.

What do YOU think? Leave your comment below.