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Say Hello To Ello: A New Social Network That Really Hates Advertising

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Today, the Internet’s chattering and blogging classes were consumed by Ello, a new social network that swears it will never impose advertising on its users. It will also never sell or share user data with third parties, it assures in a manifesto that leaves no doubt as to how the founders of the network feel:

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.

Collecting and selling your personal data, reading your posts to your friends, and mapping your social connections for profit is both creepy and unethical. Under the guise of offering a “free” service, users pay a high price in intrusive advertising and lack of privacy.

We also think ads are tacky, that they insult our intelligence and that we’re better without them.

Read more about our no-ad policy here.

So What Does It Mean For Marketers?

Well, probably not much. It’s early days for Ello; it’s still in beta and requires an invitation to join. And the Internet is littered with failed or struggling attempts to create alternatives to the powerful and commercial networks that dominate the social media industry. When’s the last time you signed onto Path? App.net? Diaspora?

Perhaps Ello will buck the odds. And there’s no harm in — or, as far as we know, restriction against — creating an Ello business page. Who knows, you might be able to turn back the clock to the days of high organic reach on Facebook. But if that fails, don’t expect ads to bail you out.

Postscript: After publishing this post, we were pointed to (h/t Nitasha Tiku of Valley Wag Medium post by Ben Breier that takes issue with brands joining Ello and ignoring the “digital ‘No Trespassing’ sign covered in so much barbed wire that it may induce tetanus just by looking at it.”

Breier argues that branded content is advertising, and that Sonos, perhaps the first brand with a Ello page, and the bike shop owned by Ello founder Paul Budnitz, don’t belong.

Breier’s post is worth a read. Here’s a taste:

An ad agency for Sonos may have some arguments to make. One argument would be that brands existed on Facebook before paid media mechanisms did. That ad agency would be right, but Facebook never explicitly told brands to go scratch from the outset. Facebook had ads on it as early as 2004.

That same ad agency may argue it’s providing legitimate content that fits in line with the target demographic of Ello users. But it’s impossible to know what a “target” is on a network that is both in early beta and won’t share any of that data with any sort of corporate entity. This is pretty clearly outlined in its mission statement.

Maybe it’s a stunt. You know, for the lolz.

Sometimes rebelling is good. Sometimes rebelling can gain you traction. This is not one of those times. Sonos is acting out of turn, and their presence on Ello is like the digital equivalent of double-parking. It’s not illegal, but the other cars you’re sharing a space with know you aren’t supposed to be there. It’s a crappy thing to do.

Postscript: If you’re trying to get in, consider asking publicly on Twitter for an invite code or searching for “Ello invite code” like this. Many people are sharing them or responding to requests. Codes sometimes work for more than one person. They are a string of three or four words connected by dashes, and you enter them into the sign-up page here.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)

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