Indian users might not be familiar with Ello, but the social networking start up had a much publicized launch in late 2014 and was billed as the ‘Anti-Facebook’. Ello’s founders have publically criticized the ad and targeting-centric approach of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, etc. and have claimed to have created the ultimate ad free experience networking experience.
As with many other internet companies, interest in Ello fizzled out of the months, that is until it launched its first ever marketing campaign last week. The twist? Ello has taken ad spots on Facebook and is using them to poke fun at their rival’s highly targeted and ad-centric approach.
Ello is also using Facebook’s much vaunted targeting features to reach out to the right audience. So, for example, when someone in New York logs in to their Facebook account, they might probably get to see this ad:
The effect is creepy but this is what that the fledgling social media company is going for. It’s cheeky but it has gotten the tech community talking about Ello once again and Ello seems to have no qualms about taking the fight to the proverbial enemy. The messaging to Facebook users is straightforward enough—the company has tonnes and tonnes of data on you, which it is selling to 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,” says the company in its manifesto, which can be found on its website and it is reinforcing the same thought through its ads. And using Facebook to deliver it to the right audience is a move the Trojans would have been proud of.
This of course does not mean that Ello doesn’t record any information about their users itself. However, the company claims that this is minimal and it uses an anonymized version of Google Analytics which makes it very difficult to trace the data back to anyone.
The company has also converted to a PBC or Public Benefit Corporation. It explains, “This is new kind of for-profit company in the USA that exists to produce a benefit for society as a whole — not just to make money for its investors". What this means is that Ello will never make money by selling ads or user information to advertisers and in the event that the company is sold the new owners will also have to stick to this.
This is Ello’s first ad campaign since its inception and the company has said that it will also extend the campaign to other social networks like Tumblr, Twitter and Pinterest in the near future.
The company might have its hands full considering the intense competition and options in the social media space but it seems to have been preparing in recent months for the fight head. It recently hired its first Chief Marketing Officer and has also raised a further funding of $5 million in April this year. This month also saw it release an iOS app and an Android app is also supposed to be in the works.
Ello’s anti-advertising approach won it quite a few admirers at the time of launch, with some reports stating more than 1 million users had applied for an invitation to join within a month of its announcement (Ello is strictly invite-only). The company has not revealed what the current user base is but with the new, aggressive push it could mount a serious challenge as a potential Facebook replacement especially since the goliath’s user growth has been slowing down in recent months.
Advertising is the mainstay for social media companies though it is the narrowest of paths to tread between satisfying the advertiser and not encroaching on a user’s privacy. It’s something not many have gotten right and though Facebook has been working hard to get the mix just perfect it does have its detractors.
A 2013 study stated that 15 per cent of US Facebook users would gladly pay a monthly fee to not see any ads. Who knows, this might just be a potential revenue stream!