Why Brands Need to Fight the Temptation and Stay Off Ello

For brand marketers, being the first to join a social network has become a source of pride: Everyone wishes they could say they were the first brand on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, or LinkedIn.

And now, a new social network is going viral: ​Ello. According to various reports, there are between 4,000 and 15,000 signups per hour. Time to hit up the social strategy war room, right?

No. Stay far, far away.

This is pretty logical advice. One of the main reasons that Ello is popping off right now is that the nascent social network explicitly rejects advertising and commoditization of user data. Its ​manifesto makes that abundantly clear:

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 there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity, and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

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.

The spirit of Ello is wrapped up in a wave of rejection of social media brand advertising; clearly, it’s not a friendly place for brands to play right now. Doing so would be the digital marketing equivalent of the Ferguson police chief trying to march in a protest calling for his own resignation. (Which, incredibly, is something that also happened yesterday.)

Yet, as Ben Brier notes in a wonderful post on Medium, one brand is already on Ello—Sonos:

This is a digital “No Trespassing” sign covered in so much barbed wire that it may induce tetanus just by looking at it. Unfortunately, brands don’t always think this way. They think in pure reach and impressions, forgoing the importance of engagement and sentiment.

Digital strategists lead the charge on many things, such as guiding brands on what platforms they should be on, and what their purpose should be. They work with brands on discovering the fulcrum between available resources to find a return on their investment and align on channel recommendations.

This leads to common sense implementation. This is why BP isn’t trying to curate a collection of images on Pinterest, why Viagra isn’t developing an Instagram following and why Axe isn’t thinking about sponsored content on ChristianMingle.

Amen. It’s understandable why Sonos would want to be trendsetters, but the risk just does not justify the potential reward. After all, who knows whether Ello is a fad or here to stay? The stampede for invites is strong, but then again, digital dorks like me also once clamored for invites to Google Plus. (The demand was so insane that Google had to shut down invites, which seems crazy today.) We’ve seen a number of “Facebook alternatives” in recent years—Path, Diaspora,—gain fanfare before flickering out. And while Ello’s anti-data stance is strong, their privacy settings leave a lot to be desired.

Regardless, brands need to stay on the sidelines when it comes to Ello. And there’s no need to worry—1.3 billion people are still using Facebook.

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