How Publishers Are Crafting Their Ello Strategy

By Matthew Rothenberg October 3rd, 2014

Ello may consider itself a place where brands are unwelcome, but publishers are already starting to set up shop on the most viral social network since Snapchat burst onto the scene in early 2013.

As it rides a wave of anti-ad and anti-Facebook sentiment, it still remains to be seen whether Ello is the next GM or the next Tucker Corporation. Nevertheless, brands like NewsweekThe Wall Street Journal, CNET, Adweek, the Guardian, Salon, The Independent, and Re/code are already staking a claim on the platform with new accounts delivering modest streams of content.

For publishers, adopting a new platform requires staking time and resources. So how does a news operation hedge that bet when it comes to a new social platform with plenty of buzz but an uncertain future?

At London’s The Independent, Deputy Social Media Editor Brett Leppard has led the Ello effort and is proceeding cautiously.

“If I’m completely honest, [Ello] is not something I’m looking at all the time,” Leppard said. “You have to apportion your time according to where your audience is. Ello is something we want to explore; if it’s going to be important, we want to be among the first there.”

“At the moment, we post about two to three a day of our best, most shareable stories. We don’t want to overload it,” Leppard added. “There aren’t that many people following us at the moment, and we don’t want to look spammy.”

By contrast, Leppard said, Twitter’s massive audience can handle “a constant stream of news and information,” and Facebook posts are likely to pick up traction throughout the day based on the ebb and flow of Facebook’s algorithm.

Compared to Facebook, Ello is home to a much more specific audience, Leppard said. “I’ve looked at other publications [on Ello]. Some may post a bit more, but those are mostly tech Web sites with readers who’ll embrace Ello. … I don’t think you’ll find everyday, non-tech-savvy social users on Ello at the moment. It’s a very young crowd.”

And what will be The Independent’s metrics for success when it comes to Ello? That’s up to the users, said Digital Editor Christian Broughton. “The lovely thing about social is it’s very democratic. If Ello offers me or the company something that we can’t do, reach people we can’t reach on other social networks, it’ll be a winner.”

“We have structured numbers around Twitter and Facebook,” Broughton continued. “There is a sweet spot for each of those platforms. I don’t see what the numbers are yet for Ello.”

Over at Re/code, Community and Social Media Manager Anthony Quintano counts himself as “an early adopter on new platforms.” The tech site already uses Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram to get the word out.

When it comes to Ello, “Our main strategy is to share content we are not sharing on all of our other networks,” Quintano said. That means playing to Ello’s strengths: “We like the fact the network doesn’t have likes or reshare. It forces a user to truly engage by commenting. If someone really likes a piece of content, they will go out of their way to comment.”

In fact, Ello has already cut in front of another social platform in re/code’s lineup. “We haven’t taken on Tumblr, and we were just about to when we discovered Ello,” Quintano said. “We then took our focus to Ello instead of Tumblr. We like the ability to use animated GIFs in feed and tell stories with multiple images.”

Who’ll stick with Ello for the long haul? Time and market forces will tell, but watching news outfits experiment with the new medium is a fascinating glimpse at the way professional storytellers learn how to work the crowd in every venue.


Image by Associated Press
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