Perhaps you’ve already heard, there’s a new social network in town. Ello launched publicly in August, and the site has caused a ton of buzz with its users-first, no-advertising promises.
Which is all well and good, but what does Ello mean for your author platform? Let’s take a closer look.
First Things First: What is Ello?
From a user experience perspective, Ello should look pretty familiar. You do have to be invited to join, which is different from most networks. But once you’re in, you create an account, from which you can publish posts and connect to other accounts. You organize your connections into “friends” and “noise,” which is presumably for news and other non-personal updates.
How is Ello Different?
In short, Ello is the un-Facebook. Its manifesto warns that “Your social network is owned by advertisers,” and promises to be different by never using your data for profit or selling it to anyone else. To ensure Ello keeps this promise, it’s set up as a Public Benefit Corporation.
Sure, it sounds a little crusade-y. But the timing is in perfect sync with the public mood, following a slew of oversteps from Facebook that trampled on user’s trust, took advantage of user data, and even manipulated users’ feeds. Between that and its invite-only exclusivity, Ello is in high demand at the moment.
But without ads, the networks still has to generate funds somehow. Ello plans to do this by charging a small amount for add-on apps to enhance user experience. This model has been very successful for certain online games. But s the general public willing to pay for the bells and whistles they’re accustomed to getting for free? It’s too early to tell.
Down the road, Ello may also offer an enhanced freemium version of the network as another way to generate profit.
Should I Be on Ello?
If you’re curious about Ello on a personal level and their no-ads, no-data approach resonates with you, hell yes, go request an invite right now! But if you’re looking for the best investment for your limited platforming time, Ello doesn’t make the cut yet.
Due to its controlled approach to growth, many feel the site is too quiet (a number of reviewers likened it to showing up too early for a party). This means the dynamics of Ello’s community are still up in the air. It also means that your potential audience for platforming is minimal.
The account features are also minimal, and there’s no word on whether the additional enhancements Ello has planned will be free or optional apps for purchase. So be prepared for limitations on features we’ve come to take for granted, and possibly having to pay to access them.
For example, there is no option to create fan pages or manage multiple accounts under a single login. So if you want a page for a project or pseudonym, you’ll need to log in and out for each one. No a huge deal, but compared to what we’re used to, it’s undeniably a hassle.
On top of this, the site is having technical issues like slow-loading pages, or pages that don’t load at all—a sign that it’s already struggling to keep up with its slow, controlled growth.
And don’t forget, no advertising means there is no option for you to advertise, either. Unlike Facebook or Twitter where you can execute low-cost, targeted outreach campaigns to build out your following, on Ello, you’re on your own. This means your platform growth will be slower. (On the flip side, followers earned organically tend to be much more engaged.)
There’s also still big questions about the sustainability of the pay-to-enhance business model. So there is a potential scenario where you invest time and effort to start an Ello platform, and then the site shuts down.
All that said, if you have the time to play with it, well, the Internet often rewards early adopters. If Ello’s momentum continues, joining now could put you well ahead of the curve—you’ll be an expert while the rest of us are still trying to figure out the basics.
The Bottom Line
Ello is a new social network creating a lot of buzz due to its users-first, no-ads promises. However, if you join, be prepared for stripped-down functionality, and to cough up a few bucks for anything more. With its relatively small audience and heavily controlled growth, your potential reach on Ello is very limited at this time.
Checking it out early could be to your advantage later if the network’s business model proves successful, but at this point, don’t let Ello detract from other platforming activities.
By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, an award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author whose debut novel Mud was named 2016 Book of the Year by the Florida Writers Association.