Ello has swept in on Facebook’s territory this past week, billing itself as the anti-Facebook, and by that of course, they mean to say anti-advertising (they even have a manifesto). The social network is suddenly so popular that they’re having issues accepting new members at the current rate. The platform is also invite-only giving it that sort of “you can’t sit with us” vibe that made early Facebook look like the place to be to the non-college-aged.

Founder of Kidrobot, creator of beautiful display-type, high-end vinyl toys, Paul Budnitz originally launched Ello has a community for his friends who lost interest in other social networks. Of course, others soon wanted invites and Budnitz shut down Ello to rebuild its backbone to be able to scale.

With all this buzz around Ello and its quick ascendency, we talked to Ayzenberg‘s Associate Director of Social Strategy, Ian Tornay, to break down Ello from a marketer’s POV to understand more about it.

Ian TornayIan Tornay, Associate Director of Social Strategy at Ayzenberg

How would you compare Ello’s “marketing strategy” to very early Facebook?

The real difference is that just about anyone can invite anyone to Ello. It seems less about exclusivity (although this is an aspect) and more about not having the site flood and the servers melt. The other interesting thing here is that Facebook grew out of a college-based concept and catered to the college lifestyle — so it was exclusive to college students. This made sense and helped them really build tungsten-grade core before branching out. Ello, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to really have a core goal in mind yet. You hear a lot of things — it’s for designers, it’s for people sick of Facebook, they will always do this, they’ll never do this, etc. But is Ello really saying any of that The most dangerous thing that I think could happen is that Ello is flooded by marketing and social media professionals who start to warp it to suit their specialized perspectives and needs — what would a social network primarily influenced by people who seek to deliberately influence social networks look like

You have an Ello. What do you think about the site itself?

It’s a nice distraction. It’s in a really early beta. People coming to the site looking for a real community or feature set are going to be disappointed. But what does it say about us that a social network has to have all of these requirements and complexities and velocity to be anything of worth What’s wrong with just “a nice distraction” What I found fascinating was the desire to “like” something and not being able to. On  one hand, it creates this tension — on the other it either forces you to comment and start a conversation or to just relax and reflect.

I’m really optimistic about the statement they’ve made regarding “friends” and “noise”. It speaks to a level of intimacy and control that networks like Path  are trying to achieve. Whether or not it’s conducive to growth is yet to be seen and proven.

Why the anti-Facebook sentiment Is it misplaced?

Facebook is easy to blame and dislike, but to be honest I’m not sure people are really anti-Facebook as much as bored. Social networking radically changed the Internet and had a big impact on people’s lives. I started in marketing around 2008 and can remember the rampant speculation about the impact and future feature sets. Some of it came true, some of it didn’t — but what become readily apparent is that Facebook had to at least some degree become cynical. Removing features, ignoring user feedback, knowing what’s best for its user base; it’s all really unattractive and does absolutely nothing to inspire or rekindle the dream of a better Internet. As Ben Folds so eloquently stated, “It’s no fun to be The Man”.

Ultimately, I don’t think people dislike Facebook — I think they’re board and want to continue moving forward with the cadence of “What’s new”, but it’s just not happening. So instead of getting a new viable social network every two years, we’re seeing these little fleeting enclaves propped up by teenagers who have no plans of sticking around. And without new features, new network, or new ways of talking about it, all we’re left with is ourselves. It’s an interesting dilemma — should a social network entertain you or should you entertain the members of your social network

Ello is not an app nor is it particularly optimized for mobile browsers. Why do you think this is?

Ello is not a lot of things, but not for lack of desire, just a lack of time. I think it’s really important to stick the desktop experience before moving on to mobile. The one thing I really like about Ello is that it stays out of its own way — it’s very content focused. It’s a huge exercise in self-restraint and self-confidence on their part. Anyone can write a 1,000 page novel, but how many can edit it down to 150 pages someone will read Being simple and  concise is hard, especially on the Internet. Doing it across a litany of competing mobile devices where you have even less control over end-use-case and context is even harder. Ello has aspirations beyond a single feature, and it’s best to let those grow on desktop.

As far as you know, does Ello have anything in place to actually deter advertising

?Not that I know of. These (shamelessly plugged) wallpapers that I made could be potentially construed as advertising, but I’ve received nothing but compliments.

Any time you build a new way to interact with people you’ll probably end up running into some kind of weird sociological experiment. How will people try to break your system to their own ends How will people misunderstand you  intentions and misconstrue your intentions How harmful are these things If I’m Ello, I’m sitting back and watching how people act and what they do before I bring the hammer down. There is a lot of attention from people in marketing and social media sector coming in who are already trying to figure out how to adapt their brand and exploit the system. Let them try and then either decide if you’re comfortable growing in that direction or if you need to install safeguards against their behavior.

Right now I think it’s more important for Ello to learn about itself than to establish any kind of draconian culture or rules. The latter can come later.


Image Source: Fast Company