Hello Ello: what can brands learn from the private social network?

You have probably seen and heard about a new social network sporting a black smiley face logo and the name Ello. But what do you really know about it? Will it be the next big thing, or is it a passing fad/start-up? For those tired of Facebook’s ever changing privacy policies, data protection debates and sponsored ads—most people—Ello could be the beginning of a new era of social networks. Based on some refreshingly clear values, the key difference with Ello is its rejection of companies targeting people as products through the commercialisation of their data. This value of privacy has grabbed the attention of the nation, so what can brands learn from this?

1.  Transparency is key

In an era of rapid advancements in technology and an increased dependence on big data, consumers are being flooded with personalised media from every angle. Consumers have been encouraged to share more information than they have ever done before by the likes of Facebook and Twitter, but data security fears are growing.

Ello believes in “beauty, simplicity and transparency” and it’s not just the de cluttered interface that is appealing, their manifesto is crystal clear too. By becoming a Public Benefit Corporation, Ello is able to promise users privacy by not selling adverts or data about them to third parties. It’s not just the manifesto; Ello also makes it very clear on how users can delete their account. Unlike Facebook, where even finding the ‘deactivate account’ button is a mini cyber-mission, Ello prides itself on transparency: “We’ve put a very obvious DELETE ACCOUNT link on every user’s settings page. If you ever don’t like the direction Ello is heading, we invite you to delete your Ello account.”

With over 40,000 requests per hour asking to join and become a part of this new anti-Facebook clique, Ello is regaining the trust of consumers and building a relationship in which they feel valued. Brands need to take note—it is important for them to be as transparent as possible.

2. Ethics play an important role

If people have the choice to be ethical, they will be. We are surrounded by communications from companies that say they are ethical or sustainable and we like it. From the moment you find Ello’s ‘about us’ page its values around user data are clearly laid out. “Ello’s entire structure is based around a no-ad and no data-mining policy. Quite frankly, were we to break this commitment, we would lose most of the Ello community, including ourselves.” Ello has gone as far as to register itself as a public benefit corporation so it sticks to its ethical principles. The fully signed PCB document stating their values about third party data and advertising is even made available as a PDF for true cynics to look at.

Ethical companies are the way forward, particularly when trying to appeal to young people who are more aware of company ethics than anyone. Brands like shoe company Toms, have really benefitted from ethical strategies; with every pair of Toms you buy, someone, somewhere who needs a pair will get one.

Photo: Toms' shoes one-for-one policy: when you buy a pair, a person from the poorest regions of the word gets a pair for free
Photo: Toms’ shoes one-for-one policy: when you buy a pair, a person from the poorest regions of the word gets a pair for free

Similarly, Gandy’s flip-flops, set up by two brothers orphaned by the 2004 tsunamis, has been a huge success. With each pair sold money goes towards building orphanages for children less fortunate than they were. This story and clear message of ‘Orphans for Orphans’ is something that resonates with people, even if it’s a different kind of ethics to Ello. An ethical brand message is more important than ever.

3.  Be a trendsetter

Many have tried and failed to better Facebook and Ello may follow suit. However, at the moment, it is satisfying people’s need for something better, something new. Its invite-only nature has, in itself, made more people want to get involved. This is the social media version of a club where only the cool people on the list get in so, unsurprisingly, lots of people want to be part of it.

For those not invited, the air of anticipation brings a refreshing sense of intrigue to the current free-for-all nature of the internet. Exclusivity is a concept that brands should be looking to explore more.

Just as Facebook announced that people must use their real identity, Ello decided to announce that secret identities are encouraged. Instead of outlining rules and regulations that people will want to bend and break, on Ello you can be whatever you want. These reverse-rules combined with an invite-only policy have got people thinking.

Photo: Taco Bell's "anti-social" applicaton
Photo: Taco Bell’s «anti-social-media» application

Social media famous Taco Bell also capitalised on this concept by declaring that they were #onlyintheapp, which has raised plenty of interest and respect for a brand that dares to operate outside communication norms. People using the Taco Bell app will get app-only discounts and features, persuading customers to get away from their existing social media. This idea of coming off the internet is a brave move that not only differentiates the brand from fellow competitors, but also offers increased value to consumers. Brands need to set themselves apart from the crowd and give consumers a reason to connect with them.

4. Get ahead of the game

Amongst all the hype and tech critique surrounding Ello, there are some much deeper messages it highlights for brands in a modern age. Brands need to add value to the consumer at every stage. But, they should also look to do something different, something unexpected. Consumers’ have really taken to the unique offering and clarity of Ello. In particular, its direct targeting of big problems with privacy and data that have been blasted throughout the media recently has proved refreshing. Brands need to follow suit and make a stand. In doing so they can develop loyal relationships with more consumers and get ahead of their opposition at a time where competition is strife.

About the Author

Julia Stolarczyk Headshot

Julia Stolarczyk is an Account Manager at Brand Interactions agency Matter of FormShe came there from Warsaw’s BBDO network office (part of Omnicom), where she was working for the Austrian National Broadcaster (ORF).  Since then she has worked with well-known brands such as the Maybourne Hotel Group, Candlestar, Abercrombie & Fitch, DHL, and Kunsthalle Wien.

In her role as an Account Manager, Julia maintains client relationships and ensures that long-term business goals are met, whilst still retaining the credibility of the creative output.