Ello, Puppet: Musings on the Ad Free Social Network.

Because I swim in digital marketing waters, it was tough to miss the announcement and hype surrounding the flavor-of-the-moment new social network Ello.

I'm sure the joke has been made before. But I simply had to.  Original image wikimedia commons.
I’m sure the joke has been made before. But I simply had to.
Original image wikimedia commons.
The service bills itself as “ad free.” In stark contrast to the popular networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, the users are not the product being sold.

It’s an intriguing premise, and frankly the reason I’m now on the network (though I won’t be forsaking my other networks any time soon).

Here’s the short version: I genuinely hope that Ello takes off, and “regular users” hop in and give it some time to mature.

Over-eager marketers and hype-slingers are quick to try and pick the “Facebook killer.” Like comparing a 2006 Steve Jobs keynote speech to a sweaty teenager’s valedictorian address, it’s not a fair fight. Nobody is killing Facebook right now.

Of the not-good chances, Ello’s got the best to dethrone Facebook, because they are attacking the most sound-bytable public-facing link in the Facebook chain: the greedy businessman angle.

The average user (think: your aunt who likes everything you post on Facebook within minutes but still has an AOL email address) is unaware of, or at least unconcerned with, the revenue being generated by Facebook. They just happily post about their vacation, the grandkids, what the preacher said, and the latest political cartoon. If enough of those average users start to realize (or be bothered by the fact that) they are the product being bought and sold, that’s the moment Facebook is in trouble.

Ello is using its pocket-knife to whittle away at that taproot, highlighting and calling into question the ethical underpinning of the big social networks, and then holding themselves up as the “we can look ourselves in the mirror” developers trying to restore order to the universe.

It’s great storytelling. Unfortunately for right now, the only ones sitting crosslegged in front of the storytellers are marketers and/or web geeks like myself.

More fundamentally, it’s a story that resonates loudest with progressives. The conservatives in the crowd aren’t as susceptible to the greedy businessman angle (regardless of whether it’s true or not) because they are predisposed to consider business (even big business) to be a morally good thing.

So the task of the storyteller is to know his audience.

Ello team, how are you going to reach those Facebook users who are aware that they are being marketed to based on what they post, and are generally OK with that fact? I’ve got to think that’s a majority of folks.

In the meantime, you’ve got a lot of developing to do to make the network more user friendly, and squash the bugs that come with overnight explosions in user-base. And that’s not even mentioning figuring out how you are going to pay for this thing, long-term.

We’re cheering for you.

Oh, and by all means, come say Ello.