What Happened: In an age where social media has grown into one of marketing’s most used channels, social networks that aren’t plastered with ads are hard to come by. But Ello, the invitation-only network launched in 2014 by seven artists, is just that: 100 percent ad-free. Operating by a “Bill of Rights” – much like Tumblr’s Community Guidelines – that emphasizes a user’s right to privacy, transparency and freedom from exploitation, CEO Paul Budnitz claims that the platform has garnered millions of users since launch. Recently, Ello announced that starting early next year, users can sell their work and services through the platform, similar to Etsy and Ebay.
What This Means for Brands: Despite never having paid-to-play – something that Ello probably will not ever do in the future either – the platform continues to expand, with the aforementioned ecommerce model, a newly launched mobile app and an added ability to tag posts with hashtags. Niche groups form organically on Ello, usually centered around discussions. The new ability to tag topics, posts and users allows the discussion communities to grow and users to easily sort through content. However, with their advocacy of user privacy, they contribute to an conversation that could impact how consumers view social advertising. Despite not wanting to be the “anti-Facebook, “in June Ello rolled out a Facebook ad campaign (the first time money had been used to promote Ello) that aimed to bring awareness to how much information Facebook knows about its users. Ello could present a unique opportunity for brands, but they will have to find ways to engage with users without the help of promoted content or user data, which Ello does not publish.