Even though the current crop of social networks provide plenty opportunities to target consumers, communicate with customers and improve conversions, some businesses have become disillusioned with increasingly restrictive and expensive communities. With sites including Facebook making high-levels of organic reach a lot harder to achieve, it seems like the best way to target relevant users is by paying for promotion and advertising.

However, a new social sphere is causing quite a stir and it has appeared from out of nowhere. Started a year ago with $435,000 of funding from a Vermont venture capital firm, Ello has been called ‘the anti-Facebook’ but describes itself as “a simple, beautiful and ad-free social network.” What’s more, this latest social media competitor also says, “Ello doesn’t sell ads. Nor do we sell data about you to third parties.”

While this doesn’t sound too promising from a moneymaking perspective, there could well be commercial potential for Ello. Especially when you consider the amount of buzz it has generated, the current waiting list and the numerous business benefits it could afford.

History of Ello

Despite the fact that Ello only started offering signups to the public in July, it has gathered a huge amount of momentum since then and shows no signs of slowing down.

On 24 September, Ello received 4,000 signups per hour. But in the space of 48 hours, this number increased to 38,000 signups per hour. Its latest report puts requests for Ello’s beta stage at 44,000 per hour. However, there are over 1 million people on the waiting list, as Ello is invite only for now.

Sound familiar? Facebook used to be a private network too, for Harvard College students only. However, more universities were added before high-schools, certain companies and eventually everyone was allowed to sign-up.

Thankfully, Ello is now a public network too, buts its invitation policy remains and an air of exclusivity is still present.

Potential advantages of Ello

Because Ello is still in a beta stage, the potential advantages are fairly limited, as it remains to be seen what changes or adjustments are made in the near future. But regardless of its ad-free stance, there are still a few possible boons and benefits for most businesses.

SEO and Content Marketing

– With other social networks putting more emphasis on pay-per-click advertising and promoted posts, Ello is focusing on delivering relevant, interesting and high quality content to users. With Ello, you can only target consumers that personally follow your page. Furthermore, you can’t sell to them either. Therefore, the alternative is to invest in content. In addition to reaching a different crowd to Facebook fans and Twitter followers, it doesn’t cost anything to place a content campaign on Ello. To boot, more content means greater search engine visibility as well.

No advertising

– This might sound like a bad thing, but Ello’s ad-free stance gives businesses the opportunity to focus on content that users will benefit from. Rather than seeing an annoying banner or pesky promoted post that intrudes on their browsing experience, users are exposed to content they actually want to see. Ello allows its users to file people under the categories ‘friends’ or ‘noise’ for greater personalisation and enjoyment.

Privacy and security

– Ello’s privacy policy will come as a breathe of fresh air for individuals who are worried about the safety and security of their personal information online. Ello says: “Collecting and selling your personal data, reading your posts to your friends, and mapping your social connections for profit is both creepy and unethical. Under the guise of offering a “free” service, users pay a high price in intrusive advertising and lack of privacy. We also think ads are tacky, that they insult our intelligence and that we’re better without them.”

Potential disadvantages of Ello

No parental guidance – Under the rules of Ello, anyone over 13 can join, but sexually explicit content is allowed. Founder Paul Budnitz says if you don’t want to see this kind of content, then don’t follow that user. Even though a NSFW (Not Safe For Work) flagging system is on its way, some businesses may be uneasy with this casual and uninhibited approach.

It could start charging

– Some sources have speculated that Ello could start charging individuals and businesses at either $1 per feature or $20/month. With no advertising on the site, it will have to generate revenue from somewhere. Certain users might be willing to pay for greater privacy, less advertisements and a better social networking experience, but don’t expect a mass migration from Facebook if Ello does start charging.

You might go unnoticed

– While Ello allows for a more content focused approach to social networking, businesses still need to make money from their activity, which could require the odd Call to Action. However, if users do not appreciate this, you could be regarded as noise and any content campaigns won’t be seen. Only time will tell whether users file certain business-based activity under noise, but top notch content that doesn’t come across as a sales pitch will be a priority.

The future of Ello

One of the most interesting things about Ello is that it has followed recent marketing trends without even realising. Things like SEO have moved away from technical requirements and requisites in favour of content, as this is what users really want. By the same token, Ello has concentrated on creating a community that puts people first rather than setting up a network, which simply satisfies users while generating lots of money.

On top of that, Ello has been established in response to networks like Facebook, not in opposition to it. The world’s biggest social media site can still fulfil the desires of a mass audience while integrating instant messenger, trending topics and relevant advertising. But at the other end of the scale, Ello is there for people who want a more personal and valuable experience. For this reason, it could well be the next major social network.