Once a year or so someone comes out with the newer, better, faster, smarter social media platform. And it is often billed as – wait for it – a “Facebook killer!” People openly beg for invites. “Please, oh please! I have to get in!”
You’d think they were teenagers at the Playboy mansion’s velvet rope line. They have no idea what to do with what’s in there, but they have to see it. Now!
The latest such idiot magnet was Ello. They said it was wonderful because it was free of ads. With no pesky corporations trying to sell you things, your social networking would be amazing again. It even wakes up before you do, makes coffee and eggs and reads you the paper out loud as you saunter out of your slumber.
Okay. I made that part up.
Before Ello there was Google Plus? Even the occasional Grandma commenced to circling, whatever that was. Now? Crickets and SEO geeks still trying to game the system. It’s like Facebook only there’s no fun, no people and you can’t get in except through the front door — like a college rave at the Baptist Student Union.
There is also Path, which I enjoy for its simplicity and limited friend set. I use it differently than Facebook, sharing private ideas and rants with those closest to me. It has become part of my routine, which is the key to a successful social network. It has earned a spot in my daily to-dos.
The other key to a successful social network is how it makes money. Ello doesn’t want ads. Okay. But it has to make money somehow. For now, the plan is to sell premium features on a subscription basis. Would you really rather pay for something you can get for free somewhere else, so long as you can tolerate some busy-ness on the page you never really look at?
Facebook is an advertising model. It has become a media company and a media experience. Sponsored posts and other messages are everywhere – in your feed, along the top and edges. But you still go back. And you know what else? Many of you are seeing something interesting or relevant in those ad units and clicking on them. Facebook advertising works.
Don’t believe me? Look at the research. Edison’s Social Habit surveys from 2012 showed that 47 percent of those responding indicated Facebook was the one social network that influenced what they bought – more than any other. (Full disclosure: I was an editorial partner for the studies as part of Social Media Explorer.) I reckon that number is higher now. It’s not just word-of-mouth there anymore. Ads are more prominent.
Facebook has also made it easier for users to post about purchases and talk about companies with better tagging and “Your friends did this …” indicators. Someone posts about a brand experience then their friends see it and chime in with their own. The smart brands see this and capitalize by engaging, re-posting or repurposing. It really only happens on the critical mass social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.
In my opinion, relying on users to pay for advanced features they get for free elsewhere, is an inherently flawed plan. If it works, well, mazel tov, congratulations and see you at SXSW, Ello. If it doesn’t, then what? Selling customer data is about all you’ve got left – and you’ve pledged to not to be That Guy to your new friends.
And don’t lose the irony. What helps launch these new “Facebook killers?” Facebook. Where else can you find the critical mass of people to solicit invites from? I’ll just go out on a limb and call that being “Zuckerberged.”
There’s danger for brands in chasing the shiny new social networking object. Some individuals and even a few dotted companies abandoned Facebook for Ello. For a time, they missed a key and existing audience. Where are they now? Hopefully back on Facebook. God forbid they shut down their Facebook page.
(I still think Copyblogger made a mistake in shutting down its Facebook page, though it didn’t do it for Ello or any other preferred network.)
Is it okay to play on Ello or even Google Plus? Sure. But make sure you don’t tear down the foundation already built elsewhere to do so. If the notion of killing your Facebook page comes into your mind – at least for now – beat it out like a prairie fire.