You’ve definitely seen Ello by now – with people desperately begging for invites, or boasting that they have loads to give away.
But how has Ello become so ubiquitous so quickly?
According to the limited resources available online, founder Paul Budnitz says that the network’s been in use for around 100 of his collective’s artist and designer friends for over a year – they only started sending invites outside of this in April. They have no ambition to be Facebook.
Despite the rapid uptake and belief in the hype, there’s a sceptical tone in the air around Ello. How can they take on Facebook when they’re shunning advertising? The premium model they’re talking about can only go so far.
The founders say they still own the majority of the company, and they say they’re not actually interested in taking on Facebook.
However, they raised substantial VC funds ($435,000) just before this mega-spike says otherwise. Investors don’t invest without a business model that promises return.
So how have they got to the stage where they were getting sign-ups at the rate of 31,000 per hour?
Here are some potential solutions:
1 – Invite only
Uber did it through referrals. We know that referrals are sexy, and can make start-ups explode.
But invites are sexier. Invites have the attraction and trust of a peer-to-peer recommendation when you receive one, but create the intrigue and the desire like that caused by a private party when you’re left wanting one.
Would people have so freely shared links to Ello, or clicked on these links, if there was no pretence of exclusivity?
Those saying a platform can never live up to the demand created by exclusivity – citing Google+ as a case study – may be right, but let’s not forget that Facebook had eligibility criteria at first, too.
2 – A different kind of influencer
Unlike new services or products, Ello don’t seem to have built a partnership with any individuals, groups or organisations to piggyback off of their followings.
Maybe this is why we’ve seen such uptake among those who would usually choose to ignore a service if it was affiliated with someone mainstream – people just like the creatives who built Ello in the first place.
The mainstream media have been referring to Ello as a hipster’s paradise – but how many services have tried to hit that market before and been shunned because their marketing was way off the mark?
You can’t write Ello – or anything – off as just a hipster trend when it’s hipster trends that tend to form the basis of a lot of mainstream behaviour a few months or years later.
3 – Solving real problems
Ello’s current selling point is that they won’t sell your data or clog up your feed with advertising after they’ve sold it. They respect your right to use something other than your birth name online. They have a zero-tolerance policy on abuse.
All of these, whilst important and desirable in their own right, are incredibly topical solutions to problems created by Facebook (and Twitter).
It’s refreshing to see a start-up that offers a long-term promise and a genuine manifesto, where we can believe that they want to ‘change the world’ and not just sell out to the highest bidder.
There has been a real thirst for a service that offers a true alternative to Facebook’s most loathed aspects, and you can’t offer a true solution with good PR and branding.
So Ello – with their minimalism and simplicity – have done without the branding and have filled the gap with a direct response instead of something that can be polished to fit. And in doing so, they just have created a brand that stays.
Here’s hoping I’m not eating my words in a few months time with a record-breaking acquisition that sees the world’s hipster population signed up to tech giant services for ever and ever. Let me know your thoughts on Twitter or on Ello!