Ello: Social Networking Without Ads

If you are like me, you are waiting for someone you know to send you an Ello invitation. Why? Ello, for lack of a more eloquent description, is an ad-free Facebook. No ads at its launch – or ever. All of this is explained to current and potential users in the Ello manifesto. A quick read indicates that this is not your typical social site.

Ello was created in April 2014 by a group of artists and designers specifically to display large images beautifully in a closed social network. The network is in beta testing and membership is invite-only. Each Ello user receives five invites to send to friends. The network also offers opportunities to earn additional invites.

Users describe the look of Ello as “throwback hipster.” It uses a fair amount of white space and an old fashioned font. As the screenshot below shows, your friend list is on the left hand side with little circular avatars and your feed is on the right hand side displaying what your friends are posting. Some critics claim the networking is trying too hard to not look like Facebook.

Ello screenshot

Ello is a public benefit corporation, meaning its structure makes it “impossible” for any future investor to pressure the network to sell ads or data.

For those that think Ello is just a fad, you might want to think again. In less than two months, Ello grew from a close-knit community of 90 into more than 1 million members, with another 3 million in queue to join up. In fact, Betabeat reported that Ello was getting 30,000 membership requests an hour in late September 2014. Adding to the buzz, Ello has made its way into late night monologues and eBay has even become a black market for Ello invites.

So clearly people are interested, but what’s the business model? Ello plans to offer premium services on top of its free network. Following the iPhone approach, Ello will offer low cost apps and features. Beyond the viability of the business model, my question is, is this a channel that marketers need to pay attention to? Can brands leverage what they have learned from implementing content strategy and participate in an ad-free network like Ello by adding value and interaction without pushing product? If they can, networks like Ello might be just the thing brands need to create and engage current and potential users in a way that requires thought and strategy.



Colleen Nolan
Colleen Nolan

Colleen is an advocate at heart who believes that with the right message and motivation anything is possible. A strategic campaign designer and communicator, she is skilled at defining and analyzing a desired result, and then developing the marketing and communications pathway to achieve success. Colleen quickly makes an intellectual and emotional connection with key audiences and uses these skills to craft communications programs that have strong resonance and dramatic impact.

Colleen has 20+ years experience in engagement, issue management, community building and mobilization.

Showing 3 comments
  • Colleen Nolan
    Colleen Nolan

    Thank you to Rosemary O’Neill who sent me an invitation to join Ello this morning! Can’t wait to jump in!

  • Adam Fletcher

    Awesome post on Ello! Heard of it before but didn’t realize how many people are now members of that network! What are the basic free functions to the social network and what are some of the premium ones! Again great post!

    • Administrator

      Hi! And, thanks for your question. Ello is free, but the financial model is to get members to pay for add-on features, such as apps that enable group conversations. These are still emerging but represent an interesting concept: paying for private social interactions. Hope this covers your question but if not – just let me know!


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