Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The ANTI Position: How to succeed as the Alternative

By any conceivable measure, Facebook rules the social media world. It’s an uphill battle for similar competitors to find a market niche. Even when they offer a different, and, in some cases, superior experience. So, eventually, it had to happen. Someone had to come along and set up shop as the “anti-Facebook.” A company that offered a similar service, but without the things that people hate – but are forced to tolerate – about Facebook.

Enter “Ello.” The upstart social network is trying to get a skin in the game by capitalizing on the thing most FB users hate the most about the interface – advertisements. That, and the growing list of what some consider to be willful and excessive invasions of privacy. There’s precedence there. Not too long ago, Facebook made headlines for suspending several accounts because the people in question, all entertainers, were using pseudonyms or stage names.

Ello co-founder, Paul Budnitz, believes people may have had enough of Facebook’s Only Show in Town tactics. He is reporting up to 40,000 invite requests to the platform, which is currently in beta stage and very much invite only.

There’s a good reason for that. Ello’s developers are still trying to get the platform finished. They have several features left to complete, features that, if not done, could lead to downtime for beta testers.

There is one concern Budnitz and other developers need to keep in mind – is the buzz about Ello really a populist uprising against privacy invasions or is it just the most popular flavor of the week? That’s one danger in setting up shop as an alternative. When you are primarily “against” something, you tend to draw fans and followers who are also “against” something. They may feel you are what they have always been waiting for, but they may also turn on you as soon as you achieve a modicum of success. Especially if you decide to “go mainstream” or be “about something” positive. Just ask anyone who has ever achieved the double-edged sword of indie success.

The specter of downtime is troubling for a brand based on being something another brand is not. With a fan base already set on “FRUSTRATED,” downtime could be disastrous. So controlled expansion, which is common in social media, is the right move. The next step should be for individuals who have embraced the platform to become “about” something. To put their own positive applications out there in order to establish a place for Ello in the social media marketplace.

So far, step two is going gangbusters. Artists and other social activists have flocked to Ello, partially in response to Facebook’s “by the book” account deletion tactics. And that may be the best selling point of all for Ello. Even though people have to use their “real” names on Facebook, the fakeness of the interactions has become cliché. Unlike Ello, where people are already calling it the place they can really be themselves.

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