Should Musicians Be Investing Time In Ello?

Hello and welcome to the beginning of a brand new work week. We have spent the past several days trying to develop the best content we could possibly image and this afternoon we begin sharing our favorite ideas with all of you. This particular article takes aim at the latest social networking trend and what, if anything, it has to offer the music community.

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This morning my mother called me and asked if I had an invite to Ello. The platform, which rose to popularity in recent weeks, is the latest social media craze. It’s invite only, but only in the sense that if you know no one else on the planet you will have a hard time receiving an invite. Artists and companies alike are trying to decide how to approach the system, if at all, and we thought now would be the perfect time to take a deeper look at what this new site does (and does not) have to offer the music industry.

If you have somehow missed the countless headlines and constantly trending topics that flooded Twitter and Facebook over the last seven days, Ello is the world’s latest trendy social media network. The site promotes itself as everything Facebook is not, which means no advertisements, no rules about what your screen name can be, and an invite only platform. It’s also in beta, with the promise of ‘bigger and better’ things to come in the future. Whether or not there will be a community present when that time comes however, has yet to be decided.

Ello is picking up users at an alarmingly high rate, but as it is still in beta there are not a lot features. You can create a profile and connect with people, but beyond sharing updates and images there seems to be nothing else to offer. This will change in the weeks and months to come, but the company has already made it known that they plan to generate income by charging for certain ‘premium’ features. Here is a list of the upcoming features the company has already announced:

I highlighted the one feature the will likely apply the most to musicians. It’s unlikely that this feature will be something the company charges a premium for, but again – that information has not been made public at this point.

As an artist trying to market yourself online, it can be very tempting to hop on the latest social media trend in hopes of making a greater impression online. The first question you need to ask yourself before doing so is how joining a new network will allow you to better connect with fans both new and old. Facebook has a timeline of your entire career, Twitter allows for direct engagement and quick news updates, Instagram captures images from the stage and studio, but what does a site like Ello provide that its competition does not? At this point, the answer seems to be (at best) its minimal design and lack of advertisements. 

Speaking of advertisements, artists choosing to approach Ello need to keep in mind that the company is known for its lack of corporate marketing and any profile existing solely to promote is likely not going to be received well. Netflix, for example, launched a profile less than two weeks ago and quickly became the laughing stock of social networks after posting an update directing people to Facebook.

It is possible to promote your work without trying to sell your fans on something, but that skill is another discussion entirely. If you are having success promoting yourself online in 2014 it’s because you have found a way to connect with your fans that does not come across as advertising. If you can capture that feeling again on Ello, it could lead to additional success online. But again – is it anything you are unable to achieve on the networks you currently use?

Artists also need to consider the way news feeds work on Ello. Unlike Facebook, users are able to separate the profiles they follow into two groups, ‘Friends’ and ‘Noise,’ which are then separated into separate feeds on each users’ homepage. Some users may choose to allow their most beloved artists a space in their friends feed, but it seems safe to assume most forward thinking consumer will separate people and brands/bands in a much more straightforward manner. This means even if you do have great posts, they might not be seen because your content is in a feed rarely viewed.

Last, but certainly not least, Ello needs to solve its privacy issues before it will be able to sustain a large user base. Right now, all profiles are public, which means everything anyone shares on the platform can be seen by anyone with a working knowledge of the internet. This may not seem like a big deal for a company with very little user data and next to no content for the time being, but if Ello wants people to feel safe sharing their lives through their service a privacy system will need to be implemented. Without it, users will look for somewhere else to share their latest updates.

While I do believe Ello offers a nice change of pace from the often overwhelming look of a crowded Facebook newsfeed, the platform has yet to develop any unique traits that can help artists further their connection with fans online. In time, that may change, but as it stands right now there is nothing users can do on Ello than cannot be done on another, far more popular, social network. In fact, the list of things Ello cannot do is far longer than the list of things that make it unique, which only further hinders its potential for longterm growth. 

There is something to be said for being an early adopter, and if Ello proves to be a sustainable social networking platform in the months to come there could be a nice benefit to having a great profile already developed, but right now it’s simply too early to tell. If you cannot fight the urge to signup, by all means create an account and reserve your screen name. Keep in mind however, that doing so means one more network you need to update regularly. Facebook and Twitter may be frustrating at times, but right now there is no evidence to indicate that they are going to suddenly become irrelevant anytime soon. 

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.