Ello? Is anybody out there?

Ello Invitation

Ello is promoting itself as the first ethical social network. Known as the anti-Facebook because of its anti-advertising, pro-privacy model, Ello promises not to collect and use its users’ information.

With Facebook, “every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold. We believe there is a better way,” reads the Ello manifesto. Rather than selling ads, Ello said it plans to introduce an app store, where widgets and add-ons will be sold to let users customize the site and individual profiles.

Anti-Marketing or Just Anti-Advertising?

This all begs the question, is Ello really anti-marketing? Actually, according to a Content Marketing Institute article published this month, many of the people who initially joined this invite-only app were marketers and social media community managers. So even though Ello is anti-advertising, it is not anti-marketing, “particularly if the content is stylish and interesting enough to fit in with the celebration of creativity and design that Ello aspires to be.” Rather than relying on traditional advertising, which interrupts the user, Ello and its co-founder, Paul Budnitz, aim to pull marketing towards the user based on relevance and genuine interest.

Ello Invite

Ello, Goodbye

Back in September, Budnitz said that requests and approvals for access to the invite-only service were totaling 40,000 per hour. Six months later, statistics have shown that interest in the site has wained. While user sign-ups have been high, people aren’t sticking around. The network peaked at 30 million visitors in October and had only 9 million last month. It seems like the social network’s ethical approach isn’t enough to convince people to leave their beloved Facebook. Remember when Google+ was invite-only when it first came out? And we all know how well that turned out for this often-forgotten-about social network.

Ello? Anybody There?

No one seems to be on Ello. Even those who are obsessed with posting their every move to the social networks they’re currently on aren’t on it. Why is this? Well, for starters, while people might try out a variety of social networks just to see what they’re like, they’ll probably only regularly post on one to three. Second of all, it seems that the “ethical” nature was not enough to convince people to use it. In order for us to change what we’re currently using, the alternative has to be better. Ello is not better than Facebook. As Content Marketing Institute author Jonathan Crossfield said, “While some minority groups may value the freedoms and privacy afforded by Ello, many other users may not see the poor user-experience and stripped-back platform as an adequate replacement.” In other words, when you take away Ello’s manifesto, all that’s left is a poor user experience.

While, at the moment, I can’t see Ello killing off Facebook, the new ad-free social network serves as a warning to all the other major networks that people want to keep the social in social media and as a reminder that organic content should be just as valuable if not more valuable than paid content. Before Facebook, Twitter and YouTube used to rely so heavily on advertising, these platforms were about engaging in genuine conversations with people and providing feedback or answers to questions. We can’t leave the original purpose of social networks behind for algorithm updates and advertising dollars. Ello is on to something here with its manifesto. With that said, while people might be in favor of its no-advertising stance, I don’t think they’ll be jumping on the Ello bandwagon anytime soon. They’d rather stick to their ad-cluttered Facebook page, which they’re familiar with and is easy to use, rather than trade it all for a new social platform that barely has any sign-ups and offers a poor user experience.

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Moderating Negative Facebook Comments

Moderating an online community can be tricky. While social media moderation is necessary, it needs to be done with as light of a touch as possible. The key to effectively managing any given situation is knowing when to step in to moderate a conversation and when you should just let nature take its course, so to speak. As Justin mentioned in this week’s lecture, social media sites, ultimately, belong to their users not to their community managers. According to NPR’s Ethics Handbook, “we do not impose ourselves on such sites. We are guests and behave as such.” In order to get the most out of social media, we need to understand these communities and treat those we encounter online, regardless of whether what they’re saying is positive or negative, with the utmost respect and courtesy that we’d show people we encounter offline.

This week, we’ve been tasked with moderating the following sample customer comments. We are to assume that they were left on our company’s Facebook page.

To a hotel: “I am disgusted about the state of your restaurant on 1467 Justin Kings Way. Empty tables weren’t cleared and full of remains of meals. It makes me wonder what the state of your kitchen is?!!! Gross.”

My response: Hello, (Insert customer name here). Thank you for taking the time to provide us your feedback. We are sorry to hear about your unpleasant dining experience at our restaurant. At (Insert name of restaurant), we pride ourselves on excellent service, one-of-a-kind cuisine and cleanliness. Messy tables are not acceptable. Please be assured that we have spoken with our staff to ensure that this will be not happen again. I’d like to personally invite you to try our restaurant again the next time you’re in our neck of the woods. When you come, please make sure to ask for Lynette. I would love to meet you in person.

To a mainstream news network: “Your reporting on the Middle East is biased in the extreme. You gave almost all your air time to spokespeople for the Israelis last night and there was no right to reply for the Palestinians. The conflict upsets me so much and your reporting of it, saddens me even more and makes me f**king furious.” (Let us assume the reporting was balanced, with equal time to both sides.)

My response: Hello, (Insert customer name here). Thank you for taking the time to listen to our news segment about the Middle East and provide us with your feedback. At (Insert name of mainstream news network), we do our best to ensure that our reporting is as balanced as possible, making sure we give equal air time to both sides of every issue we discuss on our network. Please know that we value your feedback and have passed your comments on to our team manager. If you have additional feedback in the future, please feel free to email us directly at (Insert email address here).

Although each of my replies were for different types of situations, I structured them very similarly. In each, I thanked the customer for their feedback, apologized for the poor experience they had, touched on our company’s values and invited them to leave additional feedback. While there is no magic formula for moderating comments on social media, I find that this way is a pretty standard and effective way to handle customer/viewer complaints, as it demonstrates empathy and honesty.