Just 8 weeks ago, no one had ever heard of Ello.co, but today it stands as an increasingly popular social network that might just be the death of Facebook.
In an article for Tech Page One by Forbes staff writer Kashmir Hill, Ello creator Paul Budnitz says, “We see Facebook as an advertising platform not a social network… Users are products at Facebook. They want to know as much as possible to advertise to you.”
Ello’s promise to its users is simple: no ads, no data mining or tracking, and they won’t decide which content you should see. So far, so good, apparently, because interest in the site is skyrocketing, with more membership requests every minute. So, what entrepreneurial lessons can we learn from Ello?
Find Weaknesses In Existing Models
Every new business venture needs a driving idea, but it can be difficult to come up with the right idea at the right time for your industry. If you can’t think of something new that uniquely solves a problem that your customers have, then look at the existing solutions for your customers’ problems and figure out where their weaknesses are.
In Ello’s case, Budnitz noticed that more and more Facebook users had problems with Facebook’s cavalier attitude toward privacy and data mining. Users don’t like advertisements, and they don’t like being told what they can and cannot see.
Shortly after word got out that Facebook had been conducting a psychological experiment on a selection of its users by excluding certain “emotional” words from their news feeds, Ello arrived on the scene with the promise that it would never violate users’ trust.
In short, Ello isn’t a new product, but, for people who care about their privacy, it is a major innovation on an old model. If you can find out what you’re customers are most unhappy with when they use your competition’s products, you may have the key to a successful new business venture.
Market Your Exclusivity
Another driving factor in Ello’s success has been its request-based platform. If you don’t already have an Ello account, you can request one, but it may take months for the good folks at Ello to get back to you and grant or deny your request. According to Budnitz, the site is now getting several thousand requests per hour.
Fortunately for those who don’t want to wait weeks or months for access to this new social media outlet, Ello gives its users a number of invitations to send out to their friends. With an invitation code, you can join immediately.
This request and invitation model for signing up creates an air of exclusivity to Ello. It lets people feel like they know something that others don’t, and it’s actually driving more sign-ups than the site would get if it were open to the public.
Admit You’re Still Working On It
Finally, Ello’s makers have very openly stated that the site is still in beta. This excuses a lot of bugs and errors that users have encountered. For example, in the first weeks, the search tool wasn’t entirely functional, and users would have to type their friends’ usernames into the URL at the top of the page to find them.
If the site had been launched claiming that it was complete and fully functional, this kind of glitch would be unforgivable. As it is, the response is generally, “Well, it’s in beta, but there’s a workaround, so…” Customers will forgive a lot if you openly state that you’re still working on the product and that they’ll get full functionality and benefits with no added cost in short order.
These are just a few of the lessons we can learn from the anti-Facebook. Keep an eye on Ello as it grows, and you’ll be sure to learn more important entrepreneurial lessons.