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Ello has arrived on the social networking scene with all the unobtrusiveness of a sonic boom. Even though the service is still in beta, thousands of new users are signing up every day. We’re not kidding. This social network has hit up to 36,000 signups each hour, according to Business Insider. So what’s with this buzz and why are people so crazy about trying out this new social platform? Well, those are complex questions that reveal quite a bit about current consumer attitudes toward social media.

Ello has an extremely sparse interface, devoid of the “likes” and post queues that we’re used to now. However, this scarcity is intentional. Ello shuns the use of personal user data for advertising means. If you take a look at their “About” section (which has the edgy “WTF” section title) then you’ll notice that the Ello manifesto states, ” We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life.” Their manifesto has persuaded thousands to explore this social network, which is currently just a collection of posts in courier text and small, unassuming profile icons. Let’s take a look at some of the most compelling reasons why Ello is so popular and why marketers must adapt to changing ideals.

The way people share on social media is a recent phenomenon. Facebook is only about a decade old, and marketers have had the past few years to adjust to the flow of sharing, comments, and viral posts. Social media platforms have slowly shifted their infrastructures to support marketing efforts, proving companies with data analytics containing information that users willingly provide. However, there is a slew of information that we don’t  think about, information that is passively collected regarding our web browsing activities and likes. While many users volunteer certain profile information, many users are extremely surprise to discover how much their digital footprint says about their lifestyles, and how marketers leverage this data to create pointed ad campaigns.

But if the rising rates of Ello signups are any indication, consumers are becoming increasingly jaded by social media platforms that mine their personal data to hand off to advertisers. Ello highlights a few aspects that we might have lost sight of – social media used to be a simple matter of direct communication and publishing. Now platforms like Facebook prioritize feed posts based on algorithms that are disconnected from users’ control. This destabilization, combined with post-Snowden privacy concerns, has social media users on edge. It’s no surprise that consumer needs and wants are moving away from the current world of constant data collection and marketing prioritization.

So what can marketers do in this era? This is a period of time for creative content and public outreach to shine. You can no longer rely on paid ads, exposure, and targeted demographics to be the end all be all of digital marketing. Businesses need to work harder to understand how to be truly helpful to their audiences, identifying strong consumer needs such as community building, health and beauty care, or financial management.

The rise of Ello is actually a call to action for marketers, rather than a threat. Businesses and their prospective customers will always need ways to communicate. Ello is just changing the means of the conversation. It demonstrates that businesses must be willing to take risks to be more intimate with their storytelling, events, and discussions. Just as digital technologies change with the times, marketers must also be willing to adapt to audiences with an ever-growing sense of value surrounding privacy.

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