Is the age of social marketing over for small businesses?

By James McAllister

You don’t have to look very hard to see that the internet has completely revolutionised the way that businesses market to their customers. No longer can marketers shout loud and often about a brand and expect to cut through the noise. Marketers must embrace social media and take the time to become relevant and useful to its customers in order to succeed.

Social media giants, such as Facebook and Twitter, offer ‘quick win’ marketing through hyper targeted advertising – but this has given rise to an increasing number of disgruntled social media users. Many are now looking to escape the constant barrage of advertising and manipulation of personal data that has infested social platforms.

Social media entrepreneur and one of the founders of Ello, Todd Berger, summarised the situation well, saying: “on Facebook, the advertiser is the customer, and you are the product that’s bought and sold.”

With the emergence of sites like Ello, it appears that we are at the start of an online revolution that is set to take back social media from the online advertisers.

Ello offers a new social media platform that goes back to basics and looks to create an online space that is about socialising and not advertising. With a bold mission, the site promises to be a safe haven from the long intrusive arms of targeted advertising. But, marketers have hit back against these promises, claiming that the website would not be able to sustain itself without the financial support of online advertisement.

In response, Ello’s founders released this email:

Hi there.

There has been some speculation in the press since our launch 11 weeks ago that Ello will someday be forced to allow paid ads on our social network.

With virtually everybody else relying on ads to make money, some members of the tech elite are finding it hard to imagine there is a better way.

But 2014 is not 2004, and the world has changed.

To assure that Ello always remains ad-free, today Ello converted to a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC).

A Benefit Corporation is a new kind of for-profit company in the USA that exists to produce a benefit for society as a whole — not just to make money for its investors.

The Ello PBC charter states in the strongest legal terms possible that:

  1. Ello shall never make money from selling ads;
  2. Ello shall never make money from selling user data; and
  3. In the event that Ello is ever sold, the new owners will have to comply by these terms.

In other words, Ello exists for your benefit, and will never show ads or sell user data.

Simple, beautiful, and ad-free.

There is a better way.

So, is it time that your business found a new way to amplify itself online? It would appear so.

Is Ello here to stay, or just a passing trend?

Early adoption is often key to a business’s digital strategy, but for now you should give Ello a wide birth. Because of Ello’s bold mission statement, many of early adopters are likely to be hostile towards businesses for exploiting social media platforms, so you’re unlikely to find any early success.

Brands, such as Sonos, have already made the move to Ello. But placing your business at the head of this charge is a brave move, if not a little foolish.

Ben Brier put it best when he wrote: “This is why BP isn’t trying to curate a collection of images on Pinterest, why Viagra isn’t developing an Instagram following and why Axe isn’t thinking about sponsored content on ChristianMingle.”

It’s hard to say whether Ello will succeed post Beta. But, with the site growing in popularity, gaining around 31,000 new signups an hour, it would appear that Ello has tapped into an increasing desire for online privacy.

In light of these rather convincing numbers, many online marketers have begun asking, “what is your Ello marketing strategy?” – Have they not been listening!?!

Future success for online marketers means learning from the lessons taught to us by content marketing. It is not enough to directly advertise to users online, no matter how targeted it is. Users find it intrusive and annoying. You need to develop more meaningful relationships with your customers. Work hard to gain their trust through your content and become a brand that they want to align themselves with. This may not mean a ‘quick win’ but it will help create a strong and loyal customer base for your business.

In short, there is no telling if ‘Ello will mark the end of social marketing. But, what is clear is that there is need for change, and failing to do so will mean you and your business are left behind.

About the author:
This article was written by James McAllister, a content producer and general web fanatic. James can usually be found writing content for Make It Cheaper to help make the life of a small business owner easy. Follow him on Twitter @JaMacca01 for his up to date opinions and advice.

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