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The social media sphere is already packed with successful companies, and the market leaders in this niche are already household names. But given that more and more people are signing up for social platforms, and computer usage is increasing in developing economies all the time, the potential for growth in this market still exists. Indeed, the existing social media platforms show continual signs of growth in both user engagement and numbers, and it is in this context that we should see new social platforms that emerge.

Hello to Ello

One such social networking service which has recently been launched and even more recently received a wave of media publicity is Ello. This new social media site has quite aggressively marketed itself as an alternative to the likes of Facebook and Twitter, proclaiming itself to be an ad-free website. Ello even features a tagline which doubles as an ethos which goes “you are not a product”, emphasising the fact that the makers of this social media site do not wish for Ello users to encounter content that they do not choose themselves.

In addition to its anti-advertising approach, Ello has also attempted to position itself as being extremely sensitive to privacy issues. The revelations related to the NSA which came to light thanks to the activism of Edward Snowden have made the privacy, or otherwise, of personal data a critical issue related to social media. And Ello is clearly putting this at the heart of its approach to the genre.

The Ello service proclaims that it will never sell user data to advertisers or third parties, and that it will not enforce the sort of real name policy which Facebook favours. This is intended to help protect the anonymity and privacy of individual users, and clearly Ello is marketing itself as an ethical social media site.

Monetising social media

Ello was launched in March, 2014, and is still currently in beta, but a raft of media articles about the website appeared a few months ago, after it became clear that Ello was reaching a vast amount of users in a relatively small timeframe. But all the social media sites have faced the same problem sooner or later; how do they propose to make money?

Given that Ello is resolutely refusing to take advertising on board, this particular question obviously becomes more rarefied. Ello has proposed the notion that it will rely on a freemium model, with users paying for various applications that can be downloaded from the site. This is a bold strategy, as other social media sites which are completely free have still struggled to achieve significant monetisation. Even a massively successful site such as Twitter has perpetually made financial losses.

So what sort of potential does Ello have? Well, at the moment it would appear that Facebook is in an extremely strong position, but in actual fact the threat of users deserting the market-leading social media site has been on the cards for several years. The fact that Ello has essentially been set up as an antidote to Facebook should be indicative of the fact that not everyone relishes its somewhat intrusive advertising methods. And that's before one goes into the way that Facebook deals with personal data.

The other major social media platforms have issues to address as well. Twitter has failed to monetise its user base successfully, and a legitimate criticism of the gossipy social media platform is that it is full of absolutely useless information! LinkedIn has done a good job of appealing to the business community, but is lacking in innovation and style. While Google+ simply hasn’t caught fire at all.

There is a gap in the market for a social media site that genuinely delivers what consumers want, rather than attempting to ram meaningless and irritating content down their collective throats. This is the realisation that Ello has had, and its ethos must surely have significantly contributed to the early successes of the embryonic social media platform.

However, it is not all good news for Ello by any means. The British newspaper The Guardian reported in October that according to Google Trends, interest in Ello had collapsed after peaking the preceding month. With this in mind, the site has announced that it has recently undergone a complete redesign, while mobile apps are also to be launched in the near future.

Understanding ethical social media

Ello may or may not turn out to be a financial success, and it may be one of the very many online and dotcom companies which creates a lot of bluster to little ultimate effect. But some of the trends related to Ello, particularly with regard to the notion of an ethical social media site, are particularly interesting and relevant and are unlikely to go away any time soon, even if Ello ultimately isn't a commercial success.

Understanding these trends, and the people that they are particularly important to, is a task that all destinations and tourism-related businesses can benefit from. Appealing to consumers works best when it is subtle and achieved on customers' own terms, and platforms such as Ello evidently understand this and are attempting to deliver a social media experience which is less alienating than the ones sometimes delivered by the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

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