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New Developments in Social Media: Ello, Ello? Tsu’s there?

The social media landscape is in constant flux – it can be hard to keep up with it all, between updates to familiar networks like Facebook to the debut of entirely new social networks! In the past few weeks not one but two new social networks have been in the news, Ello and Tsu, and in many ways they are polar opposites. Here’s our take on them both, and an update on a small but significant change in Facebook Page functionality.

Ello: You Are Not a Product

The premise of Ello is that “you are not a product” – in other words, user data will never be exploited for profit, and advertising will not be featured. Founded in March 2014, the service seems to have taken off in September when Facebook began to enforce its real-name policy, which attracted drag queens with stage names, and others turned off by Facebook’s advertising. As of October 23, there were a million users, with a waiting list of about 3 million.

So far, Ello seems to attract artsy, anti-establishment, counterculture types above all. The look of the network is clean, with lots of white space and Courier type — clearly, the designers are consciously creating a contrast between Ello and other, more cluttered networks. You follow people on Ello by marking them “friend” or “noise,” (these can be thought of as two pre-set G+ “circles”) and can sort your news feed accordingly. Following or friending somebody doesn’t require that person to accept the invitation so that they follow you back automatically — it is not reciprocal. In that way, Ello resembles Twitter or G+ rather than Facebook. For a complete user guide to Ello, click here.

Reliable user data is sketchy, in part because Ello has made a point of not collecting demographic data. But a recent study by RJMetrics sampled 160,000 Ello members, and has found that a whopping 36 percent of users have never posted. In short, it seems that people are joining, attracted by the premise, but once they’re members they don’t know quite what to do. The problem is made worse by Ello’s beta status — some features, like the ability to search for friends, are either absent or really hard to use. However, the same study notes that this pattern was true for other social media networks that have gone on to succeed, including Instagram and Twitter. That said, recent Google search statistics indicate that interest in Ello peaked in mid-September and has cratered since, which could be an ominous sign.

It’s too soon to say what Ello’s future prospects are, but it’s already defied expectations. For example, many experts were initially skeptical of its claim that it would never depend on advertising for revenue. But Ello has even gone so far as to reincorporate as a public benefit corporation with a charter that expressly prohibits the sale of advertising, indicating exactly how serious it is about that promise. That still leaves the question of how Ello will support itself — another reason for skepticism — but founders say that they’re developing small, widget-like new features that they’re confident specific groups of users will want to buy. As of this writing, no such features have debuted.

Brands can join Ello, despite the network’s commitment to no advertising — and a few have tested the waters, including Netflix and The Wall Street Journal. At this point, though, it’s hard to imagine that an Ello presence would be of benefit to the overwhelming majority of brands, particularly since the whole premise of the network is anti-advertising. That said, bigger brands may have to deal with people joining the network as “mock brands,” that is, setting up fake profiles as, say, Dominos Pizza — with Ello’s real-name-not-required policy, who’s to stop them?

Tsu: We Are All Products

Tsu (pronounced Sue) debuted in October and can be thought of as the anti-Ello — instead of rejecting advertising, this new network enthusiastically embraces it, and promises to share 90 percent of the revenue with users. “Tsu is a free network that gives the social revenues back to you. We instead focus on payments. It’s the right thing to do,” their website reads. In short, Tsu says it will pay users based on how many friends they recruit into the system, how often they post, and how widely their posts are shared among other users. (The formula is complicated.)

Reaction to this idea has been mixed. Those who are attracted to the idea point out that all successful social networks have to make money, and the bounty might as well be shared with users rather than some corporation. Others are turned off, reasoning that compensating users taints the whole purpose of a social network — that adding money to the equation calls users’ motivations into question. In other words, if you invite me to use Tsu or share a post, are you doing so because you like me/think the post is interesting, or because you’re trying to earn a buck?

The attitude divide might be compared to how people react to the party plan method of direct selling, where a host holds a get-together to demonstrate and sell a line of products — anything from cosmetics to cleaning products to housewares (an innovation of Tupperware, other party plan products include Sabika jewelry, Southern Living home products, Tastefully Simple and Pampered Chef food, Scentsy candles and fragrances, Herbalife nutrition products, and Avon and Mary Kay cosmetics, just to name a handful). Some people attend because they enjoy the products and the opportunity to socialize, regardless of whether they actually buy — or their decision may be completely driven by how close they are to the host. Others feel these kinds of parties exploit social conventions in a distasteful way and avoid them at all costs, regardless of who’s holding the event.

Is Tsu useful for brands? One expert claims that “brands that produce awe inspiring, buzzy, great content will reap the rewards as their content ripples across the web,” but if their content is so “buzzy,” it’d get great visibility on Facebook and any other social network, as people would like and share it. Presumably, Tsu users are there (at least in part) to earn money on their own, and may be leery of helping brands earn money by sharing brand content. At this point, it’s way too soon to tell.

Celebrities, on the other hand, are well-positioned to benefit from this profit-sharing network, because they already have a following and can grow their fan bases quickly. Early Tsu adopters include pro basketball player Carmelo Anthony, and the rapper 50 Cent.

Having launched just a couple weeks ago, Tsu is so new that a Google search on the word brings up lots of pages for Tennessee State University and Texas Southern University — and just a few articles about this new social network, all of which are remarkably devoid of user statistics. We’ll be watching with curiosity!

Facebook Page News: A Tweak to an Established Formula

Facebook Page administrators have been frustrated by the massive decline in organic reach of status updates, which is especially true for Pages that have fewer than 500 “likes.” To say the least, most recent changes on Facebook have not been to Pages’ advantage! Recently, however, Facebook made a small but significant tweak to the way Pages can interact with other Pages on Facebook that gives a modest boost to Page visibility. Here’s how:

It is now much easier to “like” or comment on other Pages’ posts as your Page. Doing so helps your Page’s visibility — fans of the other Page can see your Page’s like or comment. It has always been possible to like or comment on other Pages’ posts as your Page when scrolling through your Page’s News Feed, but many people never do that — even if they know how to access their Page News Feed, they don’t take the time. Facebook has noticed this difficulty, and has made it easy to like or comment as a Page while browsing your personal News Feed.

Simply click on the light blue Page flag icon at the lower right corner of a Page’s status update, and choose your Page (note that the default is that you like or comment as your individual profile, but you can toggle to a Page you manage. Also, Pages may only like or comment on other Pages’ posts, not individual profiles, for privacy reasons). So by all means, like and comment on other Pages’ posts — think about clients, industry partners, community organizations, non-profits you support, and so on. It’s a great way to stimulate engagement and gain visibility.

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