How do businesses stand out on Ello’s ad-free network?

A graphic with a bright yellow background and the SPOON magazine logo on the left and the Ello logo on the right, with an x in between them to demonstrate their collaboration.

The social network Ello, launched in March 2014, has often been seen as a no-go area for brands and businesses due to its uncompromising stance on advertising.

But over the past several months, Ello has stepped up the improvements to its site and has begun to seem like a serious contender in the visual social media space, positioning itself as an alternative to increasingly algorithm-driven and advertising-heavy social networks like Instagram.

Ello has been clear that brands are welcome to be a part of its comeback, calling its social network “the only alternative for creators, brands and publications to maintain organic reach with the followings they build.” It has been particularly active in promoting the presence of creative businesses on the site, dubbing itself “The creators’ network”, and has entered into mutually beneficial partnerships with multiple businesses.

While most of the big-name brands are either absent from or inactive on the site, an increasing number of smaller brands are turning Ello’s ad-free environment to their advantage and connecting with its community.

Here are some of the businesses who have found ways to stand out on Ello and market their brands to its visual-loving user base.

1. SPOON Magazine

“Ad-free” art and slow fashion photography magazine SPOON has found a natural fit in a partnership with Ello, an ad-free and highly visual social network.

SPOON uses its Ello profile to show off gorgeous, high-quality photography linked to its current issue, such as behind the scenes photographs, magazine pages and work by its contributors. It makes full, liberal use of Ello’s capacity for full-screen images to create an immersive visual experience.

SPOON and Ello have also teamed up to create a separate content channel, spoonxello, to curate “content at the nexus of fashion and art”. In honour of this collaboration, the latest edition of SPOON features a full 30 additional pages of content from Ello users whose work combines fashion and art. SPOON magazine also helmed a recent edition of Ello’s ‘Weekly Ello’ newsletter, which spotlighted pieces of artistic fashion from across the site.

A screencap from the @spoonxello Ello feed showing a graphic of some kind of clothing folded like origami, coloured in yellow and white with patches of red, green, purple and blue. The text below it reads, "In upcoming SPOON issue we will publish a portfolio of talented emerging fashion artists that we kindly curated with and from Ello. @brisseaux : Kervin Brisseaux who brillantly curated last Ello weekly newsletter will be one of them."

While it’s not possible for every business to strike up a partnership with a social network, there’s a lot to take away from SPOON’s strong visuals, and clever use of extra material to reward its followers between issues.

The way that SPOON has targeted the art and fashion community on a creativity-oriented social network is also a very effective example of niche marketing on social media. As Paul Chaney wrote in a previous article on marketing to a niche, “Even though niche-specific networks contain a smaller subset of customers and prospects, your marketing efforts may prove even more profitable. It’s a matter of going deep, not wide.”

2. Future Positive

Part publisher, part consultancy business, Future Positive uses its Ello profile to tell the inspirational stories of creative businesses around the globe.

Ello’s capacity for publishing several pictures in one post, with no limits on the text accompanying them, allows Future Positive to show and tell more stories more fully on Ello than other social networks would permit.

A series of photographs from Future Positive's Ello feed, showing a woman working on bicycles or posing, smiling with a bike that has a large storage space on the front. The text above it reads, "We have a new inspiring business Story on our website! After becoming a mum, Antonella Pesenti realised that it wasn't easy to ride her bike around the streets of Milan. During a trip to Copenhagen she discovered cargo bikes and decided to start her own business, Fridabike, to introduce this type of bike to Italian mums. Read our interview with Antonella and find out more about her business on our website: http://www.thefuturepositive.com/projects/fridabike/ Photos by Teresa Enhiak Nanni"

Future Positive also connects with groups on Ello, such as Ello Travel, to share its stories with a wider audience who hold the same interests. In a recent blog post, Future Positive collaborated with Ello to publish an interview with a key community member, Lydia Caldana, who runs the user group Ello Future.

Future Positive uses Ello as a platform to further its particular brand of inspirational stories about creativity, all the while connecting with a potential market for its own business, Future Positive Studio, which provides content marketing and social outreach to help businesses connect with their audiences online.

Without doing any direct marketing of its own, Future Positive can still use its Ello feed to target the specific audience it wants for its products and build up a reputation for interesting content that people will come back for.

3. Boldomatic

Boldomatic is an app which has set out to “conquer the world of words on social media” with its striking text visualisations. Capitalising on the love that users on visual social media channels have for quotations, Boldmatic has created a feed of epithets that are by turns profound, funny, dark, political and offensive.

A screencap from Boldomatic's Ello feed showing a large black square with bold white text in it reading, "One of the highest goals in life is to have a Psychiatric disorder named after you." The text above it reads, "From our dear writer @satan"

Boldomatic’s Ello page is designed much like the brand itself, a simple look that makes use of strong contrast. Its published posts make for compulsive reading, a round-up of bleakly insightful thoughts and jokes from Boldomatic’s staff writers and members of its community.

Occasionally there is the odd competition announcement or product promotion from its store, but mostly Boldomatic sticks to the straightforward and effective strategy of showing off what its app and its community have to offer.

4. Nous Sommes Amis Leather & Brace Leather

Leathersmith and designer @woodrowlee has an active presence on Ello promoting leather businesses Nous Sommes Amis Leather and Brace Leather.

Woodrow Lee combines photographs of new products with updates on the art and design process, funny content from around the internet and dynamic posts like these ingenious stop-motion videos to promote the Brace Leather Kickstarter campaign.

A stop-motion animation of a pair of earphones coiling themselves up and a leather clip wrapping around them.

A stop-motion animation of a set of keys attached to a leather keyring working their way across a grey background, with movements similar to a jellyfish swimming.

When creating a business presence on social media, it isn’t always necessary to make a faceless brand account under the company name. Having key members of your organisation represent the business with a personal account can be an authentic way to make a connection with consumers and show a human side to the brand.

As Woodrow Lee’s account demonstrates, updates from a member of the company can provide fascinating insights into the work that goes into creating a product or service, giving valuable meaning and context to what you do.

5. The Wild Standard

The Wild Standard is a producer of handmade flags with a strong presence on visual social media. The business uses its Ello feed to publish beautiful, artistic photography in monochrome and earth tones, similar to the colouring of its flags.

The posts rarely include text, instead letting the high-quality images of its flags hanging in various locations or of beautiful natural landscapes speak for themselves. However, The Wild Standard occasionally publishes ‘behind-the-scenes’ images of flag designs and flags being packaged to ship, as well as collaborations with other makers, such as fellow Ello user Knot To Self.

A screencap of an Ello update by user @knottoself, reposted by @wildstandard. The text reads, "Weekend session we had with the homies from @wildstandard . Their flags are the shiz! They've just released the California edition. Go check it out." Beneath is a photograph of several artfully laid out objects in dark brown, light brown and cream tones. They include a fedora, a pair of crossed sticks, a folded flag and a mannequin arm with doodles on it.

The Wild Standard’s Ello presence is a simple but memorable example of effective visual branding. True to its name, Wild Standard has linked its brand to images of nature and the outdoors, and the colouring used in its photography gives its Ello profile a cohesive look.

The Wild Standard’s business is small-scale and highly specialised, with each flag individually handmade and produced in limited numbers. But with effective branding and marketing on networks like Ello, they have built a dedicated fan base and succeeded in creating an incredibly high demand around their product.

A photograph of a woman holding up a cotton flag which reads "Nashville, TN" in dark, artistic script. Below it the text reads, "Nashville flag. We are busy stitching up a restock here for Sisters of Nature. The last batch sold in less than 12 hrs, so they decided to post a preorder for their coming stock." followed by a doughnut emoji.

6. IAMTHELAB

Much like Future Positive, IAMTHELAB has built its brand around raising the profile of and fostering connections with the work of other creative businesses. It has styled itself as “the advocate for modern makers” and runs a visual blog and online shop featuring all things handmade.

IAMTHELAB rose to prominence on Ello as the account which runs the ‘Ello Makers’ group, which numbers some 31,000 followers. This gives the IAMTHELAB brand huge authority and prominence on Ello – as well as a forum to build links with other businesses and promote its own projects.

A screencap of the Ello Makers group, whose tagline reads "The Place for the Modern Makers of Ello". Its description mentions that it is curated by @iamthelab. The group's header image is a grid of handmade jewellery, weaving and knotwork.

IAMTHELAB uses its Ello feed to showcase the handmade products in its Emporium, but equally to promote the work of other Ello ‘makers’ trying to gain a foothold on the site. It makes full use of the site’s capacity for text and images, posting miniature blog-style updates accompanied by numerous eye-catching photographs.

IAMTHELAB is undoubtedly a brand which has got to grips with Ello as a social network and made the platform its own – something that can make a huge difference for a business’ visibility in the early days of a social network.

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