If you are an active user on Facebook (and not living under a rock), you have surely seen status updates and links referring to your friend's profiles on the new social network, Ello. But as a working photographer or cinematographer, is investing time into another social network really worth it?
Being labeled as the "Anti-Facebook", Ello promises to always be ad free and never, ever sell your personal information. As Ello states in their "About" Page:
We think ads are tacky, that they insult our intelligence and that we’re better without them.
Hey, we think so too! Finally someone who is on the side of the advertisment hating public! Or are they? According to Aral Balkan, your souls have already been sold, since Ello accepted almost half a million dollars from a Vermont based Venture Capital firm. While I understand the need of an exit strategy to secure funding from a VC, I am not in a place to comment on the agreement between the two parties. But for a relatively small amount of funding, is it really unthinkable that the firm saw something unique in Ello, liked the people behind it, and just decided to take a risk, without asking for a exit plan? I don't think that is impossible, and I choose to believe co-founder Tom Berger, as he told Betabeat
"I'll be frank, we have no exit strategy"
How To Use Ello
I created my profile and started uploading photos in no time. While using Ello is pretty straightforward, I am going to leave the details to my friend Brian Matiash, who wrote a great piece on getting started for our friends at Photofucus. But to summarize how to get in, Ello is still in Beta, and you must have a unique invite code to join. Every user has five invite codes, so keep asking your friends. Someone will have one!
How Can Ello Work For Me, As An Artist?
Currently, Ello has no privacy controls. What do I mean? As of now, everything you post is public. So if you are looking for a new social network to just share your family vacation photos with Aunt Edna, you may want to stick with Facebook, or Flickr, or Google+ or any of the other 100 places you can safely share content with only a few select people. But, if you are like me, and rely on building a "brand" and keeping your name in front of the public's eyes, then the lack of privacy controls shouldn't matter.
And that is where I think Ello can start to help us artists. You never know when that big break, or the highly paid job will come. I have had incredible opportunities arise from the right person finding me at the right time on Instagram and Facebook. So simply getting your brand and your art out for as many people to see, on as many platforms as possible, is a crucial piece of the puzzle that is owning your own business. So far, in my limited use of Ello, I think this is a great platform for sharing your work, and more importantly, telling your story. The photos look beautiful, which is something I cannot say for Facebook, which has had years to improve the way they handle photos, but has yet to make any real strides in limiting the horrible auto-compression problem (don't even think about posting those Milky Way photos!)
As Brian Matiash points out in his write up about Ello, you are able to add multiple photos to a post, with text in between each of the photos, if you wish. This is a great way to tell a story, in a photo essay style post. Adding multiple photos to other social networks simply bunches them into an album, which doesn't lead the viewer through the story you are trying to tell. I can really see this being valuable to traveling photographers who wish to give a recap of a trip, or educators who wish to show the before and after versions of photos. A cinematographer could show the Behind The Scenes story of a recent film project by placing a number of BTS photos into a single post. I really think this is a valuable tool, one that many social sites do not do well, with the exception of Exposure.
But, really, as an artist, putting the time investment into Ello now is a gamble. Who knows if the business model can survive (they plan to charge for extra features to generate revenue, much like Tumblr does), but with the buzz it has created this week, do you really want to be left out in the cold if it indeed becomes a popular platform? Personally, I made that mistake with Instagram, and vowed to never do it again. I had been on Instagram for years, but didn't really become serious about it until March of this year. Now, I follow incredible photographers in the same genre as me, who are broadcasting to 100,000 plus followers per post, whereas I fight to gain just a couple of followers a day. I regret not taking Instagram more seriously as a marketing channel for my business, and now feel like I am running an uphill race to be seen in a sea of amazing artists. In my first four days on Ello, I have gained about 100 new followers a day, which trumps my Instagram growth rate, although, as all my friends make their way into Ello, I am sure this growth will slow down. Unlike Instagram, however, Ello does not utilize hashtags, which to me is a major hole, and according to their Coming Soon Feature List, isn't even on the agenda.
A Social Media Photographer Chimes In
I have known and respected Thomas Hawk for many, many years. He is on a mission to post one million photographs in his lifetime, and he understands the importance of utilizing social media as a photographer more than most people I know. Although he doesn't make his living solely off photography, Thomas has licensed countless images for advertising, thanks to his visibility on the internet. Thomas has been a big fan of Ello this week, so I decided to sit down with him and pick his brain about his thoughts on this hot new network, and how us photographers can utilize it to our advantage. Make sure to check out Thomas' Ello Profile after you read his insightful words! ello.co/thomashawk
FStoppers : What attracted you to Ello, more so than other social networks that seem to come up every other week?
There are a few things that attracted me to Ello initially. Maybe it's best said as Ello describes itself, a simple, beautiful and ad-free social network. My first impression was extremely positive. Photos are so HUGE -- bigger than any other social network. It makes the small photos over on Facebook look just tiny by comparison, not to pick on Facebook or anything.A few artists who I respect were on it early. Merkley was raving about it. It felt like a place where art and photography were important. I read the manifesto and another post by Budnitz and the place just felt right.I really hate ads. I can opt out of ads on Flickr by paying a yearly fee. Google+ doesn't show ads (which I really appreciate). The ads on Facebook are unbearable though. The ads on Facebook are dumb and blunt. I will never buy a BMW, so why do they keep showing me ads for one?
FS: How do you plan to use Ello?
I'll probably spend more time on Ello than any other social network going forward. I like conversations. I like to interact and communicate with other interesting people. That's sort of what you do on a social network. Ello has a really nice vibe going right now -- a great mix of creative people. Many of my friends are already there and I've already made some new ones in the past few days. It will be a place where I can hang out online and get to know other people and share about myself.It will also be a place where I can showcase my work. I think I'll approach Ello a little differently than other networks though. I really like how well text and photos go together there. I've spent the last 15 years or so photographing America. I'm working on shooting the 100 largest American cities. I'm working on shooting rural America. I'm working on shooting abandoned America. I'm working on shooting everything America really. I think I'll mostly use Ello to begin talking about the places that I've been -- not just photos of what I've shot, but details about the people and places I've run into, stories and things like that. I'll do a lot more writing there than I've done at other places.
FS: What do you think Ello does now, and what can they do in the future, to be the most attractive social network for the photography community?
I think they just keep on doing what they are doing. They are hacking and iterating daily it feels like. I think they should just keep building it out and improving on it and let the community flourish. It's so early and the site is so raw that there are obviously things that will need to be worked out. They should probably come up with some sort of licensing system. I like Creative Commons non-commercial. It would be nice to explicitly designate my work licensed as such there. Photographers care about licensing. I think one possible positive way they could generate revenue with photographers would be by partnering with them and helping them to sell their work in a section of the site. I license work at Stocksy right now. There's no reason they couldn't put together a similar sort of arrangement down the road. This would appeal to photographers and other creative artists who are tired of being ripped off by Getty Images.
FS : Do you think the lack of hashtags is a mistake? Do you see Ello adding this in the future?
I've never understood the significance of hashtags. Search shouldn't require a # in front of a word. Search should be strong enough to find what you need without hashtags. At least for people search I think Ello just fixed that and it's working now within the last 24 hours or so. They could build something functional for search without having to necessarily clutter up the site with hashtags. Some of that will be user driven going forward. If users use them, they do. If they don't, they don't. I've seen hashtags on the site already.
FS: What advice do you have for upcoming photographers who are trying to make a name for themselves on social media sites such as Ello?
Be early, be involved, be positive. Nobody likes a hater. Nobody likes a whiner or a naysayer. Contribute positively to the community and be a part of something bigger than yourself. I'm always surprised when a new network comes out why people like to hate on it so much. I think most of these people are just lazy and dislike change. They feel like they've spent all this energy and effort working on their Facebook page and now here comes something much better so they have to do their part to defend their little garden on Facebook. Usually those same photographers are complaining 2 years down the road about why nobody will follow them on whatever network it was they were trashing 2 years earlier.By getting involved early you're in a better place to help be a part of leading the community and shaping what it becomes.
So what do you think? Does Ello have enough of a business model to be sustainable? Is it unique and interesting enough to bring in both creative artists and well as the brands and clients that we seek to attract? Is this just another drop in the pan social media site, or does Ello have the potential to be the next big thing? Leave a comment on this article, then head on over to Ello and let us know how you like it! Most of us Fstoppers writers are on there. Give us a follow! You can add us to your Noise feed....we won't be insulted!
FStoppers - https://ello.co/fstoppers
Michael Bonocore - https://ello.co/michaelbonocore
Lauren Jonas - https://ello.co/laurenjonas
Andrew Griswold - https://ello.co/andrewgriswold
Dylan Howell - https://ello.co/dylanmhowell
Sara Byrne - https://ello.co/sarabyrne
Karaminder Singh Ghuman - https://ello.co/karaminder
Trevor Dayley - https://ello.co/trevordayley
Michael Woloszynowicz - https://ello.co/vibrantshot
Nino Batista - https://ello.co/ninobatista
Tony Roslund - https://ello.co/tonyroslund
Noam Galai - https://ello.co/noamgalai
David Crewe - https://ello.co/davidjcrewe
Dylan And Sara - https://ello.co/dylandsara