Category Archives: Power Of Influence

Power Of Influence

5 Ways Your B2B Marketing Strategy can Improve with Social Media

Written by: Sarah Shapleigh
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While no one can argue that social media is extremely important in any B2C strategy, when it comes to B2B marketing people aren’t always so sure. In a world where SEO and email typically reign supreme, social media can seem like an add-on or a lower priority component of the larger strategy.

Consider these statistics:

  • As of 2015, 65% of adults now use social media compared to 7% in 2005.
  • Facebook has nearly 1.4 billion users and generates 4.5 billion likes daily.
  • Twitter has over 284 million active users posting 500 million tweets per day.
  • 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family more than any other form of advertising – just 10% trust brands today (Lithium).
  • 81% of consumers are influenced by their friends’ social media posts (Lithium).

However, social media is no longer an innovative, new way to drive awareness and sales for your brand.

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We Are Social

Essential to your organization’s survival in the competitive B2B landscape, it needs to be an integral part of any B2B marketing strategy. Social media helps B2B businesses showcase their credibility, acquire and retain customers, and build a strong reputation. “While tried-and-true B2B marketing techniques such as search engine optimization and email still bring plenty of prospects to the door, social media entices them to enter a dialogue, pick up some information of value and step into the sales funnel” (eMarketer).

Furthermore, social media can be even more impactful for a B2B company than for a B2C company. This is because B2B companies, as Convince and Convert explains, usually have “a smaller potential customer base, a higher average price point, and customer decision funnel that is more influenced by word of mouth and reputation.”

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eMarketer

Here are 5 tips for developing a social media strategy for B2B companies:

1. Understand your audience and engage with your customers on social media. Leverage social listening to understand the pain points for your customer – what are their needs and desires and how can your product/service help solve those problems? The main benefit of leveraging social media for B2B marketing is to build relationships with current and potential customers.

2. Use social media for content promotion. Share various forms of content such as videos, photos, or longer form content to showcase your products/services in a broader context and to drive the authentic voice of the brand.

3. Drive traffic to website. Ensure that your website is prominently highlighted on all of your social channels and within your posts. Utilize link tracking to see which content drives people to click through to the website.

4. Invest in social video to produce more leads. According to a report by Software Advice, “video is the most-used content type and the content that generated the most leads for surveyed B2B marketers in 2014.”

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Software Advice

5. Increase brand awareness with paid social. Allocating a percentage of the total budget to promoting social posts helps ensure that your content is visible to the right audiences. Social networks such as LinkedIn offer advanced targeting options for promoting your brand’s content, which ensures that you reach the most important and targeted audiences.

Social media is extremely valuable for top-of-funnel engagement and for generating strong leads for B2B companies. As we move into 2016, a social media component is going to be critical for every B2B marketing strategy.

The Next Frontier for Food Influencers: YouTube

Written by: Allie Wester
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It is undeniable that YouTube is a big platform for influencers. But when it comes to the food space, compared to the massive power and reach of food blogs, it is still finding its footing.

Why? I think it is because Gen Z – the core YouTube consumer – hasn’t quite entered the stage of life where they want to learn to cook. The oldest Gen Z members are in college, which means a lot of eating out and easy convenience foods. 

However, once Gen Z graduates, they will want to learn how to cook. Will they look to blogs or Pinterest (which ultimately leads to blogs)? As a majority, probably not. They’ll look to where they always look for “how to” information: YouTube.

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Source: Google

There are a TON of high-quality food blogs out there right now. There are a handful of food YouTube channels, but comparatively it’s slim pickings.

For food marketers: Start experimenting now! You may not get huge view counts right away, but think of the long-term effect. Your video could get hundreds of thousands of views down the line. And you can perfect your craft now before it is mainstream.

“Food hack” videos, demonstrating tricks and tips for making cooking exciting and fun, draw interest from one in four millennials. Use this as an opportunity to not only promote your product, but also explain how to cook with it and why it’s a useful tool or ingredient.

For food bloggers/influencers: Start experimenting now! Many food bloggers I’ve talked to are hesitant to start on YouTube because video is complicated. I get that. But I also know that the food blogging industry figured out food photography and styling from scratch. I have faith that they can also figure out food video. 

In the meantime, the millennial generation is watching food YouTube videos. According to a survey by Google, Millward Brown Digital, and Firefly:

  • Sixty-eight percent of millennial moms purchase food products featured in the videos they watch. Sixty-nine percent of these highly-engaged moms watch food videos every week, and 68 percent of them will also watch videos while cooking.
  • While three out of four millennial women are open to watching branded food content, close to half (43 percent) have not done so, representing a significant opportunity for brands to gain new audiences.
  • Sixty-eight percent of millennial men described themselves as a “confident cook” – two times more than their millennial female counterparts.
  • Millennial dads are the most engaged with food content on YouTube, watching videos to spark inspiration and create meals. And 42 percent of them will make special trips to the store to buy products they learn about in food videos.
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Source: Google

For the foreseeable future, food blogs are not going anywhere. They’ll always have the millennial, Gen X, and boomer generations. But if they want to remain relevant with the younger generation — and let’s be honest, make more money — they should start experimenting on YouTube now!

Content and the Consumer Journey

Written by: Eric Fransen
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A smartphone is a crucial part of our daily routine – a connection to the rest of the world. And in the case of retail shopping, it’s the critical key to accessing information to help inform our purchase decisions in real time.

According to Google, 79% of shoppers access information online while visiting a store, from retail websites to influencer vlogs. The fact that only 9% more shoppers at 87% conduct pre-visit research suggests that there is a huge opportunity to influence decision-making in the moment, at the time of purchase, by using the right content across the right channels.

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But what kind of content is most impactful in purchase decisions? In short: not the brand’s.

  • 92% of consumers trust recommendations from other people – even strangers – over brand content.
  • 70% of consumers reported online customer reviews as the second most-trusted source.
  • 35% of U.S. readers read blogs to discover new products.

As marketers, it’s our job to understand how impactful influencers’ and peers’ reviews and opinions are in the decision-making process, and plan accordingly. This means developing meaningful partnerships and lasting relationships with advocates and influencers, as well as encouraging consumers to share their experiences and opinions.

The bottom line: conversations are taking place with or without the brand’s involvement. Will you be part of them?

The More You Know: Wantering

Written by: Jordan Lee
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Online shopping can be overwhelming. Combing through a sea of retail sites, blogs, and Pinterest in search of something on trend to wear can feel daunting.

Many retail search engines, like ShopStyle and Polyvore, offer the same experience. You can sort by color, size, and price. A new site, Wantering, is offering something more to consumers: item search based on social popularity.

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Image via wantering.com

Ranking is determined by mentions across the web including blogs and social networks. Clicking on a product allows you to see both where it is most popular and a “hotness” score based on current mentions and relevancy.

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Image via wantering.com

Social influence impacts the consumer journey as a consultative force. According to a study by Bazaar Voice, 84% of millennials say user-generated content plays a role in their purchase decisions, even when that UGC is from a stranger. In addition, 71% of millennials say they share their opinions and input because they help other consumers’ purchase decisions.

Wantering is leveraging the movement of consumer empowerment and providing a unique online shopping experience. Product reviews are going to be weighted more and more in the future. Brands and retailers will need to not only keep up with how their products are evaluated but also with what is trending in order to drive sales in the changing shopper landscape.

Humanizing and Amplifying Your Brand Voice Through Employee Advocacy

Written by: Jake Schneider
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One of this year’s breakout films is Ex Machina. At its core, the sci-fi thriller is the story of an inventor’s quest to create an authentic, seamless human experience and connection through something that isn’t human at all: an android.

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We have never had more global avenues to connect and be connected to than we do today, and we do it seamlessly and authentically through these platforms of personal expression as if it were second nature. For consumers, digital authenticity is an expectation; for brands, however, it remains a goal that only gently grazes the surface.

For a brand to reach a truly authentic and emotional connection with their customers, and become a part of their lives, they have to do something in this day and age that is very foreign. In order to humanize a brand, they must give a piece of themselves over to their humans, their employees.

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External employee advocacy and internal employee engagement are not mutually exclusive of each other and have become popular topics for our clients for great reasons. In today’s highly connected world, employees provide knowledge and expertise – as well as authentic relationships – in their social ecosystems, providing value to both their network as a trusted expert as well as a valuable ambassador for their employer.

What are some of these benefits? It really comes down to the goals of the brand and what problem they are trying to solve internally and externally.

External: Reach & Trust

For brands, trust in a recommendation from an employee has never been higher or more credible. In fact, in a recent study, consumers named “a person like yourself” 62% more likely to trust, “a regular employee” 52% more likely to trust, and “a technical expert” more likely to trust 66% compared to a “CEO” or brand at 43%.  It is easy to see why. Word of mouth, even in digital form, is still the most powerful form of marketing. We still crave human interaction and connection; it’s only how we interact and connect that has evolved.

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According to a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers still trust recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. Additionally, consumers are still 71% more likely to purchase based on a referral from a connection and 78% of salespeople using a social selling strategy outperform their peers.

Despite those statistics, less than two-thirds have any sort of strategy for sales and marketing teams and even less have a structure that empowers employees to share.

The reason? Fear on both sides.

Control of identity, message, narrative, and brand protection has been a traditional part of brand marketing, but the more restrictions and controls brands feel they have over their message the more they feel they are mitigating risk but also depreciating authenticity and approachability. Enabling employees to share and join in brand efforts means opening brands up to some risk it also means opening  up to massive scale, impact, and authenticity.

An employee assumes a great amount of risk, as well. The greatest risk is their job, and therefore financial wellbeing. Employees fear sharing, or don’t feel empowered to share, for fear they might position the wrong information or fired for sharing their personal interests, views, and activities while identifying as an employee of their company.

As early as 2008, brands were asking employees to not post to LinkedIn (the world’s largest business network), Facebook, or Twitter. As early as 2011, we were still trying to convince brands to build Facebook pages because of the fear of negative comments. As early as last week, I had a conversation with a major brand requesting that employees not identify themselves as employees for fear that their personal actions might reflect poorly on the brand.

From a brand perspective, social collaboration is the idea that everything I do remains private with the exception of what I choose to share, so that the message is controlled. From a human perspective, everything I do, I share, with the exception of what I want to keep private.

Brands benefit by breaking down this disconnect and empowering their employees.

Brands that empower their employees can see a considerable shift in organic reach on Facebook. One of the greatest complaints over the past year is the massive drop-off in organic reach for Facebook Pages where it is generally 0-5%. Person-to-person sharing is much greater. When working in parallel with paid campaigns, the brand can weave a great creative story with human content, increasing the impact of the campaigns.

For Retailers – especially big box retailers. Employee advocacy can allow you to position regionalized content, making your brand feel more local. Because employees often identify as a target demographic with the brand they work for, an employee program allows you to impact more accurately and efficiently, as the employees’ connections within their network are of the same demographic.

For Tech Brands – recruitment and the cost of recruiting are always constant. More and more companies are giving new hire bonuses as an incentive, which is a great first step but few go beyond that incentive. Employees are the best extension of your brand culture, and the theory is top talent knows top talent. Incorporating recruiting into your marketing and enabling your employees to play an active role helps reduce time and costs in finding the right people for open positions.

Internally: Purpose & Loyalty 7.14.15E

Engaged employees are brilliant ambassadors for brands, because while they are beacons externally they are also improving the foundational culture internally.

Even more brilliant is that while employee engagement seems a no-brainer, less than 30% of employees say they are engaged in their workplaces, according to Gallup. The least engaged demographic: millennials. It is easy to see why when you consider the traditional philosophy of corporate sharing (everything is private, except what I allow to be open) vs. the personal view of sharing (everything I share is open, except what I wish to remain private).   Millennial engagement internally and externally with their network is a plus.

Employee advocacy programs add a feeling of purpose and deeper involvement outside of the day-to-day mandatory productivity that employees execute. That small participation involves and empowers employees and, more importantly, it engages them.

Engaged employees can impact all areas of the balance sheet. Statistics show that there was 2.5x more revenue for companies with engaged employees than competitors with low engagement levels.

From a corporate expense number, $11 billion is lost annually due to employee turnover, yet we’ve seen that highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave the company they work for than their counterparts, reducing the cost of onboarding and ramp-up, as well as breaks in culture.

These are just a few reasons why to consider an employee advocacy program.

Employee advocacy programs are becoming more and more important for our clients and for the industry, in general. It is important to understand that this is not something that you just decide to do. The formation of a plan to humanize a brand through the empowered voice of its employees isn’t turnkey. Authenticity never is.

In my next post I will walk you through things to think about when considering enabling and engaging employees as advocates.

Jake Schneider is the Director of Digital Strategy for The Marketing Arm, overseeing both digital and social strategy and in particular leading TMA’s Employee Advocacy practice. You can find him on Twitter @jakeschneider.

Influencer R&D: The New Landscape of Brand Partnerships

Written by: Jordan Lee
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As the landscape of bloggers and social influencers changes, so do the partnerships that drive their content. As bloggers, YouTube stars, and Instagrammers become more popular, the campaigns become more robust. Product seeding is almost an expectation and not innovation in this landscape.

Bloggers partnering with retailers is nothing new. However, over the past few years, brands have been looking for ways influencers can shape their consumers’ experiences offline and bring innovation to influencer marketing. Target was one of the first brands to collaborate with these influential social stars and create product consumers can actually buy. Baublebar is another brand consistently partnering with bloggers to create products. Some mainstay products, like the Courtney Bib Necklace named for Courtney Kerr, owe their moniker to bloggers – a place in fashion typically reserved for models and actresses.

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Image via Target

The recent announcement of blogger Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere partnering with Nordstrom to create a product line should come as no surprise. Undoubtedly, it’s a smart move for retailers. They are leveraging online popularity in a way that directly impacts sales in addition to any brand affinity generated by social media.

According to a study by Imperial, expert content by influencers lifted purchase intent over brand content by 38 percent, and 83 percent over user reviews. Influencers are critical to the purchase journey for consumers, so the extension of this is naturally influencer-created products.

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Image via Nordstrom

This collaboration correlates to the new normal for bloggers and social influencers. Those with larger star power are looking for more meaningful partnerships – for them this is a career path.

This new normal isn’t just product creation, either. YouTube stars are getting their own shows and some, like Flula Borg who recently appeared in Pitch Perfect 2, are landing movie roles. Others like Zoe Sugg are writing popular books.

Influencers are already becoming more selective about brand partnerships. Just having enough budget for fees is no longer going to land you a deal. Brands with thoughtful, meaningful integrations are going to win in the future of this landscape.

From Screen to Screen: Redefining Celebrity

Written by: Jordan Lee
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On an average day, there are roughly four billion YouTube video views. Additionally, YouTube is a social platform of choice for teens, with an 82 percent usage rate in the 14-17 age bracket. With this consumption, there are new stars rising.

YouTube stars have really taken off over the past few years, amassing millions of devout subscribers. Young people line up and wait for hours at conferences to meet their favorite YouTube stars. A plethora of management agencies that specialize in YouTube influencers are creating celebrity on their own terms with book deals, TV appearances, and more.

The newest development in this evolution is Grace Helbig and her new show on the E! Network. We’ve seen YouTube superstars appear on shows before, but this is the first time one has had their own namesake for a show. Just two episodes into watching and my husband walked in asking if I was watching YouTube videos on our Apple TV. I essentially was.

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Image via eoline.com

While these stars are exploring new formats, don’t expect them to change their voice. In an interview with USA Today Helbig explains how she is going to keep with the format of her web videos and wants everything to be transparent in the hopes that her young audience will follow her to TV.

Anyone with prior experience partnering and/or working with social influencers won’t find this transparency and dedication to voice to be a surprise. Their voice got them where they are, and fans expect consistency. Many of them are leading successful careers on their primary platform and those who wish to partner with social influencers and YouTube superstars should be prepared to let them take the reigns and share their expertise.

It’s important to consider what this means for television. Cable is already in a shaky place because of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. While the rise of online videos could be a threat, traditional channels have the opportunity to leverage them in a meaningful way in order to survive. E! has definitely taken a huge risk and everyone will be watching to see if it succeeds. The entertainment industry will need to rethink what celebrity partnerships look like, because these social influencers are steadily becoming the new personality powerhouses. Authenticity and transparency will become a mainstay as this shift happens.

SMWNYC 2015: “The Evolution of Social TV”

Written by: Rita Mogilanski
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SMWNYI attended Social Media Week in NYC last week and was impressed by the massive turnout. Each year, more and more people attend this conference as more agencies, platforms, products and brands try to keep up with the ever-changing space. One particularly noteworthy session (besides the fireside chat with social media celebrity Pete Cashmore) highlighted the evolution of social TV and featured panelists representing research and analytics agencies, as well as major television networks.

3 key takeaways from the session:

  1. “Social” and “TV” should not be considered two separate entities.

Television has always been naturally social. It has consistently been the main topic of conversation around the “watercooler,” even as the watercooler moved from the office to the Internet. Advertisers and content creators should not split “social” and “TV” from each other. Social TV as a concept revolves around making TV content appropriate for social platforms or including elements that encourage social conversation. Realistically, all content should be driving conversation and connecting fans with each other and with the cast members. Compelling TV content should be everywhere, influencing conversations in real time from the TV screen or from the second screen.

  1. Analytics and measurement tools need to adjust how they are assessing viewer data.

Qualitative measurements are becoming more important than quantitative measurements. The sheer number of people who are talking about your show in real time on social is not as important as the sentiment of the conversation and figuring out the emotional connection fans have. Did the majority of fans enjoy the episode? Will they return for the next episode?

The future of social TV measurement tools is moving toward a standard to assess all the different social platforms. Twitter is currently the main platform where real time marketing is being measured, but moving forward there will need to be a metric that takes all platforms and quality of social conversation into consideration to provide one standard of measurement. Additionally, with the new TV viewing habits of binge watching on weekends and watching TV online, networks may have to change how they look at each viewer. Traditionally, networks valued live viewership, but the viewer who watches five episodes in a row on a Sunday may be more valuable than one user who watched the show live.

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  1. Leveraging talent is the best way to reach fans.

Celebrities are naturally influential and can reach millions of users with just one click of the “retweet” button. Booking talent specifically for episodes paves the way for organic participation, as talent will want to encourage users to watch them on the show. Giving talent on a show a guide to how they can promote themselves on social, as well as plenty of content to promote on their channels, will help drive natural conversation.

Social TV is moving so fast that networks are scrambling to keep up. The traditional way of measuring viewership is slowly evolving. Those of us looking at social data to inform content need to keep sentiment in mind over volume, and look for ways to seamlessly integrate social to drive natural conversation.

List of panelists: http://socialmediaweek.org/newyork/events/evolution-social-tv/

Prediction: Perceived Personalization

Written by: Eric Fransen
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It was sometime between my first battle with an Uruk captain and overthrowing my first war chief that I realized something was special about Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. While the gameplay itself was fantastic, it was something in particular about the game’s enemies that struck me. Each Uruk had a unique name, appearance, and set of weaknesses, strengths and fears. Each Uruk had its own personality that was only present in my game. If I fell in battle to one, he made sure to let me know the next time I saw him — in alarmingly specific detail.

This is all thanks to Monolith’s Nemesis System. What the Nemesis System has managed to accomplish is something extraordinary — and noticeably lacking in many other of its AAA game brethren: perceived personalization. It wasn’t a matter of going after these Uruks because the game said I had to — I went after them because I wanted to. For sweet, sweet vengeance. It was no longer purely a game mechanic. It was personal. It was as if I KNEW the Uruk and he existed purely to antagonize me and make my life more difficult. All of this made it that much more satisfying by the time I was able to exact my revenge by parting his head with his shoulders.

So what does this all have to do with digital marketing? Everything.

You see, Monolith has stumbled onto something utterly brilliant. Mechanics that go a long way in making you, the consumer, feel like you’re having a completely unique experience. At its core, the Nemesis system is essentially a bank of possible names, attributes, personalities and sound bytes that combine to form randomly created characters. But it’s how it all comes together to form a cohesive experience that’s where it really shines.

You could apply this same logic to attributes in product design, custom web experiences, or experiential events. If you feel like you’re the first and/or only person to experience something, how much better of an experience is that compared to a one-size-fits-all approach? By creating something truly unique, you’re creating social currency and empowering your consumers to speak on your behalf.

But why perceived personalization? Isn’t it just personalization? Yes and no. Yes, the experience is unique and personalized to me, the end user. But where I see the differentiation is the fact that it’s unique without any additional input from either the development side OR the user side. It’s a highly sophisticated automated system that makes me FEEL like it’s built specifically for me. That’s the magic. And something I believe we are going to start seeing even more in 2015.

The Anti-Facebook? Meet Ello

Written by: Tom Edwards
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With the recent shift towards a reach and frequency model and organic reach hovering at 3% (with plans to go lower by the end of the year), Facebook has now created a void in the social networking eco-system.

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This is what maturing enterprises do. They refine and evolve and sometimes this change has significant ramifications on existing best practices. Facebook is still an incredibly powerful digital platform. I would no longer classify it as a “social network” at least from a brand marketing perspective. Facebook has moved away from KPI’s such as engagement to focus on becoming a highly effective direct response tool.

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We are currently at a significant cross-roads from a social marketing perspective. The mantra of reach through engagement is really only applicable on Tumblr & Instagram (for now). Twitter is shifting towards an algorithm driven approach to showcasing tweets in your feed and organic reach has continued to decline and it will be interesting to see how much of the feed is “real-time” moving forward.

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With all of this movement away from what made social… social, you should expect to see new platforms emerge that essentially provide what Facebook used to be, an actual social network.

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One such platform that is starting to pick up momentum is Ello.

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“Ello is a simple, beautiful, and ad-free social network created by a small group of artists and designers” according to the founders. It is designed to be an ad-free digital zone.

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One of the selling propositions to join yet another network is the fact that they state they won’t sell data to 3rd parties.

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The core of the experience is similar to what you would expect, it supports GIFs, comments on posts and reply directly to friends. You also have insight into how many people have viewed a post but there is nothing revolutionary with the platform, it simply is what Facebook used to be.

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This is still in it’s early stages and is very similar to the early stages of the social networks that came before it so there are still some elements that need to be refined but there is a need for platforms such as Ello that provide an alternative to the increasingly ad driven models and allow for more organic connection and discovery of content.

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Be sure to sign up for an invite.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360