Have you heard of Ello yet? It’s one of the newest social media platforms, touted as the Facebook killer; no ads, privacy respecting, socially empowering – any of which may or may not be true, but that’s not the point of our story here. The point is that Ello went from almost total obscurity to front page headlines seemingly overnight. Three to four thousand people were trying to join the site per hour at one point – an overwhelming amount of interest that brought the beta site down.
What drove the masses to Ello?
Welcome to the power of the invitation.
You see, you couldn’t (and can’t) just join Ello. You needed to be invited by someone already involved with Ello. Didn’t know anyone? Invitations can be requested, but there’s no guarantee that one will be forthcoming. Once you make it in, though, you’re given a handful of your own invitation codes to share – that way you can make sure your friends are part of the new social network you’ve just joined.
The invitation-only model can generate a tremendous amount of buzz. In general, people like to be invited to things; it makes them feel recognized and valued. Invitations are even better when they’re perceived to be exclusive and high value, giving one access to something that’s actually worth going to.
In some parts of our culture, right now, there’s a certain amount of value attached to the idea of being one of the very first people to establish a presence on a social network. People also feel a pressure to protect their chosen web identities on emerging social media platforms. Taken together, these factors were enough to start a rush of people in search of invitations to join Ello; that rush swelled as other people who are perhaps not as invested in digital spaces but wanted to see what all the fuss is about.
Is this model replicable outside of social media? Absolutely. The exclusive event is well known in the apparel and jewelry industries; as long as you have merchandise your customer is genuinely interested in seeing and access to the event is limited, your invitation will have value.
Limited access (or the perception of limited access) is important. It’s not an exclusive event if everyone and their best friend will be there; that’s just a sale! Ello wouldn’t be Ello if everyone could be there; it would be Facebook.
Does Ello have a role to play in your digital marketing mix?
That remains to be seen. The platform is in its very infancy. We don’t know who’s embracing this platform or what it’s going to be used for. Without that knowledge, it’s too soon to make any decisions. That being said, the lesson being taught about the power of invitations is a good one to keep in mind as we market our own businesses!