There are quite literally hundreds of social networking or social media sites and apps. But when we talk about social media, we’re usually talking about a handful of sites. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. Those are the sites most often mentioned for the general promotion of blogs or websites.
But if you’re an artist, designer, or any other kind of creative type, there’s another social network that you should be using. It’s called Ello.
Ello is unique in that it focuses on creativity and creators. Unlike other more passive social networks, Ello actively works to provide connections and opportunities for creators.
If you’ve been looking for a social network that can actually do something for you, Ello may be it.
Say Hello to Ello
Ello launched in 2014, so it’s been around for a while. Initially, it was created as a response and alternative to Facebook. There had been (and continues to be) a lot of news stories about Facebook selling user data, and many users were concerned.
When Ello launched, the founders published a manifesto, and used the tag line, “You Are Not a Product.”
But as a new network, Ello was still small. Maybe purposely so. They did not (and still don’t) accept paid advertising. Its founders didn’t set out to create the next Facebook. It was a side-project, intended to be a social site for their friends, and whoever else was interested.
For a while, that’s what it was, peaking at around 30,000 users.
But then Facebook began enforcing a “real name” policy that angered (and even endangered) some users. One of Ello’s founders posted a criticism of Facebook’s policy, and that attracted millions of new users to Ello.
Eventually, creative users began to nudge Ello away from being a generic social network. When it became clear who the active core users were, Ello pivoted and began calling itself “The Creators Network.”
What Ello Can Do for You
Every social network provides a community for its users. Ello does that too. But, Ello’s users are generally much more involved than those on other platforms. When you cultivate good connections on Ello, those people will venture outside of Ello to see your work.
And Ello itself will elevate users it finds interesting. Not through the use of a black-box algorithm, but directly, through recommendations and giveaways.
Here are a few of the things Ello does to promote and benefit creators.
Every day, an Ello “curatorial team” features community members on their editorial homepage and their social profiles. Artists and their works and ideas are actively promoted across the platform.
To give you some idea of what that means, my partner and I joined Ello at the same time. A few months after we joined, an Ello founder shared one of her posts featuring her art.
Within days, she had ten times more followers than I did. For months, after just a single shared post, her follower count continued to grow by the thousands.
Since then, she’s racked up half a million post views. That’s not a huge number compared to celebrity posts on the major social networks. But what I find interesting about it is 59% of her followers view her posts.
That’s the sign of an engaged user base! Ello users appear to be much more engaged than users on the major social networks. The only way 59% of your Facebook friends will see your post is if you pay Facebook to force it on them.
And her experience was in the relatively early days of Ello. Back in 2014, just before it began gaining a lot of press attention. I can only imagine how many new followers featured artists gain now.
And the arts editorials aren’t the only hand-picked recommendations. There’s also a “community update” that features Ello artists both on the Ello blog and in a daily email newsletter.
So, you can see that Ello takes a very active role in boosting the profiles of their artists.
Not for Print
Ello prints (yes, on actual paper) an ironically-titled publication called, Not for Print. It’s published quarterly, and all Not for Print contents come from Ello user submissions. Issues follow different artistic themes, and they’re curated to showcase the creative talent on Ello.
They use creative briefs (more on that in a minute) to spell out guidelines and gather submissions. A vetted panel of impartial judges chooses the artists and works that are published in Not for Print.
Each edition of Not for Print is sponsored by an “artists-first” brand partner.
In the art world, a monograph is a book that contains the work of a single artist. Underscore is a book/zine combination that Ello publishes quarterly.
Every quarter, Ello posts a creative brief that’s used to choose ten artists for publication in Underscore. One of the artist’s work is published in book form. A monograph featuring the chosen artist’s work and ideas.
Nine other artists are interviewed and published in a zine that’s published along with the monograph.
Most artists have to wait for a gallery or museum show to see a published monograph of their work. It’s quite an accomplishment and not something you’re ever going to get from Pinterest or Facebook.
Ello Art Giveaway Program
Every week, Ello buys three pieces of artwork from Ello artists. Then, the work is promoted and given away to randomly selected members of the community.
That’s right, Ello actually buys work from its members. Then they give the work away as prizes.
Well, more accurately, they find sponsors to buy the work, but the result is the same—a sale for an artist, and a free piece of art for a user.
Those giveaways drive members to the creator’s user account, resulting in more followers. Similar to what they do when they feature work on the editorial homepage.
If you land a spot in the Art Giveaway Program, not only do you make a sale, you gain followers. And like any social network, more followers equals more attention and influence.
Ello Artist Collective
The Ello Artist Collective is an invitation-only, curated group made up of Ello’s top professional creative talent. Established artists are represented, but the collective also includes many “emerging” artists.
Ello promotes its Artists Collective members brands, agencies, and publishers. Resulting in commissions for graphic design, photography, fine art, illustration, 3D, gifs, video, music, and other disciplines.
Ello Artist Collective members are invited to participate in projects (unlike the open-submission projects we’ll discuss in the next section). They receive financial compensation for their contributions.
The Ello Artist Collective is invitation-only, but you can give them a nudge in your direction by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. They’re unlikely to select artists who aren’t active on the site, though, so get involved before angling for an invitation.
Ello Creative Briefs
I saved the best for last.
Ello Creative Briefs connects the Ello creator community with brands, agencies, and publishers via real-time creative briefs. The briefs are creative projects offered to Ello’s global community of artists.
It works like this: You submit your work to the creative brief you’re interested in. Then, a panel of judges chooses what they consider the best work that fits the criteria of the brief.
I don’t know if this is the same “vetted panel of impartial judges” that choose work for Not For Print. If they choose your work, you get paid.
The Creative Briefs are listings from companies and brands that are looking for creative work, usually for social media.
These are not small-time companies just getting off the ground. They’re network television shows, fashion brands, major motion pictures, book publishers, record companies, and other national and internationally-known brands.
Which Brands Post Opportunities in the Form of Creative Briefs?
It might be easier to list which brands don’t. 😉
The page currently shows offers from, among others, Disney, Marvel, DC, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Turner Network, Columbia TriStar, MGM, Universal Pictures International, United Artists, Bombay Sapphire, Absolut, Johnnie Walker, Ballantine’s, Miller Lite, Nielsen Research, Getty Images, The United Nations(!), Lindt, Pampers, Whirlpool, and POKÉMON.
I did a quick and dirty tally of the 60 most recent opportunities in Creative Briefs, and the average offer for accepted work or ideas is over $2,500 per piece, with $2,000 being the most common offer.
Granted, all of the assignments bear the caveat of “up to” the quoted price. And of course, you’re doing the work on spec. If they choose your work, you get paid. If they don’t, you don’t.
But those kinds of strings are attached to most spec work. The level of companies looking for work should reassure you that it’s a legitimate creative marketplace.
With companies like Warner Bros. Home Entertainment offering up to $7,000 and Premier League football club Watford FC £10,000, it’s safe to say this isn’t Fiverr we’re talking about. (No offense to Fiverr, that’s just a different kind of marketplace.)
Was Ello Lucky or Clever?
I mentioned earlier that Ello pivoted from its initial stance as the anti-Facebook. That’s true, but it may not have been a voluntary pivot.
After the initial flurry of media attention in 2014, a few million people joined Ello. But the platform was still in its infancy, so there wasn’t much for them to do. Many who joined during the first big wave of sign-ups quickly abandoned the platform.
If that sounds familiar, perhaps you remember Google+, which went through a somewhat similar experience. But unlike Ello, Google+ had no underlying beliefs or interests to take it in any specific direction.
Google certainly didn’t have a manifesto. It was a generic product from a huge company.
Full disclosure, I quite enjoyed Google+ and used it every day until it was shut down. I realize we were in the minority, but there were a lot of smart, interesting people on Google+. May she rest in peace.
Ello, however, had a small group of founders who did have a vision. And since they never intended to be the world’s largest social network, they were able to survive a mass exodus. Those who remained were the independent creators, and they slowly, lovingly, built Ello back up to what it is today.
What is it today? The world’s best niche social network for creators.
Give and Take
All of the different things Ello does to promote its users and provide opportunities for them are impressive. They certainly go above and beyond what most social platforms choose to do. But the real strength of Ello is its users.
I mentioned that they were engaged, and that’s the key. Ello users love art and creativity. They respond to it and support it. Not surprisingly, considering most of the users are creators themselves.
But that engagement spills out beyond the borders of Ello. Posting a link to your website will actually bring visitors to your content. You can’t say the same for most of the big social networks.
And those visitors don’t just hit your link and bounce. They tend to stick around and explore. Google Analytics “time on site” averages about three times longer than traffic from other referrers on my partner’s website.
That’s an audience that is interested and engaged and should be cultivated. Ello can provide that audience for you, too. Of course, you have to do your part and be active and engaged on Ello as well. That applies to any social network. You get out of it what you put into it.
But if you’re a creator looking for the highest return on your investment of time, look no further than Ello.