3 reasons why people are leaving Facebook for Ello

Unless you have been under a rock this last week, you have certainly noticed the Ello hype. Friends boldly declaring that they are leaving Facebook for Ello flooded my Facebook feed last week. Nonetheless, most of the reporting on Ello trended towards naysayers claiming that Ello isn’t going to last; citing privacy issues, the need for advertising, or claiming that Ello is in the hands of venture capitalists and doomed to fail.

All of that misses the point in my opinion. People aren’t rushing to Ello because they love the platform, but because they are fed up with Facebook. Regardless of Ello’s longevity in the social sphere, the real takeaway here is that Facebook has a huge problem on their hands. Their consumers are clamoring for an alternative. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone as people have been complaining about Facebook for a while.

I don’t want to presume to speak for the Facebook community at large, but for my part, there are a few basic issues that have been bothering me about Facebook for the last several months. In my opinion, if Facebook would make just a couple of modest changes to their platform, it would quiet the discontent.

#1: Make sponsor posts in the news stream opt-in only.

One of the most frustrating things for me, as I peruse my Facebook feed, is that so much of my feed is now sponsored posts by companies or brands that hold no interest for me. Don’t get me wrong, I think companies and brands have a role to play in social networking. I don’t share John Oliver’s opinion that Corporations and Twitter don’t mix, for example. But I DO believe that the relationship between the company and the consumer needs to be led by the consumer and not the other way around. There are movies and personalities and companies that I would happily tolerate in my newsfeed, but I want to first follow them. That forms a more honest relationship between me and the brand, which is mutually beneficial to both parties. By stuffing random companies into my newsfeed automatically, Facebook has sent the clear message that my preferences don’t matter.

What makes this so egregious is Facebook’s attempt at making the post seem relevant by highlighting my friends who have liked the brand page. Because this visual display is so similar to LINKS that my friends have liked, I often feel “duped” into clicking on the posts. Giving your consumers the sense that you are “tricking” them is never a good thing. NEVER.

#2: Stop experimenting with the news feed timeline (Keep it Simple)

One of the largest complaints people express with Facebook is that it eats up too much time in their day. So many of us feel tethered to Facebook. What used to be a fun and casual activity, now seems like an unachievable task. What used to take a few minutes of your day, now seems to take hours.

The problem is that Facebook keeps removing the “efficiency” out of the news stream through their constant revisions to “improve” it.

I used to sort my news stream by “Most Recent”. This would allow me to see a reverse chronological listing of all of my friend’s posts. I would read this stream down to a point where I started seeing posts I had already read, and I was done. This usually took no more than 10 minutes, which I would do 3 or 4 times a day. I would feel caught up with my friend’s activity, and I could go back to my busy day.

Facebook no longer offers a simple reverse chronological listing of a news feed. Instead, they have been playing with the rules so that posts will show back up in your feed based on people commenting on the post or perhaps someone liking it. I’m not sure what makes a post pop back up, it seems like the rules keep changing. What I do know is that it’s annoying and it’s not uncommon for me to run across the same post several times in a single viewing of my news feed.

This problem with this tactic is that it takes the efficiency out of browsing. We now have to spend so much more time in the news feed, trying to wade through posts we’ve already seen and trying to figure out if we’ve seen all the new posts or not. It makes guessing work out of what used to be a simple and clear experience. It also injects a sense of anxiety that you are missing something because you never know where you last left off.

You may snicker at my choice of the word “anxiety” or at those of us “addicted” to Facebook. But I think that the desire to “keep up” with our friends and family is a noble one. We lead busy lives and there is limited time for socializing. I for one feel lucky to have had a way to keep up with my loved ones, even when I too busy to pick up the phone or hang out. If Facebook would honor that premise, and return to a simple chronological based timeline, I think they would have more loyal customers.

#3: Decide to become a consumer based product

There is a reason that Ello’s manifesto struck a nerve with consumers. We are exhausted of feeling like fodder for advertisers and having product features we love taken away because some online service suddenly needs to sell advertising to survive. We are angry that we can’t fast forward through commercials on our VOD even though we pay $200 a month for the service. I’m personally annoyed that my cutting edge cellular service doesn’t work in my neighborhood, but meanwhile the landline that my parent’s have had since the 1960's works reliably. There is a growing movement for paid services, solely because customers are tired of advertisers calling the shots.

If customers are so valued by Facebook’s advertisers, those customers should be valuable to Facebook too. Facebook should be our biggest advocate, looking after our interests and desires. Otherwise, we’ll run to the first half-developed social network that comes along and promises to cater to our needs. Will we be disappointed? Probably. Will we come running back to Facebook? Probably not.

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