A trend that’s been pretty hard to ignore in social over the last week has been the sudden rise of Vero, a new social app which offers an alternate experience to the now algorithm-driven, ad-funded incumbents.
Except, Vero’s not new. Vero’s actually been around since 2015, but it’s only now gaining significant momentum.
Why? It’s hard to say for sure, but speculation is that Vero’s rise is a result of the ongoing backlash against algorithm-defined feeds, particularly on Instagram. Vero’s layout is actually much like Insta, with a focus on images - except, as detailed in the above video, you can post a wider variety of content on Vero, including music, links, book and film recommendations, and other sharing options.
As explained in Vero’s introduction:
“We made it so you could play music and buy stuff without leaving the app, then, we didn’t put any advertising in it. Which meant we didn’t have to put any algorithms in it. Which meant we didn’t have to mine data from anyone, ever. And when we were done, we realized we hadn’t just created a new social network, we’d created a new way to be social online. Less of what makes it suck, more of what makes it great.”
The premise is certainly inviting, and is much the same as the one Ello used when it first launched to a quick burst of hype. But Ello never really caught on.
So will Vero follow the same path?
There’s obviously no way of knowing what will come next for the app, but there are a few lessons we can take from the sudden interest in Vero:
- There is appetite for an alternate social network – One which is free of ads and/or algorithms. Snapchat was first able to gain momentum by being the anti-Facebook, a way to share without having it saved for posterity, and without it being seen by everyone, and saved on your permanent record (and used for ad targeting). Snapchat’s eased its approach on all of these fronts as they’ve grown, because they’ve discovered, over time, that in order to scale, such ideals can’t ultimately be maintained, and their recent introduction of their own algorithm (of sorts) has left users looking for a way to regain control over their content. Vero offers this – but it’s likely that they’ll run into the same challenges as Snapchat, if they ever reach significant levels of usage.
- Vero’s ‘growth hacking’ strategy is helping its rise – As noted, Vero has no ads, and they don’t plan to ever introduce them. So how will Vero make money? One way is through a subscription-based model – according to CNBC, Vero plans to eventually charge users 'a few dollars per year' to use the app. But right now, they’re using this as a growth device – Vero says that the first million users will never have to pay any fees, pushing people to get in quick. So if you even think Vero might be something someday, it's best to jump in soon. The app is reportedly now very close to that million user mark.
- The growth of social commerce – The other way Vero plans to eventually make money is by taking a cut of any sales generated through the app. Of course, social commerce options are cropping up everywhere, but it is possible that Vero, if it were to become popular enough, could establish a sold funding model through in-stream sales – though again, at some stage, the challenges of scale would likely become a problem. It'll be interesting to see how Vero plans to implement this.
So what does this all mean – and is it worth you and/or your business also paying attention to Vero?
As noted, there have been several 'hot' new social platforms crop up, and all of them have fallen short, with Snapchat being the only real exception in recent memory. Ello, Peach, many others, have all fallen by the wayside, because despite early hype, they’ve died out from lack of use, largely because porting your existing networks to a new space is hard, which is why Facebook holds such a significant advantage (and why Snapchat worked, as it enabled younger users to build their networks from scratch).
That’s not to say it’s impossible for a competitor to push into the market, but Vero definitely faces an uphill battle.
Sure, their pitch is compelling – again from their intro video:
“It was never meant to be a revolution, just the logical next step, but it turns out, once you strip out the advertising, clean-up the feeds and put control back in the hands of the user, you’re free to be honest.”
But as noted by various other writers, every other social network started out with the same ideals, and it worked, till commercial inevitabilities got in the way.
Maybe Vero will be different, maybe it’ll capitalize on the groundswell and become a more significant consideration. But I wouldn’t be re-jigging my strategic approach just yet.
But then again, if you want to avoid the possibility of future subscription costs…