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So, you want to start a social network? How Vero went from hero to zero in under a week
Blog / Campaigning

So, you want to start a social network? How Vero went from hero to zero in under a week

What lessons can be learned from the rapid demise of Social networking upstart, Vero?
In case you missed it, last week an app called Vero rocketed to the top of the app store’s charts.  While the social networking app - who’s stated aim is to make sharing online more like real life - had actually been around since 2015, it experienced a huge surge in users last week.
Partly driven by their promise to remain free to the first one million users (the internet likes a freebie), there were other aspects of the app that made it appealing, and had users migrating from the big four - Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter - in their droves, however briefly.
So, we’ve decided to break down exactly what those factors were and also examine how Vero managed to fall victim to a #deletevero campaign before the week was out. We’ll also name check a few other would-be Facebook challengers that have come and gone over the years:
Respect users’ privacy
In this era of election hacks, vast data breaches and impending GDPR regulations, we have never been more protective of our privacy. Many of us will even have a friend who insists on covering their web cam & mic, lest Vladimir Putin himself might be listening in.
As a result, we’ve become deeply suspicious of the very social networks we are addicted to. Just what are they doing with my data?

That Vero fronts up and confronts these concerns with a prominent clarification on its manifesto page is a big tick in their favor, and a testament to how important it is for any new social network to be shown to treat your data with care.

However, with Vero refusing to let you sign up without supplying your phone number and then retaining the right to post and share ANY content you post on their platform, any goodwill soon goes out the window.
Court the creatives
Like Ello before it, Vero positioned itself as a place for photographers, artists and other creative to show off their work.  This isn’t a terrible tactic, as artists bring with them an authenticity and cache of cool that will entice other users. And to be fair, the feed looks beautiful – clean, uncluttered and ensuring the focus is firmly on the post.
However, as noted above, the fact the Vero retained the right to share and post users’ content whenever and wherever they wanted was a big no-no, especially for people who make a living from selling and licensing said work.
It also didn’t help that the influx of new users left Vero unable to cope, with many reporting that they couldn’t upload a single photo.

And, while Ello continues to eke out an existence (albeit one that meant switching from a Facebook clone to something more comparable to Pinterest), the cold facts are that, even before taking Instagram into account, there are just too many well-established outlets and communities for creatives online, without the need for yet another social network to maintain.
Banish the ads
If you were to load up Facebook right now, you’d probably only scroll down once before encountering an ad. Same goes for Instagram. And Twitter. Even Facebook Messenger is no longer safe.

Little wonder then, that one of Vero’s biggest sells was that it wouldn’t sell – it was promising an ad-free zone!  To be funded by a subscription model (a charge that the first million users would not be subjected to), Vero promised that it would never sell adverts and that only you, the user, would be their customer.

It almost goes without saying, but an ad amnesty is an enticing prospect for any social media user (although perhaps not so thrilling for digital marketers) and was undoubtedly one of the driving factors in the influx of new users. 
Unfortunately, as we’ll see in the next point, the backlash against Vero means we’re unlikely to see just how successful this model would have been and it remains to be seen just how much of an appetite there is a for a social network with a membership fee – regardless of whether or not adverts are allowed.

Don’t be an idiot
And so, to #deletevero.  Almost as quickly as we became aware of the app's existence, it found itself the subject of the hashtag above.

The reason?

Well, it turned out that Vero’s CEO, Lebanese billionaire heir Ayman Hariri had a business past that was… patchy. As reported by Gizmodo , Hariri served as vice chairman for his family’s construction company, Saudi Oger, the subject of over 31,000 complaints of non payment of wages during Hariri’s tenure.  Not a good look.

As the internet continued to dig up these revelations, #deletevero spread like wildfire and, before many users had even had a chance to login, the social network was being consigned to the scrap heap.

Some would argue that we’re already too far down the road with our current social networks. Their quirks and features are permanently engrained, the act of uploading a pic or sharing a story long since committed to muscle memory.

Yet the same was once said of America’s so-called ‘Big Three’ television networks, who now find themselves amongst 50 national broadcasters. If that weren’t hope enough for any fledgling social network then consider this –  a little over ten years ago this write swore they would never abandon MySpace for Facebook. Look how that went…

Posted 5 March 2018 by Ben Waterhouse