The world of small business marketing is, without doubt, a rapidly evolving one. There was a time when small budgets and large competitors put enormous constraints on the reach SME’s could feasibly obtain.
Of course, the onset of large social media platforms like Facebook in 2004 and Instagram in 2010 changed everything – allowing small businesses the opportunity to access large audiences in a relatively cost-effective manner.
Indeed, these social media giants have been so successful that it seems like they have managed to establish an iron-fisted monopoly over the realm of social media marketing.
However, the events of the past few weeks have shown us that, despite their size, there is still room for competition. We are referring here to the astounding attention the photo-sharing app Vero received in the past couple of weeks.
The app, defying all expectations, saw its’ users rise from a stable 150,000 to 3 million in just one week (a staggering 1900% increase!). We know what you’re thinking: we have seen Instagram competitors come and go in the past and nobody even remembers their names. On this occasion, such an astronomical rise to prominence surely merits giving this latest challenger a closer look!
There’s a Time and a Place: Why Now?
As with all good revolutions, timing is everything. So why is now a good time for an Instagram competitor to gain momentum? The primary driver appears to be Insta-users’ growing frustration with the infamous algorithms employed by the app last year.
A Quick Algorithm Recap:
For those of you who missed the recent social media controversy, we will quickly summarise the issue at stake here from a business marketing point of view.
What do the algorithms change?
The algorithms are all designed to alter the way that Instagram users’ posts are viewed and exposed to their followers, namely:
- They change the way your posts are ordered (no longer appearing chronologically)
- They determine on whose newsfeeds your posts appear
- They control what content you can see
How do they do this?
Well, this is the million dollar question, and the answer is: no one knows for sure. However, there is a consensus amongst the majority of Instagram users on what the broad factors affecting the algorithms are.
- Engagement. This is a combination of both how much attention your post receives (likes, comments, shares etc.) and the speed at which it obtains this attention. Though on the whole the former dominates, a well-timed post with a topical hashtag can pToush your post ahead of much slower momentum posts.
- Genre. It sounds obvious, but if you like lots of foodie posts, Ins,tagram will show you more.
- Your Super-Fans. Instagram will always show your content to your most engaged users – i.e. people who always like, comment or share your posts regardless of their own following.
- Time. It’s not just engagement with posts that are ranked – it’s the amount of time that users engage with them that is also taken into consideration (posts with engaging captions or videos tend to do better here)
- Your Engagement. Instagram factors in how much you react to your followers’ comments etc. when it looks at releasing your post further.
So what’s the big deal?
Casual personal Instagrammers need not to worry, but for social influencers or your business looking to use Instagram as a platform for social media marketing, the consequences of these algorithms are far-reaching.
For a start, the introduction of algorithms can drastically affect your post’s exposure to your followers. In order to gauge the initial engagement with the post, Instagram releases it to roughly 10% of your followers. If this 10% gets excited about it, then it will be passed on to the other 90%, but if it’s slow off the mark then 10% is all it’s ever going to get.
Naturally, this seriously reduces the value of the platform as a marketing tool if only a fraction of your hard-earned following will even have an opportunity to see the post.
Another big factor is the way this affects the ranking of the posts on your newsfeed. Up until the introduction of the algorithm, you would see your newsfeed in the chronological order that people posted images. Now, as the algorithm determines which posts are relevant to which people, your newsfeed will be dominated by the posts that Instagram deems most relevant to you.
This means that not only are your posts reaching a smaller audience, but you yourself are only served the content of a fraction of those you follow – with only your most engage-with users making it onto your feed. This can be a bit of a dead hand on both your post-inspiration and your on-platform networking opportunities.
So What is Vero?
Having established the gripe of the discontented Instagrammers, it’s now time to take a closer look at their chosen alternative.
In many ways – as a fellow picture sharing app – Vero offers a very similar user experience to that which Instagram offered a few years ago (no doubt it is this that has induced insta-users to jump ship).
Like Instagram, you can create your profile, follow other users and post photos – you can even use a corresponding set of filters that are differently named but otherwise almost indistinguishable from its muses.
However, there are a few key developments to note… For one, Vero allows you to separate your followers into categories (close friends, friends, acquaintances, followers) giving you both stronger privacy settings and more control over who sees what – you can even keep posts entirely private if you choose to do so.
This decision forms the core part of the company’s image, as they claim to be ‘a social network that lets you be yourself’. With social media data breaches occupying global headlines once more this week, you have to say, granting greater privacy controls looks like a savvy play from Vero’s creators. What’s more, by allowing you to classify your online followers as you do your real-life social connections, they believe they are adding a little more authenticity to the platform.
Secondly, they enable you to share text as well as images. Consequently, the platform is set up to allow you to post about books, films, music (anything you like, really!) as well as photos.
From a small business point of view, this is beneficial because it can give your Vero account an almost ‘blog like’ feel which can help you build up your brand’s image.
It also gives you many more opportunities to post than just when picture related content comes along.
Does This Make it a Better Platform?
The rapid growth in Vero’s user base certainly shows that some people think so. But what about the main benefits of the platform for your business?
- Algorithms. This is really the key point. We know we have emphasized it a lot but it really cannot be underestimated. If you want a platform that doesn’t control the exposure of your posts, over even the posts that you yourself are exposed to, then look no further. On Vero, if you post something then all your followers will have an opportunity to view it. Simple.
- Followers. Though a simple modification, the advantage of being able to classify your followers is actually very useful from a business point of view. Firstly it gives you the tools to run your personal and business social media from the same account if you wish. Secondly, by sorting your followers into categories you can effectively separate out your clients – ensuring all your biggest contacts are close friends etc.
- Links. Unlike Instagram, Vero allows you to post links to an in-app sales portal on the platform. This has the power to turn your marketing into direct advertising as well, as followers can simply click on the link to buy your product directly (be alert to the fact that Vero will take a cut from this sale however!).
In short, its popularity base appears to have grown so much because Vero’s mantra is all about providing their users with control and privacy on their platform just at a time when Instagram is reducing theirs.
What’s the Catch?
It is easy to see why these features are enough to convince people that Vero could be a viable Instagram alternative. However, as the ‘honeymoon period’ of the app’s discovery comes to an end, the internet is beginning to uncover a few things that have started to topple the pedestal that Vero was residing on.
- Bugs. Though the rapid downloads have overall been excellent news for the platform (few companies will ever experience such a record week), they were clearly caught unawares. Not only did their app temporarily crash but it is also riddled with bugs. It looks like the system simply wasn’t set up to deal with the demands of such a huge user base.
- The Founder. As the app has risen to prominence, the spotlight has been shone on the dubious credentials of its founder, Ayman Harari. The billionaire son of the former Prime Minister of Lebanon allegedly left thousands of migrant workers in his construction company (Saudi Oger) without food and water after refusing to pay them when the economic slump hit.
- No Ads. This decision is certainly beneficial in terms of protecting its users from data mining. However, from a business point of view, the lack of advertising opportunities is an obvious drawback.
- The T’s & C’s. While bugs can be solved and the lack of ads accepted in the place of other benefits, the real problem from a business point of view lies in the terms and conditions of use for Vero. Carefully highlighted in The Industry Observer, Vero makes some very worrying claims over the content published on the site. The article sites the T&C’s directly:
3. User Content Ownership and License
As between you and Vero, you retain any and all right, title and interest in and to the User Content you create, post, or otherwise make available through the Service. We claim no ownership rights over your User Content.
In accordance with your choice of the privacy settings offered by the Service, by posting or otherwise making available any User Content on or through the Service, you hereby grant, and you represent and warrant that you have all rights necessary to grant, to Vero a limited, royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, list information regarding, translate, distribute, syndicate, publicly perform, publicly display, make derivative works of, or otherwise use your User Content, including (without limitation) your name, voice, and/or likeness as it is contained within your User Content, in whole or in part, and in any form, media or technology, whether now known or hereafter developed.
In effect, this means that once you have published your material on Vero, it is entirely out of your hands. As a business, this means that, in theory, your images/ posts can be used to endorse Vero publically and there is nothing you can do about it. Considering the questionable links of the company’s founder, this is something you might want to consider seriously before you put your company’s brand on the line.
What Have We Learnt From This?
Clearly, there are pros and cons to this app. And though there is hardly room for imperfection in a competitor pitched against Instagram, there are still a few things that a small business owner would do well to remember when approaching Vero from a marketing point of view.
Whatever you want to say about the app, it is undeniably very on trend right now – of its’ three million or so users, about 95% of them are new (and therefore likely to be active in exploring the platform).
As a small business, this gives you an almost unique opportunity to get your business’ name out to a whole new online community – certainly not a chance to be sniffed at. If you can harness this wave and establish your account as one of the early social influencers on Vero, then you will be well positioned if the app gains traction in the long term.
Yet, as we have highlighted above, there are drawbacks and they are not negligible. It’s up to you now to decide whether the short-term gain of promoting your business on a highly topical, trending app is worth the long-term risk of handing over your intellectual copyright to Vero.
Would you consider downloading the app in light of this knowledge? Or did you launch your account some time ago? For anyone who has already begun their Vero journey, we would love to hear any feedback or tips from your experience of using the platform!
This is a guest post by Flora Dallas, Flora is a content writer for Fat Lama the world’s fasted growing peer-to-peer rental platform (a kind of Airbnb for stuff!). Fat Lama’s goal (alongside saving its’ users money) is to bring about a more environmentally friendly approach to spending by elongating life span of products already in circulation.