Digital Transformation Social Media Technology

Does your brand need to be on Vero?

By Gracie Page | creative technologist

March 16, 2018 | 7 min read

It’s likely that by now you’ve now heard the word Vero, the platform being lauded as the ‘new Instagram’ all over the internet.

Music screen from Vero

The app, which launched in 2015, shot to social fame last week after 500,000 users joined Vero in just 24 hours. This sudden growth is supposedly due to a mass exodus towards the platform by influencers in the tattoo and cosplay communities.

What’s so special about this platform and what’s in it for brands? And why should you take a moment to breathe before panicking about how you’re going to jam yet another channel into your integrated marketing campaign?

In a nutshell, Vero purports to be the anti-Facebook and, by extension, anti-Instagram thanks to three simple rules:

1. It doesn’t allow ads on the platform

2. It doesn’t collect user data

3. Everything in the feed is shown chronologically - there’s no algorithm deciding which content to show you when

It’s easy to see why this proposition is piquing the interest of influencers and the public. But it’s important to remember that when Instagram launched, it was ad-free and sans algorithm too.

In a world of fake news, clickbait display ads, and never being able to actually find stuff posted by your friends or family, a general discontent with Facebook et al has been on the rise for some time. We’re ready for a challenger.

But is Vero it? I don’t think so.

For one, the management is dubious to put it nicely. Billionaire founder Ayman Hariri was the deputy CEO of his family’s now-defunct construction company Saudi Oger, which allegedly refused to pay thousands of construction workers. This led to many becoming homeless, forced to live in labour camps – a fact that doesn’t really chime true to Vero’s vision for a more equitable, egalitarian future.

Further to this, when it comes to using Vero itself, a T&Cs clause spotted by many stipulated that all user data captured within the app can be used by Vero and its affiliate brands – all royalty-free and without your consent.

Since being highlighted on Twitter, that clause had now been removed. Of course, that’s good news. But it leaves me feeling uneasy about Vero’s identity as a platform rejecting the premise of monetising from ads or user data.

The number of articles online about how Vero’s user experience is failing miserably is fast growing. Reports of server time outs, broken search functionalities or the inability to upload content suggests the app isn’t ready. This can be explained by the unexpected crush put on their servers by millions flocking to download. But the platform has been ‘in beta’ for three years and still struggles with sign ups and friend searches.

Perhaps oddest of all is the lack of clarity around how brands might be able to act on the platform.

Since there’s no ad buy to be performed, there are currently two apparent options for brands to get in on the Vero hype: set up a profile, and post content to it organically much the same way you’re currently curating your brand profile on Instagram (although granted, you’re probably supplementing that baseline with paid media).

Or – brands can become a Vero partner like GQ, which has been working with the platform since 2017 and as a result can be found in the ‘Editor’s Choice’ section readily.

There’s no real information on how partnerships might be formed, but it’s not hard to imagine this being another revenue stream for Vero. Bringing on ‘partner’ brands that are essentially paying for the right to show up in prized places across the interface is a way for them to honour their ‘no ad’ narrative without turning away brand pounds and pence.

Although it obviously can’t hurt to open the app and claim your brand’s name on the platform now (just in case), it seems like brands are going to have to wait until Vero has dealt with its melting servers in order to find out what a sponsorship deal would look like.

It’s also too early to tell how content should be crafted for the platform. In order to know this, we need user behaviour insights, and frankly, it’s had a sizeable number of users for too few days for us to know anything about that yet. Brands are in danger of falling into a copy-paste paradigm, replicating their Insta-strategy just for the hell of it.

It’s clear that Vero is attempting to become the WeChat of the West. With every functionality imaginable rolled into one platform (share links! Check in places! Recommend movies! Read books! Make payments!), it remains to be seen how Brits will respond to this centralised model given the current disdain for handing one’s data en masse over to tech companies. You only have to look at technology’s new darling, blockchain, to see how enraptured we are with the idea of disintermediation.

So, one to keep an eye on? Absolutely. But definitely don’t panic just yet.

Gracie Page is a creative technologist at Y&R London

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