Every so often, a new social media will emerge that promises to fix the industry. Where the likes of Facebook are perceived as stale, corporate entities, fresh upstarts continually promise to bring back both the excitement and purity of social media’s fledgling days. We’ve had Peach, Ello, and countless others, all of which have fallen by the wayside against better resourced and infinitely more popular competition. Even so, when Vero emerged in the app charts after years of lying dormant, there was a genuine buzz around what many thought could be a new way of imagining social media.
Aesthetically most similar to Instagram, Vero has had early appeal among photographers, artists, videographers, and other social media influencers. It’s slickly designed, presents images and videos well, understanding that visual is by far and away the most important medium online today. The first million users have been promised the app “free for life,” with plans to introduce a paid subscription system made clear from very early on in Vero’s popularity spike. Its website has responded to service interruptions by extending the offer indefinitely, and it will confirm the start date of its paid subscription service soon.
Importantly, the app differentiates itself from Instagram and Facebook in a number of ways. Firstly, the algorithmically collated Instagram feed gives way to a more popular chronological system, something users have been begging Instagram to do for years. Secondly, it is entirely ad-free at this point. Thirdly, and equally importantly, it allows users to easily tailor the audience for each of their posts, ranging from public to exclusively private. ‘Vero’ is the Italian word for truth, and the fledgling company has taken every step with authenticity in mind.
Most importantly for brands, though, is Vero’s ad-free policy. Rejecting ad dollars in favor of user subscription fees is a bold move, and it changes how brands would have to approach the app if it were to generate significant enough user figures. Ads cannot be bought, so audiences for published content will have to be built organically. Vero does allow external links to be posted with content, something Instagram prohibits, and companies can pay extra for a ‘Buy Now’ button, though the app will take a share of any sales it generates. Ultimately, if Vero is to take off, strong content plans will be vital as brands look to build audiences without the help of ads, a feature that will level the playing field between the upstarts and the heavy hitters.
Vero’s lack of an algorithm dictating users’ timelines (in favor of a chronological layout) will appeal to smaller brands far more than industry leaders. A lack of paid promotions and no preferential placement given to popular accounts will mean that timing and quality of content will be paramount. Marketing teams will be able to post more frequently without the consideration of clogging up users’ feeds with content that performs well, too.
You’d be forgiven for failing to get too excited about Vero. It comes in a long line of plucky competitors to monoliths that have the capital to blow them out of the water. Just ask Snap Inc. – one of the few to survive the onslaught, Snapchat has seen declining user growth as a result of Instagram’s aping of its best features. The speed with which social media’s giants can mobilize to see off threats is astounding, producing (often) more functional mimics of products in no time at all. For an app with the ambitions of Vero to achieve its goals in 2018 would require the perfect storm to form around product, user demand, and company ethos to stand any chance.
And, well, that hasn’t happened. The internet has seemingly fallen out of love with Vero in record time. With a brief amount of cursory research, users found that CEO Ayman Hariri is the son of a former Lebanese prime minister that had been accused of corruption. According to the Daily Beast, Hariri also headed up a now-defunct construction company, a business that ultimately came from his family’s wealth. “Under Hariri’s watch over 31,000 complaints of non-payment for wages were filed against [the company.]” The CEO’s reportedly shady past, coupled with server crashes due to the surge in popularity, has dampened Vero’s hype, with users abandoning the app seemingly as quickly as they flocked. In fact, the issues with the server could end up being Vero's undoing on their own. Such is the need for perfection during a nascent app's development that users will lose patience quickly if the product doesn't function as they expect it to.
So, it is potentially important for brands to keep on top of Vero’s development, but right now it would be far from advisable to channel any serious resources into the app. Issues surrounding the CEO and the app’s use of personal data have already threatened to derail its (sort of) meteoric rise to (almost somewhere near) the top. Unless Vero can address these issues head-on and deliver on its promise of ‘authenticity’ at all times, it may well end up on the scrap heap with the Peaches and Ellos of this world.