How does… Vero work?

Each week, we ask some of the industry's most knowledgeable boffins to break down industry jargon to help you through those confusing meetings and indecipherable conferences. Here, We Are Social’s Suzie Shaw explains how Vero - the latest social media platform on the block - works.

What is Vero?

Vero (meaning ‘Truth’) is a social media platform that launched in 2015 and has seen a sudden surge in interest as a competitor to Facebook. It promises an ad-free experience and a feed that is chronological rather than algorithmic.

It will be funded by subscriptions from users rather than the selling of users’ data, and you will see posts from friends in the order in which they were posted, rather than an order determined by the platform. Like Facebook in the good old days.

The platform has seen a surge of sign ups in the past week or two, but it has also been hit by controversy. More on that later.

How does it work?

At the moment, not very well.

Vero attracted more than a million downloads within a matter of days. However, that led to users reporting critical issues with the platform, such as not being able to sign up, log in, or avoid constant crashes.

In terms of its functionality, Vero is similar to Instagram, except it also lets you post text or link to web content with URLs. Plus, you can sort your contacts into tiers and decide who will see each post – ‘close friends’, ‘friends’, ‘acquaintances’, or ‘followers’.

The app also offers a platform for discussing and recommending music, books and films.

Will it catch on?

Whether it will achieve truly mass scale is impossible to predict.

The ad-free experience has got people excited, as has the return to a chronological feed – in the past couple of years, social media has been flooded with complaints from people that Facebook’s algorithm has stopped them seeing posts from their friends, and there were howls of protests when Instagram and Twitter adopted the same model in 2016.

However, there may be a difference between what users ‘say’ they want, and what they really want. These platforms conducted extensive tests on user subgroups before rolling out their algorithmic feeds to everyone, and there is no way they would have made the switch if the data didn’t show it caused people to stay longer on their platform.

Will it make money?

Vero has promised never to display ads. It initially offered free memberships for the first one million people to sign up, and has extended the offer “for the time being” to compensate for its teething problems, but it soon intends to start charging new users a subscription fee.

The subscription business model is the great hope for many media companies today, and players like Netflix, The New York Times and Spotify are proving it can generate revenue.

As with all media throughout history, if Vero can attract enough eyeballs, it has a chance to make money.

Vero will also earn revenue by taking a cut from stores and content creators who will be allowed to promote their wares on Vero to users who have chosen to ‘follow’ them, though initial feedback from content creators seems to be that the platform doesn’t make sense for them financially.

What is the controversy?

Actually there’s more than one.

Vero’s CEO and co-founder Ayman Hariri was formerly deputy CEO and deputy chairman of construction company, Saudi Oger, which has been accused of violating labour rights during his tenure. In response to recent media coverage, Vero has issued this statement which aims to clarify his role stating he had no operational management or control of Saudi Oger since 2013.

In the context of the recent allegations that Russian hackers tried to influence the US elections, some American users have been up in arms that the company employs primarily Russian devs.

And finally, there has been a social media backlash over Vero’s staff. The platform’s ‘team page’ reveals an employee base that is almost entirely male. And the company’s lone female employee appears dead last on the list, in a customer support role.

The result of these controversies? According to Lifehacker, Vero has gone from “most loved to most hated social media app in a matter of days.”

What are Vero’s long-term prospects?

Breaking into the social network market isn’t easy, because consumers, creators and brands have already established communities on multiple networks like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat. So far, it appears Vero only has 22k users in Australia.

An article in The New Statesman likened changing social networks to being “a bit like changing mobile phones and having to re-enter all your contacts by hand.”

However, Vero may benefit by being able to learn from the mistakes that its predecessors have made. And consumers are definitely intrigued by a platform that offers a chronological timeline and has a great user experience.

At this stage, Vero looks unlikely to replace Instagram, due to tech failures, the various controversies, and other questionable practices (it’s very hard to delete your account, for example).

But it may find its own niche, and that niche may well be a profitable one.

Suzie Shaw is We Are Social’s managing director.

If you would like to contribute to this feature, please email josie@mumbrella.com.au. 


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