Warning: middle-aged angst is contained in this article.

Even though it’s still “invitation only” to join, there’s been a lot of buzz around Ello, the newly launched social networking destination that promises better treatment of its users and their data (read Ello’s manifesto online). The company recently closed an additional $5.5 million in investment – because of, rather than in spite of, its clearly communicated and now legally binding anti-advertising commitment and amidst public backlash to some of Facebook’s practices. In fact, Ello’s founder lambasts Facebook as being an advertising platform, not a social media site.

Given Ello’s strong belief that its members should not be seen as products or advertising targets (which means the company must find other sources of revenue), one might assume that those who are the earliest joiners of the site are those who have strong concerns about their online data privacy and about the lack of transparency and disclosures of corporations regarding data practices.

That assumption would be wrong.

Market Mavens, Enter Here

Despite Ello’s vision and belief system, it is perhaps unknowingly opening its doors to those market mavens who, overall, are significantly less concerned than the general population about data privacy and corporate data practice matters. The draw for these users is perhaps the bragging rights of gaining early entry to the shiny new Internet thing.

We reveal this data – and much more – in a very detailed Insight Report published today that looks at over 39,000 respondents who are grouped as Ello joiners, aspirers, and detractors and how they compare to each other and to the general population. (Note: Ello did not commission or participate in this research; this was an independent study of CivicScience’s syndicated research data.)

Here are two stunning examples:

Question: Do you believe that companies should never sell the personal information from their customers to other companies?

% who Strongly Believe:

General U.S. population = 86%

Ello joiners = 45%

Question: Do you believe that companies seeking personal information online should disclose ALL the ways the data is collected and used?

% who Strongly Believe:

General U.S. population = 83%

Ello joiners = 52%

Much of this difference in sentiment may be attributed to the heavy age skew of the early joiners who Ello has let through the velvet rope. The joiners are much more likely to be under the age of 34 – but in particular under the age of 18, when compared to Ello aspirers and detractors. We saw in our recent two-part report on data privacy sentiment that younger people across the board are much less concerned about data privacy and corporate data brokering.

Of note is that there is a segment of Ello joiners who are older, well-educated, high-income adults – but they too show less concern than the general population in our data privacy series.

Those Who Align Most With Ello’s Beliefs Are Still Waiting in Line

Meanwhile, Ello aspirers – those who state they want to join but have not yet received an invitation – are much closer to the general population in their concerns about data privacy, and are much more active on Facebook and Twitter where they are subjected to the commercial practices of those networks. This group tends to be more middle aged, suburban, college educated, and more heavily addicted to their digital devices.

As for the writer of this post and co-author of this new Insight Report, I submitted my request to join Ello about six weeks ago… and I am still waiting for my official invitation. The analogy to waiting in the cold air with my other middle-aged friends outside a hot-ticket nightclub in New York City, while the young 20-somethings breeze right past the gatekeeper, seems apt. I fit the profile of the Ello aspirer described in our report in nearly every way, even plotting my Facebook termination on several occasions in the past year.

We believe that this is insightful research for Ello and other new product developers to think about – in terms of brand and audience alignment, and whether you are attracting the audience who will be more loyal vs. those who are more likely to disconnect and move on to the inevitable next new club when it opens its doors.

Read the full Insight Report online on Ello joiners, aspirers, and detractors.

Insight Report - market segmentation for Ello social media network