Vero (am I doing it right?)

A hand holding a smart phone showing a picture of the Eiffel tower. The whole image is overlaid with the handwritten words: True Social

I downloaded Vero a couple of weeks ago, and this millennial is not afraid to admit it: I’m not sure I’m doing it right.

OK, backtrack: what’s Vero?

It’s a subscription-based (but currently free – more on that later) social network that was founded in 2015 by Lebanese billionaire Ayman Hariri, and touted as an alternative to Facebook and Instagram. It’s *only* an app. You can’t log in through a browser, only on your phone.

Why are we only hearing about this now?

Vero started life as the darling of various creative communities whose members had started to find platforms like Instagram annoying and unpalatable: cosplayers, tattoo artists, photographers.

As far as we can tell, a combination of organic brand awareness and an Instagram ad campaign have caused the network’s sudden visibility in national and industry press.

Then there was some more publicity of a less positive nature when Vero went down temporarily, struggling to cope with the influx of new users.

Good press or bad, Vero is hot right now. And mark-makers are joining it.

What are the features like?

I’m so glad you asked…

Properly chronological timeline (hurray!)

No suggestions, no curation, no ads. Just what you and the people you follow have shared, in the order you shared it – even down to photos sent via direct message.

Categories (collections) that make things really findable

While the tech press mainly references Facebook and Instagram when explaining Vero, it also reminds me of Pinterest because it acts as a resource, a repository for cool stuff you and friends have found. Vero organises things into six categories called collections: links, books, movies/TV, music, photos and places.

I love collections. They make it easy to track down things you or people you follow have shared, without the effort and pressure of thinking up your own categories (where to start? what if I go too granular and end up with hundreds, or too top-line and end up with two massive ones?), and without having to wade through someone else’s idiosyncratic categorising system. Great if, like me, you’re often a bit late to the latest great article/video/new music, and find scrolling through friends’ posts to find stuff a pain in the proverbial.

Super-smooth buying and selling

You can post and access samples, and buy and sell music, books, TV, films and other products directly through the app thanks to Apple Pay and integration with other buying platforms.

Segmented audiences

Sounds like a slide from a marketing strategy, but don’t panic. In a bid to help us be as nuanced and flexible on the internet as we would be in real life, Vero features four different audiences (in order of increasing closeness): followers, acquaintances, friends and close friends. It’s a bit like Google+ circles, and a bit like Facebook’s audience settings, but Vero has made the feature integral to various app activities, and it feels smoother and much easier to use.

Three screenshots showing how to select different Vero audiences. From left to right: Close Friends,Acquaintances and FollowersWhen you connect with someone, you assign them to one of these audiences. When you post something, you choose the closeness of the people you want to see it. If you dial it up to followers, everyone who follows you in any capacity will see it. If you pick acquaintances, everyone who you have marked “acquaintance” or closer sees it, and so on.

Annual subscription model

The original plan was to make Vero free for life for the first million people who signed up, and charge everyone who signed up after that a small annual subscription fee. Vero is “making our users our customers, not advertisers[1]. This isn’t new; networks like Strava and Linkedin deliver ad-free experiences for a fee. But eventually for the majority of Vero users, the paid-for experience will be the only experience, and that’s pretty novel right now for a social network.

Background: Vero had some downtime in recent weeks, caused by heavier volumes of users than they’re used to, so the creators have extended the free-for-life offer to everyone who signs up to Vero while they get things sorted out. If I’m honest, this is why I jumped on the bandwagon. I’m really not sure I would have signed up if the only option was to pay from the beginning. I’m fascinated to see how the subscriptions do work – whether there will be the traditional trio of prices, what each one will get you, and how (if at all) paid and free-for-life membership might differ.

Vero haven’t stated when they will start charging for new sign-ups, but given that the business is based around this subscription model, it can’t be that far away.

Oh, also

Hashtags, verified users, privacy settings, likes and comments, search functionality, follow or full-on connect with users you’re into, all the usual kinda stuff you’d expect to see on a social platform.

So Chloe, what’s your problem?

I’ve got the posting thing down, that bit’s easy. The categories are cool and the audiences are easy to use, and I really like the way Vero handles books, links and films. The problem? I haven’t found my *people*.

Most of my normal, non-marketing friends haven’t heard of it, so I wouldn’t expect to find them on Vero just yet. But I haven’t stumbled across cool accounts in quite the same way I did in the early days of my Instagram and Twitter usership. Which means I’m not yet really excited about Vero in the way I thought I’d be.

Turns out there’s a good reason for that. Remember the chronological timeline?

“The feed is composed of your posts and the posts of people you’re either connected with or people you follow. We don’t curate it, manipulate it, insert advertising in it, or hold back posts. You see what has been shared with you, when it’s been shared with you.

You won’t have to pay to “boost your post”, or “reach your audience.”

Vero manifesto

Makes sense.

Mindful social

I’m not “stumbling across” new things because I never was in the first place.

Rather, Twitter and Instagram were carefully feeding me algorithmically generated suggestions based on my friends from other networks (lookin’ at you Facebook), the stuff I’d already shown an interest in, and goodness knows what else. However much I want to believe it, I did not find those things by chance.

The same algorithms make it hard to tell whether you’ve caught up with everything, or even seen half of what your friends have posted. They make it impossible to know whether your followers or fans are going to see what you post. They take you down the rabbit hole of cool timelapses/unlikely animal friendships/DIY tutorials/epic fail montages that lasts until way past bedtime.

White iPhone 6 or 7 showing a Vero feed, on a table next to a stereo and a magazine

With Vero, there really is no curating, manipulating or advertising beyond the menu of stuff you see when you tap the search icon – and what Vero recommends there gets updated, but everyone sees the same stuff. So to stumble on new things, you have to get properly social, to dig around in friends’ feeds and hashtags and search for stuff you may or may not know you like. It’s a change of pace: a different way of consuming internet gubbins.

While we’ll all probably still do our fair share of mindless scrolling, with Vero, you can get to the bottom of the feed. You know when you’ve caught up with everything. At which point, you can either start searching for a specific cool thing you’ve been meaning to look into, or put the phone down and get on with your day. Neat.

I know the idea of doing things mindfully (snacking, shopping, planning) is pretty buzzwordy right now, but I can’t help but look at Vero through this lens. It invites people to be more active, more intentional and yes, more mindful in their usage.

Vero. Watch this space

So I’m going to keep hunting for cool stuff on Vero via good old-fashioned hashtags and recommendations from friends, and keep sharing my photos, and the books, links, TV, movies, music and places that inspire me. I’m really interested to see what happens next – what the subscription prices will be like, which brands use it to further their purpose with authentic output and which ones jump cringe-ily onto the bandwagon.

It’s gonna be an adventure. See you on Vero.

Written by Chloe Marshall

About markmaking*

mark-making* is an award-winning creative agency specialising in branding, campaigns and communications