An app launches with next to no fanfare, plods along for three years and then suddenly shoots to the top of the app charts in numerous countries. Vero’s success could be complete coincidence—but could it also be down to a solid marketing and targeting strategy? OMR took a deep dive on this high flyer and discovered that right before downloads really shot through the roof, hundreds of niche influencers got on their social media soapbox on Instagram and other platforms to plug Vero—many of whom stood out through their creative exploits. Many others through their choice in fashion, or lack there of.
A brand new social network that sorts its content feed chronologically and forgoes ads completely, and aims to monetize primarily through subscriptions. Anyone who has even a remote interest in tech topics, figures to at least once have come across such an app description in the past few days and weeks. Vero was suddenly the talk of the town.
The Billionaire Maker
It’s not a case of a brand new startup filling a market niche with an innovative product either, as they launched the app back in 2015 and struggled mightily to gain traction. But within the past few days, downloads exploded to the top of the charts. Priori Data, an app analytics tool based in Berlin, estimates that Vero was downloaded in the App Store and Google Play roughly 6.1 million times globally in the past 30 days alone. But where did this sudden change in popularity come from?
The man behind Vero is Ayman Hariri, a Lebanese billionaire and son of former Lebanese Prime Minister. His net worth is valued at USD 1.33 billion, private funds with which to push the app that only a very few have.
Exclusive teaser pics of upcoming flicks
The first order of business was for Vero to convince famous pop stars and filmmakers to post exclusive content on Vero. The most famous of the bunch? None other than Hollywood heavyweight Zack Snyder, director of such blockbusters as “300,” “Watchmen,” “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Snyder began posting set pics to his Vero account from the upcoming picture “Justice League,” which is a hot topic among comic fans and getting tons of publicity in blogs and in forums like Reddit. Furthermore, Snyder produced an exclusive short for Vero using his iPhone. Snyder and Hariri know each other ever since the Billionaire “won a charity action for a walk-on role in Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.” If you want to follow Snyder and his exploits on Vero, you need the app, as there is no web interface.
Filmmaker and cameraman Max Joseph, who’s been active on the platform for just about a year, Joseph (also a good friend of big-time influencer Casey Neistat) played a leading role in the MTV series Catfish. In early 2017, he published a several-part documentary on Vero entitled “Dicks,” which focused on egocentric directors.
Niche influencers instead of creative types?
Another exclusive content creator for Vero is Hollywood set photographer Clay Enos his credits include “300” and “Wonder Woman,” and Canadian musician and social media star Chris Collins. In January of this year, Mark Waites, co-founder of notorious British ad agency Mother, produced an exclusive short for Vero, while in February British comedian and actor Asim Chaudry posted a short of his own.
But still all this exclusive content from big-names would not have been enough to create the necessary snowball effect to catapult an app not only into the mainstream, but also to the very top. And though February 2018, Vero was still stuck way down in the app store rankings. So, what change in strategy gave help them bust through?
70 million followers in five days
An exclusive report by Instagram analysis tool InfluencerDB, made available exclusively to OMR, shows that the amount of Instagram posts by influencers (in this case accounts with at least 15,000 followers) with #vero exploded in late February.
The total amount of followers (i.e. gross reach) of all influencer accounts on Instagram who posted between February 20 and 25 using #vero numbered 70.7 million. This figure does not contain additional posts by influencers with the Vero name but not as a hashtag. On February 26, the app reached number 1 in the iOS app store for the first time in the USA. When analyzing which posts using #vero generating the most likes and which accounts have the most followers, it becomes clear that creative individuals, illustrators, photographers, makeup artists and tattoo influencers, generate the most engagement.
Influencer posts on Instagram using #vero with the most likes
|1||Erika Lipps, Body Positivity Model||12.3K||26.02.||210.1K|
|2||Audra Auclair, Artist and Illustrator||11.9K||26.02.||413.9K|
|3||Andy Best, Photographer for National Geographic||9,564||26.02.||606.8K|
|4||Asia Ladowska, Polish Designer and Illustrator||9,472||26.02.||619.3K|
|5||Elliana Esquivel, Filipino Illustrator||8,752||26.02.||153.9K|
|6||Larienne Chan, Illustrator||8,353||26.02.||498.5K|
|7||Ira Sluyterman van Langeweyde, Dutch Illustrator||7,891||25.02.||794.5K|
|8||Suzy Berhow, British Let’s Player||7,731||22.02.||327.7K|
|9||Niki Norberg, Swedish Tattoo Artist||7,222||25.02.||668.5K|
|10||Alexys Fleming, Bodypainting and Make-up Artist||7,004||26.02.||683.4K|
(From February 1-27. Source: InfluencerDB)
Influencer-Posts on Instagram using #vero by account followers
|1||Inked Mag, Tattoo Publisher||1.8M||26.02.|
|2||Peachy Queen, Beauty Blogger||1.4M||24.02.|
|3||Cat Shim, Makeup Artist, Reality-TV Star||1.4M||24.02.|
|4||Cat Shim, Makeup Artist, Reality-TV Star||1.4M||24.02.|
|5||Cat Shim, Makeup Artist, Reality-TV Star||1.4M||24.02.|
|6||Hylia Fawkes, Australian Tattoo-Model and Twitcher||1.1M||22.02.|
|7||Instagood, Shoutout-Account, regrammer||886.7K||26.02.|
|8||Joseph Haefs, Tattoo Artist from Los Angeles||795.6K||26.02.|
|9||Ira Sluyterman van Langeweyde, Dutch Illustrator||794.5K||25.02.|
|10||Alexandra Granberg, Swedish Fetish Model||784.8K||22.02.|
(From February 1-27, Source: InfluencerDB)
Where did the snowball effect start?
It is well within the realm of possibility that many of the posts instrumental in Vero’s fame are no longer available. Chris Messina, a known player on the US scene thanks to his work with Uber and Google, stated on Twitter that he feels Vero leveraged its success primarily through Instagram Stories, posting several examples . of short videos that disappear after 24 hours if users do not explicitly archive them.
The chart shows that many of the Instagram posts with the largest reach were published on February 26, right when Vero’s hype was nearing its apex. Which accounts posted between February 20 and 23 on Instagram to help Vero bust through? Speaking of busts …
The Cosplay scene goes all in Vero
InfluencerDB found 192 Influencer posts with #vero in the aforementioned 4 days. The accounts all have one thing in common: half-naked, female “Cosplayers,” plugging Vero right before the app went viral. If you don’t know, Cosplay originally comes from Japan and consists of dressing up like characters from manga, anime, comics, movies or computer games—female cosplayers tend to be very skimpy in their choice of attire. Fetish and tattoo models also start beating the drum for Vero with semi-nude pics. Some examples:
Social media monitoring platform Talkwalker created an exclusive report for OMR analyzing tweets on Vero between February 20 and 23. Unsurprisingly, the tweets with the most engagement come from Cosplayers, six of whom are female.
Tweets on “Vero” ranked by engagement
|1||Moderately Okay, Cosplayer||873||21.02.||10.9K|
|2||Fiora Aeterna, Cosplayer||475||21.02.||15.9K|
|3||Kay Bear, Cosplayer||371||21.02.||69.4K|
|4||Mica Burton, Actor and Cosplayer||313||21.02.||84.4K|
|5||Vivid Vivka, Cosplayer and Nude Model||233||21.02.||30.8K|
|7||Origin PC, Manufacturer of Gaming PCs||199||23.02.||797K|
|8||Savin the Bees, Gaming Youtuber||178||21.02.||36.6K|
|9||Danica Rockwood, Twitch Streamer and Cosplayer||166||21.02.||26.4K|
|10||Clay Enos, Set Photographer in Hollywood||143||21.02.||17.3K|
(From February 20 to 23, source: Talkwalker)
Facebook, too, has its share of models in skimpy clothes from the fetish and tattoo scene plugging Vero, i.e. by Berlin based “Victoria Van Violence” (1.1K Likes). “Vany Vicious,” has over 4 million fans and posted on Vero five times—each time with a very suggestive image.
Apparently #Vero is the new 🔥 so go give me a follow over there . I’m already loving some of the features they have that Instagram doesn’t offer 🤘🏻
Organically viral or paid seeding?
Did Vero open its very deep pockets to pay niche influencers to generate an artificial hype? It is impossible to say definitively one way or the other. Our research found no posts on Vero that listed #ad or #sponsored. Editor-in-Chief of German digital publisher t3n, Stephan Dörner, took to Twitter to ask several Influencers in a random test if they were paid by Vero. Every single one of them answered, “No.”
And without a doubt there are several factors that could have helped propel Vero to the top organically—one such factor being the increasing amount of displeasure with Instagram’s algorithm. Especially those producing complex, time-consuming content, like photographers and illustrators, are incensed at sharp decline in engagement and reach that changes to the algorithm have brought about. By promising to sort the feed purely chronologically, Vero has welcomed the group of malcontents with open arms.
Y'know, a lot of artists had their businesses get screwed by IG's algorithms, so it'd be really great if folks could stop shitting on ppl for trying out Vero as a possible alternative. If you don't want to join, great, but why make others feel bad about trying it?
— Jen Bartel – ECCC V8 (@heyjenbartel) February 26, 2018
Even Vero’s marketing ploy that only the first million users would get a free account could have easily convinced many users to get their free account. Furthermore, there is little risk for influencers to set up an account and publish a brief post that they are now on the platform. And there is no better time to amass (free) reach on a platform than in many ways is still in its infancy.
And once the snowball gets rolling, things move exponentially fast as a host of incidental effects start taking place. For example, once a Hashtag starts trending, everyone wants in to piggyback off the publicity and reach; once an app breaches the top spot in the app store the resulting awareness generates even more installs; and if you permit Vero to access your address book, there is a flood of notifications every time someone you know signs up to the platform.
Pros see a meticulous campaign
On the other hand, it would truly be incredible if so many influencers, the majority of whom primarily live off of marketing their reach, would just suddenly provide their currency for free—especially for an app that is still in its utmost infancy. In the app economy, using influencer marketing to acquire users has been a widespread practice for the past two years. Accordingly, André Kempe, from mobile app consultants der Mobile-Beratung Dynamo Partners (clients include Zalando and German broadcaster ProSiebenSat1), sees Vero’s sudden fame and fortune as a result of a well thought-out, paid campaign. “It really looks as if they booked every single cosplayer influencer with any kind of relevant reach” He said it is very reminiscent of party organizers who know that “once they get the pretty girls inside the club, the guys will start showing up on their own.”
Even Swedish niche influencer Ann-Sophie Carlsson, known in the Goth scene as “Adora Batbrat,” sees a paid campaign. “By seeing this Vero app posts showing up on every social media public figure of some status you can tell who’s accepted their payment?,” says the fetish model. In a comment beneath the post, she said that not everyone was paid to plug Vero, but that many influencers were.
By seeing this Vero app posts showing up on every social media public figure of some status you can tell who's accepted their payment… ??? Just saying… Am I the only one turning down things even if it's money involved? Oh, don't get me wrong, I still say "yes, please" to free clothes etc IF it is something I would normally buy myself. BUT for every sponsor I accept I turn down 6, just because if it's not within my style I don't care how much money they throw at me. One example: I turned down a sponsor offering me to pay me $400 just to wear a pair of shoes in two posts and tag. Would have been great shopping money, and could have payed for a sweet trip, but they were not within my style so I kindly wrote them back with this info and thanked them for thinking of me. (Difference is of course if I'm hired to model since that IS business) So far (one must say this, because at some point I might become very poor and need to sellout) I'm only accepting sponsors with no demands. To be free to use the things as I want myself, just as you would with anything new you just bought (meaning to do an unboxing perhaps, or making great pictures, or even not so great pictures). And if someone wanna pay me for getting free clothes (I would otherwise buy myself) and flaunt on social media and I'm allowed to say exactly what I want about the items – then it is a sponsor with integrity and belief in their own products. All my sponsors are like this. And all the things they send me have been cleared with me first. I'm VERY picky as all my accepted sponsors knows! I am an ambassador for example Queen of Darkness, and that is because I really love their stuff, and have bought from them since 2001, so to be asked to get some outfits for free on my birthday and such is like winning the lottery. To say yes to Vero money and such apps would just give me a bad taste in my mouth. I still get that some people need money, and these app companies pays better than most. But still. Naah.. If I start promoting apps you'll know I've gotten poor (but most likely it is because I like it). Then you can please call me sellout and being bought, and a hypocrite. *Drops microphone* #Gothboobs
Cosplayer who sells her posts, posts on Vero
If you look on Google for cosplayers that are willing to publish paid posts, you will come across several platforms that can help you out. One such platform is influence.co, through which you can acquire the services of Danielle DeNicola,who is more than happy to publish a paid post for as little as USD 100 dollars. On Instagram, DeNicola has 139,000 followers and she published an Instagram post on Vero on February 21:
After publishing this article, German blogger Jochen Kolbe (Vater-Blog) stated on Twitter that Vero called for tenders from influencer marketing platform Blogfoster looking to acquire the services of influencers for a campaign. When OMR contacted Blogfoster, they denied Kolbe’s claim say that “Blogfoster neither is not running nor has run any campaigns with Vero.”
A Lie. @blogfosterDe had a Vero Campaign and its a influencer campaign. No natural Hype.
— Jochen (Vater.Blog) (@vaterblogger) February 28, 2018
There is ample reason to doubt that Vero will be able to profit long-term from the hype it received from influencers. As fast as the hype came, so too came the The platform’s general terms and conditions have received considerable criticism, as has the convoluted procedure of deleting a user account. Ayman Hariri’s has also been on the receiving end as Saudi construction firm Saudi Oger is said to have not paid its workers over a longer period of time, while he was CEO. But the biggest threat facing the app’s future viability figures to be that they were completely unprepared for the influx in users and spent a considerable amount of time down amid a host of technical issues. The app, by the way, the free-use phase for the app was recently extended by Vero. No Surprise there.