Out with the new, in with the newer.
At least, that’s what a survey conducted by Posterous co-founder Gary Tan seems to suggest. Tan asked about 500 teenagers and 500 young adults which social media platforms they use regularly. Though majorities of both groups (55 percent of teenagers and 52 percent of young adults) use Facebook, even more (61 percent of teenagers and 57 percent of young adults) regularly use Tumblr, the sharing-heaving, image-centric blogging platform.
Social networks Twitter and Instagram pulled down numbers between 10 and 20 percent for each group.
“Facebook is where teens and young adults connect with family and some friends,” says digital marketing consultant Tim Peter. “Tumblr is where they connect with like-minded people about the topics they care about.”
Does that mean brands, particularly those looking to appeal to a younger audience, should shift their Facebook and Twitter-heavy social media efforts toward Tumblr? Business owners and brand communicators say Tumblr has certainly been a help to them, but social media experts say Facebook’s still an essential tool, too, even if it’s not on top with the high school and college crowds.
Tumblr can be a huge boon to certain brands, says Victoria Jent, owner of Ajent Communications. For example, her client Manic Panic, a makeup and hair brand, is doing really well there.
“We have more engagement from Tumblr that any other social media platform,” she says. “This weekend, we posted a pic of a lipstick and got 100 reblogs in a couple of hours. You do not see this type of engagement with Facebook.”
Jent says the brand reblogs virtually any post tagged with “Manic Panic” and leaves comments. It also posts music videos of bands the punk-styled brand has worked with throughout the years, but reblogging is really important.
“Our followers want to see real people wearing our makeup,” she says. “They want to see how other people express themselves.”
Asya Rahim, owner of Kissidy Boutique, says Tumblr has been part of her social media strategy from the get-go.
“I take time to curate images that are attractive to gain followers and get click-throughs to my website,” she says. “We very rarely use Tumblr as a tool for writing. If we write something, it’s in the form of an image quote or a quick tip in the form of a graphic.”
Peter says Tumblr is definitely not text friendly.
“Its sweet spot seems to be short, media-rich content such as videos, images, and, a Tumblr favorite, animated gifs,” he says. “Companies well versed in design and media obviously work very well on the site.”
As Jent noted, Tumblr suits some brands better than others. Notably, brands that work well there have products aimed at teens and lots of visual stuff to show off.
“Due to the amount of fandom and ‘geekdom’ on Tumblr, I highly recommend brands that fit into those categories being in this platform,” she says. “Our makeup and hair dye are often used in cosplay. Tumblr is how connect to this audience.”
With that in mind, Jonathan Rick, president of The Jonathan Rick Group, says not every brand needs a Tumblr.
“It caters to youth brands with niche and savvy audiences,” he says. “Of course, if this describes your customer base, then a Tumblr make may perfect sense.”
Even so, Peter points out that lots of brands-whether they’re geeky, for teens, artsy, or none of those-have carved out a niche on Tumblr. Condé Nast Traveler, Standard Hotel, IBM, American Express Open Forum, Search Engine Land, HIt Record Joe, Disney, Coca-Cola, and Sesame Street all have active presences there, he says.
“As long as the influencers and individuals you want to engage with are there, it’s less about whether it’s right for your brand and more about are you connecting with its community the right way,” Peter says.
A few caveats
“Tumblr doesn’t duplicate all of Facebook’s functions,” says Shel Holtz of Holtz Communication + Technology.
Holtz says he can certainly believe that young users are more inclined toward Tumblr than other social media platforms, but that doesn’t indicate they’re abandoning Facebook or anything else. Brands shouldn’t ignore Tumblr by any means, but they also shouldn’t replace other social media efforts.
Peter adds that brands should remember that Facebook still attracts about four times more visitors than Tumblr.
“Even with lower penetration among the younger demographic, it may be attracting more young visitors in the aggregate,” he says. “What’s important, though, is how much time those younger visitors spend with the site and where the growth is. And, right now, Tumblr is winning that race.”
Matt Wilson is a staff writer for Ragan.com.