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4 Short-Form Blogging Networks Perfect for Customer Engagement
Anne Buehner, Associate Social Media Strategist, Red Door Interactive
Toasting the new year is not what it used to be. Which comes first – a kiss from your loved one or uploading a photo of the ball drop to Instagram?
This type of midnight social media madness provides a great snapshot into the lives of the consumers who may buy your product or service in 2012. It’s time to take direct aim at your audience, or at least try to satisfy their appetite for moment-to-moment content.
With 2011 in the rearview mirror, you’re likely forecasting a fresh social media/instablogging strategy for the new year. You’ve probably heard that a brand relationship needs to mirror a personal one, but which self-publishing platforms can really accomplish this esprit de corps? One of the easiest ways for brands to leverage warm and fuzzy feelings is to play in the same social spaces as your friends and family would.
However, it can be difficult to decide which platform is the right fit for your brand – in addition to the standards Facebook and Twitter, of course. Which sites help brands keep up in the real-time content race? Which sites really drive engagement? Here are a few I see as emerging leaders.
Brands use Tumblr to create a community and to build a following fast with its quick and easy setup, seamless tagging and sharing capabilities. Existing brands also use the short-form blog to breathe life into content through a host of mixed-media that includes photos, links and video. However, you don’t want to shoot from the hip with Tumblr — it requires a content strategy, branded “look and feel” and management approval to re-blog other images. You’ll want to use Google Analytics to track traffic since Tumblr does not offer a reporting platform. Tumblr also does not have the best reputation when it comes to collaborating with brands on advertising opportunities.
Anthropologie recently launched a Tumblr blog called Etymologie. The posts are inspired by reader-submitted words and the content is more lifestyle-driven, rather than promotional. Ace Hotel uses a Tumblr called Everything Will Be Okay, with a philanthropic focus and subtle “get a room” reference to its hotels.
The Tumblr platform isn’t just suited for big timers; it can work for a small companies looking to find fans in a target audience of 34-years-old and younger.
Brands use Pinterest to build brand personality and inspire trends and influencers through instant social sharing. Pins are typically centered around major life events such as weddings and holidays. Users create theme-based collections through the site’s virtual pinboards. Dialogue is generated through the simple act of Pinning, Repinning, Liking and commenting on images taken on a smartphone or from the web. Pinterest presents a helpful tool for brand direction by analyzing what is frequently Pinned and why.
With over 400,000 visitors per month – and rapidly growing – Pinterest is a huge referral source for brands. Real Simple recently reported that Pinterest drove more traffic to its website than Facebook in the month of October. Smaller brands should take note of Cabot Cheese, which uses Pinterest to curate photos of food that can be made with its cheese — other boards include fun photos of cows, farms and Vermont.
While the site’s list of etiquette states “avoid self-promotion,” aka soft sell, it does not include stipulations around contests. Lands’ End took advantage of this in December with the engagement contest Lands’ End Canvas Pin It to Win It. The promotion encouraged users to browse its modern clothing line and make Boards for a chance to win apparel.
Brands use Instagram to showcase products, services, events or just a behind-the-scenes look through a feed of photos, instead of a slew of text. The photo sharing application for iPhone uses dazzling image filters, and features cross-posting to other social networks including Twitter, Facebook profiles, Flickr, Foursquare, Tumblr and Posterous. The goal is to attract new fans with Instagram’s search and keyword function, and to draw engagement through likes, comments, @replies and #hashtags. Instagram provides relatively seamless integration with dozens of third-party applications, including Statigram, which offers analytics.
Brands with an existing following can thrive on Instagram. In 2011, more than 150 million images were uploaded to the platform in less than a year by more than 8 million users. Popular t-shirt company Threadless is a great insta-success story, recently passing 70,000 followers, some of whom submit their own designs.
One big drawback: Instagram is still not available for Android, and the application doesn’t integrate with Facebook brand pages. What it does do is make your pictures look good – really good. For me, Instagram feels like a safe space, where I can sift through gorgeous real-time photo updates from friends, family and my favorite shoe company, all in one place.
Brands use Tout to create real-time, 15-second video status updates captured from Apple and Android smartphones, and then distributed through social networks. Instant video sharing is on the rise as more and more consumers use smartphones. Tout offers integration across multiple platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, and does include analytics. It’s essentially video Twitter.
Brands that want to utilize creative ways to showcase new products or services, make announcements, give a behind-the-scenes look, or “tout out” to show appreciation for fans or staff may want to experiment with this platform. You might remember when Shaquille O’Neal famously announced his retirement from basketball via Tout. Similar to Instagram, brands without a decent following shouldn’t start with Tout first, but add it on to their existing social strategy.
Tout is still in its toddler stage, asking for suggestions from its community to help drive the product road map for the platform. Perhaps you can help navigate how Tout would best suit your brand.
I also think Tout requires client management, and doesn’t really work in the B2B space. You can’t share Tout directly from your smartphone to YouTube, only to Twitter, Facebook and email. You can cut YouTube videos down and then upload your favorite 15-seconds to Tout.
No matter what platform you choose, if you’re providing springboards for spontaneity around your brand, you generate a more transparent, empowering and compelling message for the audience — one that can help build and strengthen communities at a rapid pace with the snap of a camera, Pin or click.
Understanding and developing a strategy around these tools gives your brand control over the real-time moments that today’s connected generation craves. After the midnight toast, it’s time to Pin, Tumble and Tout.
Image courtesy of Flickr, libraryman
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