About Those “Other” Social Networks: Should You Use Tumblr & Instagram for Business?

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We’ve talked at great lengths about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+ on our blog. But there are other vibrant and growing social networks in town that may make sense for your small business, most notably Tumblr and Instagram.

First, a little background. What is Instagram? What is Tumblr?
Instagram started as an iPhone-only app for taking and sharing pictures with cool filters that help transform ordinary photos into something special. Yeah, it’s as simple as it sounds (and Instagram introduced videos to the mix last fall). The app became so popular that an Android version came out, and then, of course, Facebook stepped in and bought the startup for a cool one billion dollars back in 2012.

Tumblr, on the other hand, is a microblogging platform, one that leans heavy on the visual and short-form text posts. It was born in 2007 and bought for a cool 1.1 billion by Yahoo! last May.

OK, great. I know what they are. Now why should I care about them for my business?
We’re assuming you’re selling to people and not to, you know, robots, right? Well, both of these social media platforms have people—and lots of them. Instagram has over 150 million active monthly users, and Tumblr has, at the writing of this post, over 165 million blogs.

The people who flock to these networks tend to skew younger as well. This article from Search Engine People notes that the majority (over 66%) of Tumblr’s users are under 35, and 39% are under 25.

As for Instagram? This Marketing Land article, which calls Instagram “the de facto social network of choice” for the under 18 crowd, predicts it will be the hottest platform this year for brands, especially those going after younger audiences. So if you’re targeting a younger demographic, it makes sense to pay attention to these platforms and at least investigate whether you should develop a presence.

That’s what I was afraid you were going to say. It’s yet ANOTHER social platform for me to build and maintain. Why should I?
Well, we have some good news about Instagram. It’s all about pictures, and not professional photography but rather the stuff you capture with your smartphone every day (it started out as an iPhone app, remember).

The heart of Instagram is about sharing moments as they happen. For a business, this might sound overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Think about all the “moments” in your day-to-day world: the people in your office. Your office itself. The employee break room. The shipment of new products that have just come in. Wacky shirt Wednesday. The friendly UPS dude who always wears shorts, even in the coldest weather. The darn plant in your HR person’s office that won’t die, not completely, even though no one around the building really knows how to care for it. The company picnic. The holiday decorations (and not just Christmas, but all holidays). The dog that joins his owner at the store in the same plaza as yours. The rainbow you caught from the roof of your building after a spring storm. The street in town lined with patriotic flags for the month of July. You get the idea.

Notice, however, that the examples above aren’t just about your business. They include regular, everyday human moments. And that’s key—and important—when it comes to any social media platform. You need to be social first, not self-promotional.

These moments can help give your customers a peek into the day-to-day life of your company. It’s a way for them to feel connected to you, and for you to stay connected with them. You snap your picture, add a caption so people understand the context and/or what they’re looking at, and post it. Easy peasy.

Tumblr doesn’t have to be an onerous medium, either, although it’s not necessarily as simple as Instagram. Don’t get us wrong…Tumblr also emphasizes the visual, but plenty of Tumblr accounts include text as well (but not endless text). Once you do the basic housekeeping of setting up your profile, the actual posting is fairly intuitive AND you can schedule things in advance, which is a bonus. Tumblr is a great place to tell a story with a mix of words and pictures.

Should every small business flock to one or both?
No, of course not. If there’s anything to learn about social media, it’s this: social media isn’t a one-size-fits-all world, for individuals or businesses. Use it if it makes sense for your business and your goals. Get familiar with both platforms (if you’re not already). Become a regular user and fan of the medium first before going any further. Decide, for yourself, whether it makes sense to you.

Now that takes some of the pressure off, doesn’t it?

OK, but what sorts of businesses should seriously consider Tumblr and Instagram?
The obvious answer is any business that specializes in visuals. Think…

  • Photographers
  • Home improvement/remodelers
  • Interior designers
  • Landscapers
  • Florists
  • Retailers
  • Restaurants
  • You get the idea

Yes, the above are b2c businesses, but that doesn’t mean a savvy b2b business couldn’t find success on these platforms. In fact, HubSpot highlights five b2b businesses doing exactly that in this post.

What about advertising opportunities?
Both platforms, in an effort to monetize, have rolled out advertising initiatives, but they’re not geared towards small businesses yet.

Right now, Instagram is only working with larger brands. However, Small Business Trends reports that the results look promising and could prove beneficial if/when Instagram rolls out ad options to small businesses.

As for Tumblr, it has a range of ad products, although it, too, is focused on bigger brands with deeper pockets, at least right now.

If I do join, what’s one tip I should keep in mind?
Aside from posting compelling content, the one tip we have to offer is this: be mindful of “tags.” You can tag your content on both Instagram and Tumblr and that can increase your chance for discoverability, especially on Instagram.

Hmm. Do you have any more resources?
Of course. This post offered “big picture” considerations for small business owners. Here are some nitty-gritty posts that can help you take the next steps:

Is your business active on Tumblr or Instagram? What have the results been like? What tips do you have for our readers? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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