Tumblr looks to capitalize on Facebook’s chokehold on brand content

One of the unlikely beneficiaries of decreased organic reach on Facebook and the corresponding decline in brand publishing activity may be Tumblr.

At least Tumblr hopes so—the platform is courting marketers with a pitch that pits itself as a solution to brands’ frustrations with Facebook and Twitter. Tumblr is telling brands that its platforms offers greater longevity for individual posts and no algorithm that stands between those brands and their followers on the platform. Left unsaid: Facebook just wants your ads, Tumblr’s where you can really build a bond with your audience through creative content, not just retargeted banners.

A third of all engagement on Tumblr posts comes a month after the post was first published, according to Lee Brown, Tumblr’s global head of brand partnerships. Unlike with Twitter, where the point is to attract attention in a specific moment, and Facebook, where brands and agencies now judge the effectiveness of a post in as little as 15 minutes, brands can use Tumblr to host more substantive, lasting creative, Brown said.

“That’s something that marketers are really enjoying,” he added. “It allows for earned engagement long after the content has expired on other platforms.”

Playing up the shelf-life of Tumblr posts is in stark contrast to the ephemeral nature of Twitter and its constant deluge of updates (and to a lesser extent, Facebook), and emphasizing a brand’s ability to reach the followers it acquires is a not-so-subtle reference to decreased organic reach on Facebook.

In both regards, Tumblr is trying to take greater control over its identity as an ad platform, an astute and somewhat necessary step due to agency executives’ recent wariness of Tumblr ads.

JCPenney has readily adopted this new view of Tumblr. The retailer’s director of mobile and social marketing Sean Ryan said in July at Digiday’s Retail Summit that he now views Facebook ads as “display ads on steroids” and Twitter and Tumblr for generating earned media.

Tumblr wants to differentiate itself from Twitter, though, too. Brown stressed that Tumblr fosters greater bonds between a TV show and its audience than Twitter does, a profound argument considering how closely associated Twitter is with TV. Fans of a TV show may use Twitter during the broadcast to check in on others watching, but they go to Tumblr to create fan art and drum up excitement before and after the show has aired, he said.

“It’s not easy to be entertaining, engaging and funny at the drop of the hat. Creating something that speaks more the longevity of the brand premise is easier than creating something that’s more immediate,” Lars Bastholm, chief creative officer at Rosetta, told Digiday.

Cadillac launched a Tumblr in January because it felt it the ideal platform to express the luxury car brand’s intangible, aspirational qualities, a message less suited for Facebook and Twitter, according to Cadillac brand and reputation manager Melody Lee.

“Whereas Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are great from a product standpoint, Tumblr helps bring all the pieces together and paint a true picture for the brand,” Lee said.

Brown echoed this sentiment, saying Tumblr’s unique mix of video, text and image sharing tools is what makes it ideal for building lasting brand-consumer relationships.

“That leads to the longevity and the earned reach marketers have been wanting,” Brown said. “We like to think of ourselves as real-time creation with long-term engagement.”

But interest in Tumblr as a platform does not necessarily equate to interest in its ads products. Facebook and Twitter may have temporal limitations, but they haven’t lessened interest in their ad products. If anything, that small window of opportunity may induce buying. Cadillac, despite being committed to building out its Tumblr presence, has no immediate plans to start buying ads on Tumblr, for instance, Lee said. So Tumblr, then, must find a way to monetize their users’ long-term engagement.

“Facebook is the big beast and everyone else is trying to figure out where they stand around them and maybe longevity is Tumblr’s place,” Bastholm said.


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