Will Tumblr get Tossed?

My first thought was that Tumblr must be some distant cousin of Flickr. Social media sites ignoring the use of the letter ‘e’ (still looking for a scientific explanation behind that).  This was more than a year ago, when the site was still getting off its feet and riding on the road of uncertainty. Even after its success, it took me a while to hop on board. Finally, I took the plunge, using my Communications major as a justification signing up for yet another social networking platform. It’s been about a month now, and I must self-consciously admit– I’m hooked.

The Tumblr site to me seems like a more visual, less organized Twitter. While your posts don’t need to be fewer than 140 characters, I personally tend to ignore the longer passages. The greatest benefit is the visual aspect– no need to click away to another page to view pictures and, more importantly, gifs. While my experiences on Tumblr are still relatively limited, I’ve found the community to be littered with positively every imaginable gif known to man. Than again, I say ‘littered’ like  bad thing. In fact, Tumblr has brought out in me the absolute geek and fan-fanatic. Unlike my twitter and blog, where I try to maintain a certain level of professional posts and demeanor, Tumblr has quickly become my guilty pleasure. Not that the material is inappropriate, but it certainly is without educational benefits. Instead, my favorite posts (is that even the correct lingo?) include gifs from my numerous favorite television shows.

But enough about me and my utter television/film nerdiness. Back to my initial point in writing this post. During my own use of Tumblr, I couldn’t help but wonder how often the platform was used at a professional level. I have one friend who uses Tumblr for the local publication she writes for– that seems like a reasonable and intelligent use of the site. However, unlike Twitter or Facebook pages for companies and brands, I feel like Tumblr isn’t nearly as professional. Once again, this is simply my opinion on the matter, one I’ve gained from only a limited introduction to Tumblr.

I decided to look into the overall use of Tumblr, and found a some interesting facts. For instance, it was only in early 2010 that Tumblr really hit its stride. Within 6 months, Tumblr doubled its page views. People were starting to catch on to this new fad, with nearly 25,000 people a day signing up for profiles.

I discovered that some of the most popular professional users of Tumblr are mainstream media. Tumblr was another medium through which they could publicize their stories. Everyday bloggers (like myself) also caught on, enjoying the ease the platform provided for posting pictures as well as words.

While the businesses that use Tumblr come from various fields, there remains a high presence of media outlets and personal bloggers. Especially in comparison to the rise of Twitter use among big name corporations (i.e. Fortune 500 companies), Tumblr remains a more personal and  social platform. That’s not to say that a company wouldn’t have any success with the website. I think one of the more endearing factors about Tumblr is the lax environment and community. For this reason, small- and medium-sized organizations are among the first professional groups to turn to Tumblr.

But what about everyone else? What do they, and you, think the benefits of Tumblr are?

One article I found explained Tumblr’s success as such: “Many attribute it to a thrust for the ‘tweener’ social media site – more content than Twitter, less than a full blog… Many use Tumblr as a simple alternative to WordPress, Blogger, or Typepad with quick blogging, reblogging, and feed integration options that allow for faster, more automated methods of running a blog.”

Right now, I’m hooked on the site, but how long will my interest in my own obscure obsessions last? How many Princess Bride or Sherlock (BBC) gifs can one possible watch before wanting more? Overall, I wonder if Tumblr will survive to become the “next big thing.” This, in many ways, will be dependent upon industrial adoption of the platform. Will companies make profit from this website? Can they use it to their advantage? Will it really make a difference with their consumers?

What do you think? Will it last? Do you use Tumblr? What are the benefits? Negatives?

I would love to hear opinions from more ‘experienced’ users.

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Helping A Reporter [and yourself] Out

Every time I see the emails, I assume the gummy candy company HARIBO has decided to reach out to one of their most valuable customers. While I remain disappointed with their lack of communication, I still always rejoice at the viewing of a new email from “Help A Reporter Out.” For those of you not familiar with HARO, this social media service, founded by Peter Shankman, aids in bringing together the reporters and the sources. As the website proclaims, since HARO’s first introduction in 2008, it has brought together “nearly 30,000 reporters and bloggers, over 100,000 news sources and thousands of small businesses together to tell their stories, promote their brands and sell their products and services.” Best of all– HARO is free!

I was first introduced to HARO at my internship when I was told to subscribe via email. On my second day there, I was instructed to subscribe and keep tabs on the emails. Any possible stories relevant to our clients were to be noted and reported. As a small PR firm, the company didn’t have excess funds to spend on subscribing to an expensive source, such as HARO’s primary competitor PR Newswire’s ProfNet service.

Many similar small organizations have also taken advantage of this service. As Shankman says, “People– like real people, you know, mom-and-pop types– email me and say, ‘Thank you so much. I would never have been able to afford this kind of press.'” As HARO’s tagline perfectly states, “Everyone’s an expert at something,” and Shankman’s service brings them all together. We can all benefit from something the email has to offer– whether to promote a company, brand, or person, HARO connects the reporter and the source.

Within its first year, HARO’s subscribers grew from 3,000 to 40,000. With so many requests and so much interest, Shankman is forced to send out anywhere from 1 to 2 emails per day– each with a fun and interesting subject line.

For more information on HARO, check out their website, or read this interesting article comparing the service to ProfNet. Or, even better– sign up to receive their emails!

Facebook Frenzy!

I am horrible about staying in touch with people when I’m away at school. My friends from home constantly berate me after long absences with limited communication. Even my father, my designated ’email buddy,’ will tease me about the amount of time it takes for me to get back to him. I understand their frustration completely. In fact, I’m not even exactly sure how I became so inept at online communications, especially since I’m a frequent user of several social networking sites. For socializing with my friends, our primary resource is Facebook. Oh Facebook.

On February 4th, Facebook celebrated their 7th anniversary. That same day I received a phone call from a friend, just to chat, but her immediate reaction was: “Wow, I was actually able to get in contact with you.” These two concurrent events made me think a bit more about my Facebook socialization throughout the years. In more recent years, when the site would have actually been a valuable resource for keeping in touch with my high school friends, my interest in Facebook has waned. Personally, I prefer Twitter, a preference that most of my friends unfortunately do not share.

I do, however, remember my first experiences with Facebook. I remember the ‘addiction’ and the excitement of this new website. And I remember how pathetically encapsulating the site became. I believe I first started my account toward the end of my Junior year of high school (that would be nearly 5 years ago now). Fresh off of MySpace, I was excited to find out about this more ‘grown-up’ various of social networking (not that I had even heard the term ‘social networking’ before). At the time, my brother had just entered college, and as the pretentious kid he was at that age, he was under the firm belief that Facebook should be for college students only–after all, he argued, that’s who it was created for. Instead, the fad quickly leaked into high schools, and eventually penetrated the walls of middle schools as well. Now, Facebook boasts 550 million users worldwide. The site is available in 70 different languages (I’m unsure if that stat includes the ‘pirate’ language feature).

Needless to say, Facebook is impressive. It has also become a key part of our society and culture. Who hasn’t heard someone say something along the lines of “Well, I don’t really know [name] but we’re friends on Facebook,” or “Oh yea, they broke up. I saw it on Facebook.” It has infiltrated our culture, even begin used as a verb, much like Google is (“I facebooked him/her. She seemed cool” & “We’ll have to Facebook”).

I use Facebook primarily for personal socialization– though not nearly as frequently as I apparently should. However, several companies have also taken advantage of the opportunity to ‘keep in touch’ with their customers. Companies and brands roll in  publicity from users’ ability to ‘like’ their work, or add them as an interest. We all want our profiles to be an accurate (though super cool) portrayal of ourselves, and this often means mentioning interests and favorites (i.e. Dunkin Donuts coffee– yep, here’s a shout out for DD!).

From a site that was created for Harvard student only, then college students, then spread to the general public–Facebook has certainly grown. This no use supposing this is just some passing trend. Facebook is an essential resource for companies as well as the general user. Despite my own personal receding interest, Facebook won’t be going out of style anytime soon. Nor will I cancel my account. In fact, I should clarify– my decreasing interest means that, instead of going on Facebook 12 times a day, I only go on 3 or 4. Still excessive by any means, but apparently not enough to ‘keep in touch.’ Facebook isn’t going anywhere any time soon– and that’s okay with all of us!

p.s. I debated prefacing this post with a viewer alert that no, I have not in fact seen The Social Network (I know, shame on me). Instead, this tidbit will just have to do as a post script.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Today I got into a discussion with some of my co-workers about the purpose and benefits of Twitter (Note: These are co-workers in a field completely unrelated to public relations and, as women primarily in their mid to late 40s, they had limited knowledge of this mysterious thing called “twitter”). In the midst of explaining WHAT twitter was, I mentioned that I myself have a twitter page. I was met with a similar reaction that I often get from my very own peers– “why?”

Often I’m asked what possibly advantages Twitter has over Facebook. The error here is that people are so quick to compare the two social networking sites. Sure, they have similarities (for instance, I’ll often dumb down my Twitter explanation by comparing it to Facebook status updates), but they are also vastly different. I use Facebook to stay in touch with friends from home, friends from school, friends from abroad, and even the occasional soft-core stalking of people I haven’t seen since high school. While I do “follow” some of these same people on twitter, I look at twitter as a much different platform from which to conduct and access networking and communication.

As I explained to my coworkers today, Twitter is beneficial for companies who want a way to send a quick message to employees or consumers. They can have multiple accounts– perhaps one for Customer support, another for internal communications, and still another with job opening postings. Having done a lot of work on twitter for a recent internship, I realized that most of the Fortune 500 companies are on twitter and have employed it in some of the ways I mentioned above.

But there is much more to twitter than finding out the latest in news from Microsoft or big name car companies. Often the immediate appeal, especially for the youth or starstruck, are the celebrities that use twitter. I will admit that I was similarity drawn to twitter when I found out that I could be following these idolized individuals who we, the masses, usually view as so far away from ourselves, so separate. Twitter gives you a behind-the-scenes sort of view of celebrities– their thoughts, perhaps picture and video posts, what they’re up to, and usually all this goes public without the censorship of their badgering publicists. These sort of things have led to a number of fun scandals for the public (i.e. John Mayer, he was practically asking for it). I myself am a big movie and television buff. I like to see the behind the scenes footage, know what’s happening on set, and even catch up on my spoilers. For this reason, I follow a number of entertainment and film sites on twitter. Their 140 character headlines are sometimes enough, or else I’ll click a link or photo they may provide. I also follow my own brand of celebrities, including directors (such as Jon Favreau) who are always eager to give their most loyal audiences some sneak peeks.

Of course, there are still other reasons to follow people on twitter, such as keep up with friends or getting the latest headlines, but the question often is– Why tweet?

Honestly, I enjoy it. I enjoy coming up with 140 character witticisms that I hope my (few) followers enjoy. It also does come in handy for keeping in touch with my few friends who also tweet. I admit, I’m horrible at keeping in touch, even with all of the modern day advances in communication. And yet, despite my inability to sit down and send an email, I will ALWAYS check my twitter, where I find out that so-and-so got accepted to law school, or so-and-so really enjoyed some movie. These little tidbits are often trivial, but still help me stay connected– to friends, family, websites, news, and even the occasional celebrity.

For companies, the “why tweet?” is obvious– for your business. While studies show that the majority of twitter users are under the age of 30, they are also usually the most technologically advanced. For certain companies, this is exactly the market they are looking for. For other companies, a twitter account still keeps them in touch with this particular target audience. No business needs to completely devote themselves to their twitter account, but it certainly is a good way to keep clients and consumers updated. In crisis communication situations, a twitter account is also beneficial in maintaining a clear and open position. Sure, you could write a whole blog entry (like this one), or you could give multiple updates, as you get them, keeping your audience informed and up to date.

Most recently, I heard that a heart surgeon has decided to employ twitter to give live updates as she performs open heart surgery. At first, I imagined some Scrubs-esque scene where a doctor tweets in between every task– that’s ridiculous, I thought. Then I realized that obviously the surgeon themselves was not tweeting (duh!). It eventually dawned on me that if I had a family member undergoing a difficult and life-threatening procedure, I would want constant updates on their progress. Imagine the countless hours people wait to hear the news, pacing back and forth, unable to settle down until they know the news. What if they could follow the surgery on twitter? Would that reduce their anxiety? Sure, there are probably several problems and possibly even ethical situations there. A few bugs to work out. But what an extraordinary idea.

So if you use twitter for fun, for the news, for the business, or for whatever reason– enjoy it. It’s not Facebook. It’s not a blog. It’s its own site, with its own unique features to be explored and expanded on. Or perhaps it is the very simplicity of twitter that attracts so many of us. As I once tweeted: Twitter is perfect for people like me whose wit rarely reaches anything above 140 characters.

(oh, and P.S. to enjoy some more of my writing, but in a 140 character limit sort of way, feel free to follow me: trickart262)