Platform-Specific Content: Tumblr Edition

Gif by Sasha Katz

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While it’s easier, cheaper and quicker to repurpose content across all social media platforms, is that really best practice? IMHO, content designed for the specific platform it will live on, not for how many platforms it can live on, is the most creative, compelling and ultimately convincing in terms of brand loyalty.

For example, some brands have been absolutely killing it on Tumblr, where the users are mainly millennials and tend to be quirkier than their counterparts on more mainstream social media platforms. That’s because of the nature of Tumblr itself—it’s only part social network, but also part microblog. Users can post multimedia content to their own short-form personal blogs (AKA a tumblelog), as well as like and repost content from other blogs.

This hybrid setup means Tumblr attracts a lot of creative-types who are interested in posting their own work or want to be inspired by others. That doesn’t mean the platform is all artsy fartsy, though. A lot of users are hilarious pranksters, the first to know about trending memes and gifs, or even the ones who created the content that goes viral in the first place.

Unlike every other major social network, Tumblr allows users to customize their page designs by selecting or submitting a theme. This element of individual freedom, combined with the diary-like feel of Tumblr’s text posts, makes the platform a deeply personal place. Essentially, it’s your teenage self’s bedroom wall, covered with virtual pages torn from magazines or scraps of paper scribbled with poems.

While Tumblr is incredibly intimate, it also fosters a fiercely supportive community. Users post about their true feelings—the things they’re too embarrassed to tell their family or coworkers or even friends. By revealing their insecurities, Tumblr users discover that they’re not alone. An entire online community of fellow introverts and artists and dreamers is there to offer comfort and advice. Obviously I’m generalizing here. Everyone on Tumblr has different reasons for using the platform. This is just what I’ve personally discovered after using the platform for four years.

Regardless, it’s easy to see why the Tumblr community would be wary of brands encroaching on their personal space. Tumblr is the place they go to seek encouragement, find solace or be inspired. It’s the place they go to get away from the mainstream, the man and big corporations. That’s why the best brands on Tumblr are the ones that don’t try to force themselves into this community. They ask to be let in.

Dunkin’ Donuts worked with Tumblr Creatrs, or emerging artists using the platform to promote their work, to create posts that were not only creative, but also resonated with the aesthetic of the Tumblr community:

Similarly, Vans commissioned artists that aligned with their brand’s voice to design several posts for them:

I’ve been fangirling over the Nike Women’s Tumblr account all year and I honestly can’t come up with a shortlist of their best posts because everything they share is so perfect for Tumblr. So go ahead and check out their entire blog.

And while I’m calling out entire Tumblr blogs, check out Netflix. Their entertaining memes and gifs are all reblogworthy.

The theme? All of these brands are creating content specifically for Tumblr as opposed to sharing the same content across all of their social media platforms. They don’t have one singular social media strategy. Instead, they adapt their strategy depending on the platform.

TL;DR: Tumblr is a unique community. That means your content needs to be unique, too.

Stay classy, nerds


Facebook Curators, the Dank Ages and a Podcast Update

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You Are Facebook’s Most Biased Curator: Last month Gizmodo released a report claiming that Facebook’s curators, the ones behind the Trending Topics section, suppressed conservative news and used an “injection tool” to feature selected stories that were not actually trending. Naturally, this raised a lot of questions, most importantly: Facebook has editors? The answer, of course, is yes. Facebook’s curators control the Trending Topics that all users see, and there are a lot of users—167 million just in the US.

It’s a scary thought, realizing that the news you’re viewing may have been manipulated by some faceless dude drinking Jamba Juice and playing ping pong at Facebook’s headquarters. But Vox brought up an even scarier thought. Curators aren’t necessarily a bad thing (granted they’re actually serving up a wide range of stories and opinions). The bad thing is an echo chamber: when you only consume news that already aligns with your own beliefs.

Unfortunately, it’s too late. We’re all already living in individual echo chambers of our own design. You see, Facebook’s algorithm was created to make the platform less biased. Instead of deciding which content to publish in your news feed for you, you decide. Based on your personal connections, content you engage with and articles you share, Facebook’s algorithm serves you similar content, ensuring you’re living in your own cocoon where you agree with everything you consume. Scary, right?

So yes, let’s absolutely question Facebook’s curation tactics to make sure we’re actually being served unbiased trending topics. But also, maybe we should focus more on the magic echo chamber algorithm. Or, and I can’t believe that I (vocal proclaimer of the theory that Facebook = Big Brother) am the one saying this, maybe we should all stop attacking the platform that we choose to use and instead foster a broader view of the world for ourselves by seeking out a variety of opinions and ideas? #woke

Welcome to the Dank Ages: Despite the recent success of Dat Boi and “Don’t talk to me or my son ever again,” the peak year of the meme was actually 2011, according to recent analysis. In fact, we have now entered the age of Dank Memes, parodies that are intentionally overdone or cliche. If you’re wondering how to speak meme, this glossary is helpful af (btw we are all normies). And while you’re reading glossaries, check out this one on fanspeak.

Podcast Update: A while back I did a post that was entirely about podcasts. While I continue to cry at the gym listening to This American Life, I’ve now added awkwardly laughing in public to my repertoire. 2 Dope Queens just finished up their first season and it was hilarious and empowering. If you’re looking for more female power, Girlboss, hosted by Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso, features interviews with successful girl bosses. And totally unrelated is More Perfect, a Radiolab spinoff that explores how the Supreme Court has shaped the nation.

Stay classy, nerds.

Empowered Women, EverestNoFilter and Jessie’s Story

Images via Adrian Ballinger and Cory Richards

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Empowering Women…Through Advertising: For a long time, beauty marketing was about instilling fear in women—without these products, women were incapable of being beautiful and without beauty, women were incapable of success. Recently, however, advertising messaging has changed to one of female empowerment. New campaigns from companies like Dove and SK-II are now telling us that we are all beautiful, independent ladies just the way we are, all while still managing to sell us their products.

Not that I’m complaining. I much prefer this class of advertising over the pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty standards. And ultimately, I think these brands are doing so much more than selling us a product or even an idea. As opposed to hopeless dreams and unattainable aspirations, these brands are selling us truth. Instead of telling us you could have this, they’re saying you know what, you’ve already got it. When you think about it, it’s actually a pretty radical concept. Here are brands that are basically telling you that you don’t need their product to feel good about yourself.  And somehow that makes me want their products even more.

Snapchat Is More Than Social Media: A team of climbers is currently ascending Mount Everest using brand new satellite technology. While Everest is one of the most well-known mountain ranges in the world, not many people know what it’s actually like to climb the highest peak on Earth. But now you can. The climbing team is documenting their entire climb, from prep to finish, via their Snapchat handle, EverestNoFilter.

I don’t know why I’m so intrigued by this method of storytelling, as one of Snapchat’s main features is its “Stories” section. However, this is one of the first instances (that I’ve heard of) of the platform telling one cohesive story from start to finish. As a hybrid of reality TV show programming and documentary filmmaking, Snapchat stories transcend traditional video storytelling platforms because of their low barrier to entry. Now anyone with a mobile phone can broadcast their story to millions of viewers for free.

The Game of Chat: When Facebook invited companies to create chatbots for its messenger platform, most could immediately see the value for customer service purposes like booking airline tickets and reserving restaurant tables. But PullString had a different vision. They decided to create a Facebook Messenger chatbot game called Humani: Jessie’s Story. Rod Humble, the game developer who created Jessie, has previously worked on similar virtual reality games like Second Life and the Sims. When the game begins, Jessie has just lost her job and her apartment. You talk her through first dates, job interviews and other life events. According to Danielle Frimer, one of the writers behind Jessie’s Story, “It’s a media that requires something of you. It requires you to use your imagination; to use your intellect to engage with characters as opposed to just consuming.”

I love that with every new technology humans create, we always find a way to use it to tell a story.

Stay classy, nerds.

The Enigma of Snapchat, Modern Diction and Other Things

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How Snapchat Built a Business by Confusing Olds: This article delves into the mystery that is Snapchat, a platform founded by some kids in college to securely send impermanent photos (yes, like nudes) that has transformed into a major media source whose content is both nonsensical and outrageously popular. Much to the confusion of older generations, this user-unfriendly messaging app is widely used among millennials. Celebrity Snapchatters like DJ Khaled frequently share content that gets about as many views as popular television programs, such as The Big Bang Theory. While the cost for advertising is significantly higher than Facebook, marketers are seeing a lot of success reaching audiences on Snapchat. In fact, Tastemade, a brand who has a coveted spot among the Discover page, completely reoriented itself after finding success on the app, increasing its company size and amassing an extra $40 million in venture capital. While analytics remains a weak point for the platform, Snapchat announced in February that it plans to provide detailed demographic information to advertisers through Nielsen’s digital ratings service. tl;dr – It’s time to get your brand on Snapchat.

The Atlantic Is Killin’ it with Diction Analysis: Why do so many digital assistants have feminine names? This article set out to examine the gender disparity in naming conventions for AI systems like Siri, Cortana and Alexa. One explanation is that the patriarchy is just doing what it does best: objectifying women and belittling them to inferior roles, like secretaries. Another explanation, however, is that people take orders better from female voices. Naturally, I hope it’s the latter because ladies are boss bitches who deserve their due cred. Unfortunately, it’s probably just because the makers of anthropomorphic technologies (mainly men), view women as not fully human beings.

This article, also published in the Atlantic, examines the phenomenon of the transformation of “LOL” into a punctuation mark. Instead of literally meaning “laughing out loud,” the abbreviation is now left dangling at the end of a sentence to signify irony, sarcasm or ambivalence. In fact, rarely does LOL suggest actual laughter of any kind when used today, according to e-laughing data from Facebook. But LOL is far from extinction—it’s still used frequently in conversation. LOL just doesn’t mean “funny” anymore. Take this example from an essay by the linguist John McWhorter:

“Jocelyn texts ‘where have you been?’ and Annabelle texts back ‘LOL at the library studying for two hours.’ How funny is that, really?” (Not very.) Instead, McWhorter argued, the “LOL” in the women’s exchange is standing in as, effectively, a marker for empathy. It is replacing the things that can be achieved in an in-person conversation—the nodding of the head, the contact of the eyes, the tiny gestures that together lend the “L” to the “IRL”—with a three-letter symbol. “LOL,” McWhorter put it, “no longer ‘means’ anything. Rather, it ‘does something’—conveying an attitude—just as the ending ‘ed’ doesn’t ‘mean’ anything but conveys past tense. LOL is, of all things, grammar.”

Cool Happenings: Giphy’s Gif Editor lets you add stickers and text to existing gifs, there’s a Chrome extension that automatically clicks “Continue watching” for you on Netflix, today is March 31.

Stay classy, nerds.

Tumblr Teens, BuzzFeed Video, AMP and Crowdcultures

Image via New Republic

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The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens: This is the story of how a group of teens on Tumblr became famous for writing internet jokes, recruited a few hundred kids, gained an estimated 35 millions followers and earned millions of dollars. These are the kids that the head of Tumblr’s culture and trends called “the most brilliant digital strategists” and “better marketers than anyone in the game right now.” Yes, I said teenagers. Here’s an excerpt:

Tumblr teens need to be sophisticated about making money, and they have clever tactics to increase traffic and followers and revenue, often helping each other to game Google AdSense. Why game AdSense? Tumblr users are allowed to put banner ads on their sites, but most users access Tumblr through the dashboard feed, where only Tumblr’s sponsored posts can go. So that means most eyes, and the most dedicated fans, rarely if ever see those banner ads.

I Changed My Mind: You know how I’ve been writing that Facebook is taking steps towards total world domination? I changed my mind. It’s BuzzFeed. It’s really no surprise because Jonah Peretti is a content mastermind (see also: instant articles). Now BuzzFeed has launched a new video app, aptly named BuzzFeed Video. It’s super straightforward: just a feed of the site’s top short videos. It’s so simple, it’s genius.

You’ll Never Believe This—Google Wants Users to Stay on Google: To encourage web users to stay on the web (as opposed to switching over to apps), Google will now start giving preference to pages built with its fast-loading technology, Accelerated Mobile Pages or AMP. Guess who’s already working with Google on the AMP rollout? BuzzFeed.

Marketing in the Age of Social Media: This piece in the HBR posits that crowdcultures, the phenomenon of digital crowds serving as innovators of culture, are driving marketing wins in the age of social media. The article’s author Douglas Holt argues that branded content used to work in the age of print and TV because competition was limited. Now that social media has entered the game, however, anyone can produce content, so the competition is much higher, not to mention users can actively choose not to view your content. Holt asserts that in the age of social media, brands succeed when they embrace a specific ideology, sustaining cultural relevance by playing off of contentious topics. Here’s an excerpt:

To brand effectively with social media, companies should target crowdcultures. Today, in pursuit of relevance, most brands chase after trends. But this is a commodity approach to branding: Hundreds of companies are doing exactly the same thing with the same generic list of trends. It’s no wonder consumers don’t pay attention. By targeting novel ideologies flowing out of crowdcultures, brands can assert a point of view that stands out in the overstuffed media environment.

The article goes on to provide examples of how brands in the personal care category—Dove, Axe and Old Spice—have excelled with consumers by advocating for specific gender ideologies. Holt ends with a poignant warning: “Companies need to shift their focus away from the platforms themselves and toward the real locus of digital power—crowdcultures.”

I think this is an important reminder as to why we need to stay up to date on more than just industry trends. We need to listen to what people are actually talking about. Every single brand is jumping on what’s “trending.” What can we say that’s truly adding value to the cultural conversation?

Stay classy, nerds.

Tumblr, More Tumblr, Bernie, Nick Offerman and Girls

Gif via Nike Women Tumblr

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Fandom in the Social Age: Yesterday I sat in on an Adweek webinar on Lessons in Millennial Engagement from Tumblr, MTV and Coca-Cola. I’ve always been interested in the history of internet culture, from Lolcats to Anonymous to social media as a form of political discourse. This webinar was an interesting look into the evolution of internet culture in today’s social age. Tumblr, my personal favorite social media platform, has emerged as the social epicenter of fandom today because it gives users the ability to create, remix and recap the things that they’re most passionate about. Unlike many other social platforms, Tumblr does not try to contain its users in neat, white and blue boxes. Tumblr and its community of wonderfully weird individuals encourage and support creativity. This freedom of expression has allowed the birth of fandoms in a way that it totally unique to Tumblr.

Wanting to engage with this creative community of millennials, Coca-Cola teamed up with MTV for their Share a Coke Campaign. Coke specifically designed the Fandom Awards for the Tumblr community around the idea of “shippers.” A version of the word “relationship,” shippers are diehard fans of popular television shows who desperately want two characters to get together (if you listen to the “X-Files Files” podcast, you’ll be familiar with the message board shippers who scrutinize every close touch between Scully and Mulder). Shippers are especially active on Tumblr, sharing fan art, memes and gifs of their favorite television relationship hopefuls. Coke asked shippers to vote for their favorite couple to be awarded the “Ship of the Year” award at the MTV Fandom Awards. Coke and MTV used a cross-platform strategy, which included Tumblr promoted posts, a team of social influencers, on-air content and an experiential festival and sampling. The campaign went viral, resulting in 28 million votes.

What I love about this idea is that it was designed for not only a specific social media platform, but also a specific subset of individuals active on that platform. The idea appealed to millennials’ desire for authenticity because the Coke team found an activity they were already naturally participating in and expanded upon it. Sometimes the best ideas aren’t new.

Speaking of Tumblr: Look to the Nike Women account for inspiration. They have content exclusively created for Tumblr based on what’s currently trending in the platform—quirky gifs, colorful collages and detailed illustrations. This is the next step I would like to take in social. Instead of repurposing content across platforms, we should be creating different content for each.

Is Bernie Crazy?: Regardless of who you’re voting for in the upcoming primaries, there’s no denying the beauty of this website, created by the animation and digital storytelling agency Oxbow. True to Bernie’s trademark campaign style of sticking to the facts, the site boils down complex issues in a fun, engaging way.

Take That Airbnb!: This clever HomeAway ad, narrated by the delightful Nick Offerman, is a not-so-subtle poke at the sharing economy.

Girl Power: Vimeo announced Share the Screen, an initiative to fund, teach and promote female filmmakers.

Stay classy, nerds.

Much Social, So Holiday, Such Snapchat, Wow

Image via Tumblr

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Candidates on Social: The 2016 presidential candidates are working to reach voters through social beyond just Facebook and Twitter. This article highlights the top users on Periscope (Hillary), Instagram (Trump) and Pinterest (Hillary), plus calls out candidates making use of Snapchat (Hillary) and Tumblr (Bernie). Obviously the White House hopefuls are striving to reach millennials on these popular platforms, but what I think is most interesting is how the candidates have branded themselves. Hillary appeals strongly to women, with a Snapchat of a pup in a cup and boards for family photos and gift ideas for her granddaughter on Pinterest. Bernie uses his Tumblr to boil down complex issues into photos and gifs and adds a touch of humor to appeal to young voters. I’m also impressed by how smoothly and effectively these candidates have jumped on social trends and think we could learn from them to transition more brands onto new social platforms.

Holiday Roundup: Consumers have shifted more and more to choosing fresh over artificial, handmade over mass-produced and locally-owned over chain. Etsy has naturally been a popular place to purchase unique, handcrafted items. Now, the retail site is promoting local boutiques as well with their city guides. Holiday shoppers can support both artists within the Etsy community and local shops using these guides for shops that feature independent makers in your area. In the age of digital, Google is going print with Google Doodle, a collection of paper dolls you can print out and play with. AT&T has released an emotional and all-too-familiar holiday spot that actually encourages families to get off their phones and be present.

Advertisers Look to Snapchat: As the fastest growing social network with the highest percentage of millennial users, it should come as no surprise that Snapchat has become an important player in the social advertising space. There’s nothing incredibly surprising in this article, however, I think the point about the intimacy Snapchat offers will only become more significant. Many advertising publications have predicted the rise of social messaging services in 2016, as consumers become more attracted to one-on-one interactions in contrast with the aggressive and intrusive techniques favored by some platforms (cough, Facebook).

Every Tumblr Meme from 2015: A few women staffers at the Washington Post were interested in showing how memes spread and thought hey, why don’t we make a timeline of every single Tumblr meme from the entire year? Sources have confirmed that these women are not insane, just really awesome. Check out the incredible timeline they created with the help of the Meme Documentation Tumblr account and Tumblr’s in-house meme librarian (yes, that is a real job), Amanda Brennan.

Happy Holidays!


Call a (virtual) Friend, Creating Confidence and Nick Offerman

nick offerman
Photo via AdWeek

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Minecraft Cellphone: Verizon teamed up with ad agency Wieden + Kennedy and the Minecraft design agency Blockworks to build a functioning cellphone within the game. This cellphone connects the virtual world of Minecraft with the real world, meaning players’ avatars can make phone calls to actual people outside the game. Players can surf the web, take selfies and even make video calls where they’ll appear as an avatar on a friend’s real life screen and their friend will appear in pixelated blocks on the game screen. This is insanely cool. Check out the YouTube video for a demo. 

Creating Customer Confidence: According to PSFK’s Future of Retail 2016 Report, one of the biggest trends of the year is “inspiring and empowering customers by providing access to tools that help plan, design and expedite their shopping experience.” This article details a few brands who are killing it right now. Home goods retailer Pirch completes their showrooms of high-end appliances with full-time chefs and a home spa. Following in the footsteps of brands like Warby Parker, expands the home try-on experience to clothes. Lululemon now categorizes their line of yoga pants by how they’ll make you feel, as opposed to style. All these brands are doing simple, yet innovative things to help the consumer get a better picture of how these products will fit into their actual lives. 

45 Minutes of Nick Offerman: Lagavulin whisky recruited longtime fan of the brand Nick Offerman for a Yule Log video. The video consists of the Parks and Rec star sitting in a leather armchair by the fire, drinking whisky, in silence, for 45 minutes straight. As AdWeek notes, “it’s delightful.” What I love is how on point the video is for the brand of Nick Offerman the man. While I’m admittedly not too familiar with Lagavulin’s ads, this doesn’t feel like it’s consistent for them, it feels consistent for Nick Offerman.

Stay classy, nerds.

Podcast Edition

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This American Life: Host Ira Glass is the king of podcasts. Serial, that true crime podcast you all binge-listened to last year, is a spin-off of This American Life. In the recent episode “Put a Bow on It,” Ira ponders the phenomenon of weird food mashups, like the Hardee’s burger with a cheesesteak as a topping and Pizza Hut’s pizza with hot dogs in the crust. Ira believes there must be a room where people actually sit around and decide what food to mashup next. He takes us inside that room. Later, producer Zoe Chace talks to the guy who was in charge of marketing when Jack in the Box went through an E. Coli crisis to learn how he saved the company and what he makes of Volkswagen’s current massive PR crisis. This episode is full of valuable marketing nuggets, from getting your tastebuds in the mindset of the target to saving face after a huge mistake.

Freakonomics Radio: Economists and authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner explore “the hidden side of everything” in their weekly podcast. The recent episode “How Did the Belt Win?” wrestles with objects that are both ubiquitous and dysfunctional. Case in point: the belt. Belts have been proven to have poor health effects on the back and internal organs, yet we continue to wear them every day. Suspenders work much better. Think about it. If you want your pants to stay up, why wouldn’t you use a product that actually pulls them up (suspenders) versus a product that squeezes your pants to your side (belt)? Levitt and Dubner conclude that the dork factor of wearing suspenders is just too high to overcome their functionality. This episode is really interesting when thinking of ways to market a product. Sometimes the most practical thing is the least practiced.

Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything: ToE is a part of the podcasting network, Radiotopia, which was created by Roman Mars. If Ira Glass is the king of podcasting, then Roman Mars is the rising young prince. I’m not even going to include an episode of his podcast, 99% Invisible, in this newsletter because you should listen to EVERY single episode. It’s that good. I digress. Benjamen Walker’s podcast is also amazing. If I could marry a voice it would be his. I don’t even want to know what the face behind his voice looks like because it will ruin it. In the recent episode “Enchanting by Numbers,” Walker explores the use of algorithms in marketing. We learn how Uber uses algorithms to generate phantom cars and marketplace mirages, how Facebook users react to the realization that Facebook controls everything they see in their feed and how Ada Lovelace authored the first algorithm, which she wrote in 1843 because she’s a baller and women rule.

TED Radio Hour: Did you guys know TED has a podcast? I can’t pick just one episode to share because they’re all equally inspiring. Recent favorites include: The Meaning of Work (speakers explore how to make work more meaningful), The Source of Creativity (speakers examine the mystery of creativity), Screen Time (speakers explore our relationships with screens), Open Source World (speakers examine how open source has changed the way we innovate) and Simply Happy (speakers tell us the secret to finding happiness).

Other Podcasts of Note: Radiolab, Radio Diaries, Stuff You Should Know, Criminal, Invisibiliathe AllusionistHow to Be Amazing

Need more podcast suggestions? Hit me up.