Quick quiz: What was the fastest-growing social media network of 2014?
This social network might make headlines less often than its cousins, but it has held its own ever since its acquisition by Yahoo was announced two years ago. Tumblr takes a blog-plus-the-kitchen-sink approach to storytelling, meaning brand managers have the flexibility to create their own template and engage with fans in ways that best suit their mission.
(Note for your sales team: Tumblr users have higher median incomes than those of Pinterest or Twitter users.)
We consulted the Fortune 500 list to spotlight interesting ways that social media managers for major brands are engaging fans on the site. Consider how you might adopt one or more of these approaches as you read through the list:
1. Attract attention with bold visuals and animation.
Nearly every communicator recognizes the need to generate brand interest with bold visuals, but some tactics are more conducive to that than others. On Tumblr, a collection of rich photos, text teasers and animated GIFs can be grouped for an eye-catching display.
If you think this sounds a lot like Pinterest, you should keep in mind that you can post to Pinterest—and Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus—from this platform. Moreover, brands aren’t locked into just one format, so there’s more freedom to play in the architecture.
Brands embracing the platform’s unique visual opportunities include Verizon Wireless, which anchors its page with a simple box listing its website and social channels before delving into a sea of funny Vine videos and animated GIFs.
Meanwhile, Lowe’s takes a DIY approach to its page, offering tips on a variety of home improvement projects against a bold white background.
2. Deploy a stunning background.
In addition to the boxed-out visuals and captions that Tumblr allows, consider framing your brand with a bold background look.
Delta Airlines captures its signature image of the sky at dawn and uses it to envelop a page including YouTube videos, links for booking flights, and media-rich posts that enable comments via Disqus. In addition to spotlighting incredible destinations, Delta also salutes its flight attendants and other important airline figures.
Also playing off the drama created by sunlight is AT&T, whose site features a cityscape against the background of a dramatic sky. Its page has prominent social media buttons and a list of clickable links including “Shop” and “News,” displayed in a stack as if they appeared on a smartphone. Scroll down and you’ll get the media-rich scrapbook effect featured on many Tumblr pages.
3. Highlight your brand’s best qualities.
Communicators play to their brand’s strengths within the fabric of Tumblr.
Among the best examples of this is iTunes, which takes a library-like approach to its collection of music, movies, TV shows and books. Bold cover art is paired with tabbed browsing for an experience akin to perusing the stacks at your favorite indie retailer. Note that not every thumbnail is animated; instead, images containing movement are surrounded by stationary photos, drawing the viewer’s attention across the page and through each photo.
Meanwhile, IBM plays on its technological savvy to tell the story of its contest highlighting startups and their value to the economy. Check out how the brand uses bold fonts to showcase quotes against images that depict people, some in business suits and some in T-shirts, coming together to learn from one another.
4. Engage audience in stores and at home.
Several brand managers use Tumblr to engage fans in their company’s stores. For example, Home Depot invites its audience to snap pictures of its signature orange buckets in interesting places. The brand posts those images featuring the hashtag #LetsDoThis to its page.
Also note that the brand pulls data unrelated to its mission (e.g., the number of cups of coffee consumed worldwide each day) into its posts and uses the orange bucket to explain why viewers should care. In the coffee example, Home Depot says 20 million orange buckets-worth of the beverage are guzzled daily.
Meanwhile, Walgreens is using Tumblr to promote its #RedNose campaign, which aims to bring hope to children in poverty, as well as to spotlight timely events such as Mother’s Day and Earth Day. Colors lean toward pastels, fitting Walgreens’ mission to provide a place where fans can find comfort for what ails them, as well as identifying products including photos and frames that help them show loved ones they care.
5. Preview the new and exciting, and have fun.
Think about ways your brand might use Tumblr to share a hint of what’s to come. Disney uses its page to have fun and preview its upcoming films. The company, whose bread and butter is animation, also creates plenty of holiday-themed posts around its beloved characters and brings them to life—within single frames or across a filmstrip-like series of panels.
Pepsi has fun with a page packed with animated GIFs, celebrities, cats and hashtags galore. Thus, brands don’t have to bend over backward to explain themselves on Tumblr; it’s a venue where one’s purpose is simply to entertain, engage and encourage a return visit.
As these examples demonstrate, Tumblr has something for everyone. Whether your brand is new or experienced on this platform, take a few minutes to experiment. Learn to create an animated GIF. Shoot a quick Vine video, and post it to your page. Let your audience see you having fun; you might be surprised how fast your following grows.
A version of this article first appeared on Visually.