Instagram And Tumblr: Getting Visual With The Millennial Generation

We are visual creatures. Images convey information to us more quickly — and often more emotively and powerfully — than text or speech. So it makes sense that, in a world full of more content than we can possibly absorb, images and video are the go-to format for connecting with Millennials (a/k/a Gen Y).

While Snapchat and newer forms of short-lived visual social content definitely have their place in Millennials’ lives, Instagram and Tumblr are natural entry points for brands to connect with this generation. Each platform enables brands to engage Gen Y with creative storytelling, especially the highly immersive Tumblr. Instagram, already successful for brands with organic engagement, extended their effectiveness with paid ads, increasing their extremely good track record of converting browsers to shoppers. 

So why are these two platforms effective at marketing to Gen Y?



On a personal basis, Instagram is a product for self-expression — from selfies to items of individual interest, both found and made. Instagram makes it easy to “heart” an image or video and to share that content. For Millennials, Instagram is more personal than apps like Facebook, but users can still share to wide audiences.  

Tumblr is used for deeper and more involved creative expression, which is something very important to Gen Y. And while the audience for Tumblr is less curated, meaning the audience is open to everyone, it is still used as a means of self-expression. 

Two more reasons that both of these apps offer a fantastic opportunity for brands to connect with Millennials: They have large Gen Y followings, and usage is dominated by this generation. Brands that travel on these platforms are considered more cool and hip — and more in touch with the Gen Y ethos — than brands that don’t. Brands on Instagram and Tumblr also have the chance to demonstrate products, take customers behind the scenes and showcase user-generated content (ideally featuring people using their products).

Some of the brands that have been successful on Tumblr are (master storytellers) Coke, with their blog “Where Happiness Happens,” Under Armour, MTV, Vans and Sprite (the Coca-Cola Company is obviously doing something right here). Both MTV and Sprite have had individual posts re-blogged over 75,000 times. 

According to Marissa Mayer, CEO of Tumblr parent company Yahoo, “The average post on Tumblr is re-blogged 14 times, but the average sponsored post on Tumblr is re-blogged 10,000 times.” That’s a very compelling argument for brands to engage on Tumblr. Another draw for brands is that, according to Tumblr founder David Karp, the average time spent on the site is more than 15 minutes.

Instagram holds equally impressive opportunities for brands. While organic growth for brands has been pretty successful, Instagram’s ads have proved measurably lucrative for the initial 15 brands invited to participate. For example, ad recall was significantly higher than non-ad posts for Taco Bell (which reported an uptick of more than 25%), and followers increased by 45% during the promotion for its new breakfast menu. In addition, engagement for organic posts increased by more than 50% following paid ad promotions for several of the brands in the initial rollout. 

Many brands with high organic engagement are looking forward to the chance to use the ads to complement current campaigns, but some brands that already have successful connections through Instagram (e.g., Red Bull) are holding off for now. Either way, the message is clear: Instagram is a powerful tool for reaching and connecting with Gen Y.

The smart use of platforms that are already highly popular with millennials (like Instagram and Tumblr) is a winning formula for brands. Follow Gen Y’s lead.

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