PharmExec Blog

Should Pharma Do Tumblr?

Could acquisition by Yahoo make Tumblr more interesting to Pharma?
I’m sure you’ve heard already – Internet geriatric Yahoo just bought six-year old Tumblr for $1.1 billion. The deal, likely to complete in the second half of this year, is almost all cash – reportedly almost all the cash Yahoo had in hand at the close of the first quarter. Why has Yahoo fallen so heavily for Tumblr? Easy, Yahoo is seen by many in the digital world as stodgy, slow and quite possibly past it. Tumblr is cool, nimble and on the up.
The Tumblr blogging platform, founded in 2007, posts some pretty impressive numbers: 300 million unique visitors a month; 17 billion page views monthly; 120,000 signups a day; 900 posts a second; and 24 billion minutes spent on the site every month. The clincher is Tumblr’s mobile footprint – more than half its visitors use its mobile app, seven times a day on average.
The bottom line is that a Yahoo-Tumblr combination (Yumblr?) is expected to grow Yahoo’s audience by half, giving it more than a billion monthly visitors, with a projected increase in traffic of approximately 20 percent. Yahoo hopes that it can bring its expertise in personalization and search to suck users into its advertising networks.
This could be a problem as the youthful Tumblr user-base, much like its twentysomething founder David Karp, hates internet advertising. As you might expect there has already been a user backlash against the deal, prompting Yahoo CEO to comment, “Don’t worry we won’t screw it up.”
The most likely way for Yahoo not to screw it up is to focus tightly on content marketing or branded content opportunities by bringing its grown-up content management skills to Tumblr’s nascent sponsored content offering. And this is the point where Pharma marketers should start paying attention.
Given the demographic distance between the average Pharma CEO and the average Tumblr user, you have probably never used Tumblr. The easy-to-use blogging platform is used mainly by a 13 to 25 age group attracted by its “social looseness”. Real names are not required on Tumblr, only email addresses, allowing users to present multiple personalities. “Tumblr is, in a way, the anti-Facebook—a social network where you do not have to be friends with your mother,” says a recent Economist Explains post.
When you explore Tumblr today, it’s not difficult to understand why you’ll find very few, if any, Pharma company Tumblrs. The content is quirky to say the least, from blogs devoted to photos of the late Kim Jong Il looking at things, to collections of dopey texts we parents send our children. Oh, and there’s a fair amount of pornography on there too.
Some major brands and corporations are already on the platform, however. Media – Newsweek, The Boston Globe, Elle Magazine, GQ – was relatively quick to pick up on it, seeing a relatively easy way to distribute a regular stream of highly visual content that would be shared by their audience. Fashion brands like J.Crew and Oscar de La Renta are also taking advantage of the “visual not verbose” ethos of the site. IBM’s Smarter Planet Tumblr is excellent. It features more of a mix of text and images, but the real value is the opportunity to distribute links to the broader network of IBM information elsewhere on the web.
What you will find when you take a closer look at Tumblr is a lot of potential patients. And as Pharma marketers get more serious about “customer-centric” and “multi-platform” approaches, maybe the acquisition by Yahoo is as good a time as any to look again at the platform.
Take a look at the diabeticproblems tag on Tumblr. You’ll see the occasional ‘humorous’ picture from people wondering how they’re going to cope with a chocolate fountain, but the vast majority of posts are from young people dealing with the day-to day-issues of living with diabetes. Questions about travelling with diabetes, snack recommendations for low blood sugar, pictures of testing kits and insulin pumps and a lot of motivational humour. Do you think a Pharma Tumblr offering funny, well-crafted advice and genuine support to this group might get some attention?
I’m not suggesting that anyone switch their social media budget to Tumblr today on the strength of Yahoo’s involvement. But it’s worth keeping an eye on what Yahoo does and how the Tumblr audience reponds. If they get the content marketing part of the play right and the user base keeps active, Tumblr might just make it into your social media marketing plan.

Peter Houston asks, could acquisition by Yahoo make Tumblr more interesting to Pharma?

I’m sure you’ve heard already — Internet geriatric Yahoo just bought six-year old Tumblr for $1.1 billion. The deal, likely to complete in the second half of this year, is almost all cash — reportedly almost all the cash Yahoo had in hand at the close of the first quarter. Why has Yahoo fallen so heavily for Tumblr? Easy, Yahoo is seen by many in the digital world as stodgy, slow and quite possibly past it. Tumblr is cool, nimble and on the up.

The Tumblr blogging platform, founded in 2007, posts some pretty impressive numbers: 300 million unique visitors a month; 17 billion page views monthly; 120,000 signups a day; 900 posts a second; and 24 billion minutes spent on the site every month. The clincher is Tumblr’s mobile footprint – more than half its visitors use its mobile app, seven times a day on average.

The bottom line is that a Yahoo-Tumblr combination (Yumblr?) is expected to grow Yahoo’s audience by half, giving it more than a billion monthly visitors, with a projected increase in traffic of approximately 20 percent. Yahoo hopes that it can bring its expertise in personalization and search to suck users into its advertising networks.

This could be a problem as the youthful Tumblr user-base, much like its twentysomething founder David Karp, hates internet advertising. As you might expect there has already been a user backlash against the deal, prompting Yahoo CEO to comment, “Don’t worry we won’t screw it up.”

The most likely way for Yahoo not to screw it up is to focus tightly on content marketing or branded content opportunities by bringing its grown-up content management skills to Tumblr’s nascent sponsored content offering. And this is the point where pharma marketers should start paying attention.

Given the demographic distance between the average Pharma CEO and the average Tumblr user, you have probably never used Tumblr. The easy-to-use blogging platform is used mainly by a 13 to 25 age group attracted by its “social looseness”. Real names are not required on Tumblr, only email addresses, allowing users to present multiple personalities. “Tumblr is, in a way, the anti-Facebook—a social network where you do not have to be friends with your mother,” says a recent Economist Explains post.

When you explore Tumblr today, it’s not difficult to understand why you’ll find very few, if any, Pharma company

Tumblrs. The content is quirky to say the least, from blogs devoted to photos of the late Kim Jong Il looking at things, to collections of dopey texts we parents send our children. Oh, and there’s a fair amount of pornography on there too.

Some major brands and corporations are already on the platform, however. Media — Newsweek, The Boston Globe, Elle Magazine, GQ — was relatively quick to pick up on it, seeing a relatively easy way to distribute a regular stream of highly visual content that would be shared by their audience. Fashion brands like J.Crew and Oscar de La Renta are also taking advantage of the “visual not verbose” ethos of the site. IBM’s Smarter Planet Tumblr is excellent. It features more of a mix of text and images, but the real value is the opportunity to distribute links to the broader network of IBM information elsewhere on the web.

What you will find when you take a closer look at Tumblr is a lot of potential patients. And as Pharma marketers get more serious about “customer-centric” and “multi-platform” approaches, maybe the acquisition by Yahoo is as good a time as any to look again at the platform.

Take a look at the diabeticproblems tag on Tumblr. You’ll see the occasional ‘humorous’ picture from people wondering how they’re going to cope with a chocolate fountain, but the vast majority of posts are from young people dealing with the day-to day-issues of living with diabetes. Questions about travelling with diabetes, snack recommendations for low blood sugar, pictures of testing kits and insulin pumps and a lot of motivational humor. Do you think a Pharma Tumblr offering funny, well-crafted advice and genuine support to this group might get some attention?

I’m not suggesting that anyone switch their social media budget to Tumblr today on the strength of Yahoo’s involvement. But it’s worth keeping an eye on what Yahoo does and how the Tumblr audience reponds. If they get the content marketing part of the play right and the user base keeps active, Tumblr might just make it into your social media marketing plan.

Peter Houston is former Group Content Director for Advanstar Pharma Science. He is now an independent media consultant and founder of Flipping Pages.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted May 23, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Interesting article, Peter.
    An opportunity for pharma marketers to create a bridge between medicine and millennials!

  2. Posted May 24, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    They’re going to have to do it someday :-)

  3. Posted May 29, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    The Tumblr audience skews young now, so is not yet at the point where pharma could find a valuable audience (at least compared to the alternatives). It is still important to track any Tumblr posts, particularly those with a large reach and engagement, that mention your product, competitors, or the disease category, in general.
    Either way, just another factor of social media to watch pharma evolve with!

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