Pinterest and Tumblr are among the hippest consumer social networks today, and you should consider dedicating some of your marketing resources to at least one or the other — but which one is most effective? As with all social media marketing tools, the best strategic plan for brand growth is to surround consumers with branded content, so they can self-select how they want to experience your brand and interact with it. That means in an ideal situation, your brand would have a presence on both Pinterest and Tumblr. However, it’s not always possible to be all places at once due to a lack of budget and resources. If you need to choose between Pinterest and Tumblr, read on to learn which is the better option.

The Differences Between Tumblr and Pinterest

Pinterest and Tumblr have some similarities — they’re both essentially media blogging platforms — but they’re actually very different. You should understand these differences before you use either in your overall marketing plan. To simplify, think of Tumblr as a microblogging tool with which you can publish short text, image, video, or audio posts. Other Tumblr members can share your content on their own Tumblr blogs with a single mouse click, but two-way conversation isn’t as robust as it is on traditional blogs that are built on WordPress or Blogger. Conversely, look at Pinterest; it’s more of a visual social bookmarking tool than a blogging or microblogging application. When you create a Pinterest account for your brand, you can “pin” images and videos that you find online that you like, just as you would bookmark content you enjoy on a site like Digg or StumbleUpon. You can create pinboards (similar to scrapbooks or bulletin boards used in the days before computers) to hold your pinned content. Using those pinboards, you can categorize your pins to make them easy to find and share later. Pinterest becomes social when other members leave comments on, like, and repin your pins on their own pinboards. In that sense, two-way conversation is more robust on Pinterest than on Tumblr.

Promoting With Creativity

Pinterest’s terms of service clearly state that the site should not be used for self-promotion, so you need to get creative in how you indirectly market your brand on the site. Many brands are already doing great things on Pinterest. Check out this pinboard dedicated to Brands Doing Cool Things on Pinterest to get inspired. For example, Lands’ End Canvas held a successful contest which was promoted on the brand’s Facebook Page. Consumers were instructed to visit the Lands’ End Canvas website and create virtual Lands’ End Canvas pinboards for a chance to win products from the clothing line. There isn’t much sense in simply republishing content on Tumblr and Pinterest, so the best brands on Tumblr are doing more. For example, look at the Today Show on Pinterest and the Today Show on Tumblr. Both destinations offer branded content that is likely to appeal to different audiences. That’s the goal of social media marketing: offering content in a variety of ways so a broad audience can pick and choose how they want to consume your content and interact with your brand. Not everyone likes Tumblr, and not everyone likes Pinterest. The goal is to create content targeted to the audiences that frequent the two destinations in order to achieve maximum brand awareness, word-of-mouth marketing, and business growth.

Finding Your Target Audience

The Tumblr audience to-date skews younger. The Pinterest audience skews female. Of course, both tools are young, and they’re experiencing rapid growth right now. The audiences are likely to become more diverse, particularly as more brands get on board. Currently, Pinterest is a perfect place for lifestyle brands or any business that can create a “lifestyle” around its brand. For example, you might not instantly think of McDonald’s as a lifestyle brand, but pinboards related to busy families, teens, and the Ronald McDonald House charity could be created to develop a sense of lifestyle beyond the traditional quick-and-cheap brand promise that McDonald’s primarily offers. Still not convinced? Check out the Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) Pinterest account. You’ll find pinboards like “Pretty in Pink,” “Illustration/Fun,” and “Touch My Button” — all of which help to make the tech company more personable. Don’t think AMD fits into your lifestyle? Take a look at one of these pinboards and you might think differently. It’s a great example of leveraging Pinterest to connect a brand to a wider audience. If yours is a lifestyle brand or a brand targeted to women between the ages of 25 and 44, Pinterest is a great place for your brand to establish a presence and connect with that audience. If your brand is targeted to people between the ages of 18 and 25, then Tumblr is a great place to put down roots. Furthermore, if your brand is particularly visual, Pinterest is perfect. If your brand is visual but you can also provide audio or text content, then Tumblr is a better choice. The bottom-line is that Pinterest is highly focused on visual imagery while Tumblr is a bit more flexible in terms of the type of content you can publish. Choose the site where your audience spends time and where you can publish the most compelling content to engage your target audience. [Image credits: Francis Bourgouin, Hugo Lopez, M-n-MJosh James]