Why would customers want to see a photo of the CEO laughing at the company barbeque? Read the IT guy's musings? Watch a childhood video of the marketing director?

The answer is connection. In an era saturated with information and products, experts say brand recognition and brand loyalty are key; customers need to be aware of a brand, why they should try it, and then stick with it. A cheap and easy way to attract potential customers is through social networking. Facebook and Twitter are ubiquitous, but tumblelogging, a stream-of-consciousness style of blogging, is an increasingly popular method for businesses to connect with their customers.

Tumblr, which launched in 2007, is a tumblelogging platform that has attracted 6.6 million users over three years. It's a tool that makes blogging wildly easy for individuals, and the same applies to businesses. More perks for the corporate crowd: the domain and page design can be personalized, it interfaces with Facebook and Twitter to automatically update those pages, and it works with Google Analytics, a tool that tracks website traffic, and Feedburner, which distributes content via an RSS feed. Here's how to make your activity on Tumblr lucrative.

How to Make Money on Tumblr: Forget Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing, with its slogans and stock photos, won't always cut it in today's hyper-connected world, but from a cost-benefit perspective, that's not a drawback. Tumblr is free to use and is designed to make posting easy, enabling a brand to make quick and regular forays into the Internet consciousness to achieve ever-critical brand recognition. It takes only a few clicks to format text, photos, quotes, links, audio or video content, and then post it.

"A blog tied into social media is a golden ticket for many businesses," says Stephanie Chandler, a Sacramento-based author of business books, including Entrepreneur to Infopreneur: Make Money with Books, eBooks and Information Products. "What I'm seeing is this shift from spending money on advertising to spending money on social networking. Social media is a phenomenal tool for sharing content online, and content is what's most important for marketing. You want to inspire people to learn more about your company."

The T-shirt business BustedTees, started in 2004, uses its Tumblr mostly to post new T-shirt designs and deals. The New York City-based company, an offshoot of the comedy site CollegeHumor.com started in 2004 with a six-person staff, has used Tumblr since it launched. "It was a no-brainer to get out on a blogging platform," says Amanda Ferri, production manager. "It was an obvious way to get information out to our fans."

BustedTees' Tumblr blog, followed by about 1,000 people, acts as an extension of their newsletter, which goes to about a half-million people. The company also has a separate website where customers place orders. "The Tumblr community might be different from our normal customers, people who don't get the normal newsletter," Ferri says. "With Tumblr, they still know what's going on with our company."

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How to Make Money on Tumblr: Engage Your Customers

If the point of social media is to connect with customers, business bloggers need to interact with their customers consistently or the connection is lost. "Engaging creates loyalty, and it builds bonds," Chandler says. "Attracting customer attention costs far less than attracting new customers and you can do a lot of that by engaging on social media, building those customers for life."

On Tumblr, engaging is straightforward: post a question or ask people to "like" something — a new concept, advertisement or publication. Followers on Tumblr can re-post something onto their blog, spreading your message.

Mikhail Ledvich, director of retail at BustedTees, says the company watches "re-blogs" on Tumblr, "which means readers of their blog now see our content. A really good post will get 40 to 60 re-blogs, which is great for getting BustedTees in front of new people via a trusted source. In general we use our blog to give visitors a peek behind the curtain of BustedTees, rather than look at it as a direct sales channel."

More internet traffic on a page drives brand recognition, which translates to dollars as customers become more interested in a product.

But, Chandler warns, don't post it and forget it; it's important for companies to engage with customers on the blog — answer questions, banter, note what customers like.

On BustedTees' blog, there's a question of the day where the best response wins a free T-shirt. Once consumers get the product in their hands, they are more likely to buy another. The most recent question: "Assuming you will survive but have to live with the physical and emotional consequences, would you rather be attacked by a swarm of killer bees or a shark?"

But customers' favorite type of post is the rejected BustedTees ideas — "shirts we started making and had the sense not to finish," Ferri says. The crew posts half-finished T-shirts on the blog as they're discovered.

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How to Make Money on Tumblr: Keep It Simple

Tumblr is designed for quick and easy posting, and the information businesses share on their blog should reflect that, Chandler says. Customers are more inclined to read quick information hits than 2,000-word dissertations, and multi-media support — photo, audio, video — captures interest. BustedTees, for example, Ferri says, posted a commercial their marketing guy starred in as a fifth grader.

BustedTees has Google Analytics installed to track visitors and find out "what they are looking for so we can continue to add relevant and engaging content," Ledvich says. "For example, we found out that many fans search for 'BustedTees models' so we did a series of interviews and added extra photos not seen on our site."

"Your blog should be seen as a useful resource," Chandler says, so business blogging should focus more on providing information than on persuading people to try a product or service. "You want to educate your consumer and demonstrate the added value your company brings."

A carpet cleaning business could blog about how often a rug should be shampooed; a transportation business could blog about road conditions; an information technology firm could blog about virus sweeps. The information may seem mundane, but customers who use a product or service are interested in the supporting information, Chandler says. "Also think about what your customers like to see," Chandler says. "Show the people behind the business."

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How to Make Money on Tumblr: Nurture Your Page

The more effort business bloggers put into their Tumblr page, the more they get out of it, Chandler says. Blogging showcases information for people who are aware of a company, but consistent blogging drives traffic, which elevates the page's placement in search engines, which means it's more likely to be seen as an industry resource.

"We were concerned when we first started Tumblr for the company that we'd be gung-ho for six weeks then forget about it," Ferri says. "Our rule of thumb is to constantly update content on it." Every Tuesday the company releases new designs on Tumblr, and sales, deals, and any tangential photos or videos are posted regularly.

Chandler's steadfast rules for successful blogging:

•    Update the page at least three times per week. An active page will have better placement in search engines, which will attract traffic.

•    Use industry-specific key words in posts. Search engines pick up key words, so industry-specific words will attract the right kind of traffic. The right kind of traffic translates into new customers.

•    Make a blog easy to access and follow. Customers can follow a page on Tumblr, and anyone online can access it.

•    Engage followers once they've shown interest. More followers make the page more significant in the nebulous Internet.

Tumblr's platform enables a company to establish a personality; engaging personalities drive traffic, which drives brand recognition, and eventually sales. So at the next staff meeting or company barbeque, pull out the smart phones and start tumblelogging.

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