Imgur's growing community of Millennial males makes the photo sharing site a prime advertising spot for brands like eBay and Starz.
Marketers have long struggled to reach the Millennial male, that elusive group of 18-34 year olds sitting on $200 billion of direct buying power. The problem is, these young men are notoriously hard to reach and famously standoffish towards advertising.
Unless of course you happen to be Imgur, a photo sharing site that boasts 150 million monthly active users, most of them young men who actively participate in the platform's community by voting on original content that is shared. Some even refer to the platform as "Pinterest for men".
On Imgur, there are no "friends" or "followers," just users. And according to Steve Patrizi, vice president of marketing and sales for Imgur, that open community is the perfect place for brands to help users discover new content.
"We want to help people discover and share not just the best the internet has to offer and not just what their friends are sharing. We want to expose our community to more content and make sure it's really fun. We also want to ensure that users discover content that they may have otherwise not have done had they have just seen content that their friends share on other platforms," Patrizi says.
To make sure that brands are getting attention on the site, Imgur pairs advertisers with in-house creatives, many of them hired directly from the Imgur community to make sure the message is a compelling one. For example, to help the Starz network promote Patrick Stewart's new show Blunt Talk, the photo sharing site helped create a platform-appropriate campaign.
"Right now there's a campaign running around Starz new TV show featuring Patrick Stewart," Patrizi says. "It's a (Read more...) different type of character for him; he's kind of this coke snorting TV personality who's nothing like the good guy who he typically plays. So we couldn't just show you a trailer for the show and call it a day, we told users a little bit of what the show's about, and we did it in a voice that didn't sound overly market-y."
To promote the show without using marketing speak, which Imgur's audience mostly rejects, Starz made a gif using a scene from the show in which Stewart's character pops pills but replaced the pills with the site's iconic upvotes. The gif was a hit, with users passing it along and promoting it across the community.
The secret to connecting with Imgur users, Patrizi explains, is making sure the content adds value without coming off as desperate for likes and shares.
"Millennials are very savvy at spotting content that's not developed by millennials," Patrizi says."They're really good at sniffing out when someone is trying too hard. And they're going to respond accordingly. And those advertisers that are pretty authentic in their approach that say 'Hey we know we're not one of you, but we might have some stuff that you like, so we're here to share it with you' are the ones that are successful."
When eBay experimented with an Imgur campaign, they didn't try to offer users products, instead they offered ideas like buying dad a drone for Father's Day that paired cool photos with links to products on the site. The ads were a hit, inspiring hundreds of mostly positive comments, such as "See, this is how you do promos. That thing looks awesome, and... wait. Does wanting one make me a dad?"
For the most part, the Millennial males on Imgur don't mind marketing, as long as it's tailored to their interests. "It has to be very different from most of the advertising you see almost anywhere else," Patrizi says. "It's not heavily branded. eBay is not trying to shout 'Hey we're great. Here's our cute marketing slogan.' Instead it's 'Hey, we have some ideas to help you come up with the coolest gift ideas possible.' So they're really starting with the question, 'How do we add value?' It's a relatively simple formula, like you hear it and you go, 'Of course,' and yet it's very important."
And while the effort that goes into these hyper-tailored campaigns may seem daunting, Patrizi says the potential payoff is unlike any he has seen. "What blew me away when I first started at Imgur was not just the 150 million monthly active users, but that 70 percent of them are spending 10 hours a week on the site. It makes it all worthwhile," he concludes.
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