Public Sector Case Study: The World Bank Wows Fans with Tumblr

Public Sector Case Study: The World Bank Wows Fans with TumblrThe big news in social media this week is Yahoo’s purchase of Tumblr for $1.1 billion with a promise “not to screw it up.”

If you don’t know what Tumblr is, never fear, TIME Technology Editor Doug Aamoth wrote a great explanation to help you understand some of the basics of the popular blogging site and today I’m going to share a Tumblr marketing case study from the folks at The World Bank, so you can see how even in the public sector brands are putting it to work.

How The World Bank Got Started With Tumblr

The World Bank has been active on social media for more than three years now as part of its effort to share its mission and message around the globe, its social media strategist Liana Pistell told What’s Next DC attendees earlier this month in Washington, D.C., during a presentation with her colleague Tariq Khokhar, The World Bank’s open data evangelist.

At one point, managers in The World Bank’s communications department decided it would be great for the organization to have a Tumblr then left Pistell and a group of her colleagues with the challenge of coming up with an idea that would be interesting to people and in line with the organization’s mission and brand.

Pistell said she turned to the most popular Tumblr blogs to see what people liked to see on the site. She was surprised to find one called “I Love Charts,” which is nothing but different kinds of charts.

Interdepartmental Collaboration

That discovery made Pistell think of The World Bank’s extensive data vault, which it made available to the public online about three years ago, so she stepped outside the communications department and reached out to Khokhar for help.

Together they came up with the idea for the now popular World Bank Data Vis Tumblr blog where they post charts based on World Bank data — both created in-house and submitted by the public — and got it up and running in about three months.

That was a short approval period for new social media effort a large, cautious organization like The World Bank, said Pistell, but she was able to navigate the process because of what she had learned in her other work with the organization’s social media outreach.

She and Khokhar made list of sensitive topics they would avoid covering on the Tumblr blog then built up trust in its early days so that now they are able to work on it without having to seek and secure approval for each post before it goes live.

3 Tips for Collaboration and Social Media Success

World Bank Data Vis got all kinds of positive attention online and turned out to be a great success, said Pistell. She and Khokhar shared three tips for how other organizations can achieve similar success:

  • Methodological purity and social media experience are not mutually exclusive. Pistell’s primary goal for the Tumblr is to make The World Bank’s data interesting and digestible for online readers, while Khokhar’s is to tell a more complete, accurate story around the complicated data. They have to work together to be able to provide information both for people who just want quick facts and for those who are interested in the more in-depth details behind those facts.
  • Communications staff should be encouraged to team up with nerdy subject matter experts. Pistell and Khokhar agree the secret to World Bank Data Vis’ success was their interdepartmental collaboration. Even if they’re nerdy and seem to be speaking a different language, subject matter experts have great content to share and can help the communications professionals figure out the best way to do so.
  • Tap into current events and tie them into your content. That’s a good way to connect with what people are interested in at the moment and provide them with more of the relevant content they’re looking for at the same time as you draw them to your brand.

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