Where many others have failed, 15-second video update sensation Tout seems to be succeeding. And in doing so, it is proving that social media, mobile apps and personal branding are going to walk hand in hand into the foreseeable digital horizon and that (as we have defended here) influencers hold the key for the eventual triumph of many social networks and start-ups (let alone our personal brands) in the 2.0 age.
What it’s about
Founded in early 2011, Tout is a nothing other than a
smartphone-friendly video update application that viralizes 15 second videos by posting them instantly to Twitter or Facebook or sharing them with our contacts via SMS… with a big twist: it has managed somehow to become one of US celebrities’ favourite way of communicating with their followers.
The list is long and includes the likes of Whoopie Goldberg, Ryan Seacrest, Kristin Chenoweth and even Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. And that has no doubt been instrumental in ensuring that, as Tout co-founder Michael Downing revealed in an interview with Anthony Ha of Techcrunch, the novel social network attracts more than 12 million visitors with more than 70 million ‘touts’ being shared and traffic has steadily growing by at least a hefty 20% every consecutive month this year. And the best is yet to come: according to Downing, immediate future plans include a public API that may translate into Tout button and widgets becoming an ubiquitous reality before 2012 ends.
The fact is that few people would have probably heard of Tout until it reached tipping point thanks to the giant step forward it took when a key influencer – none other than NBA global superstar Shaquille O’Neal – announced his retirement from basket to his 3.8 million Twitter followers with a ‘tout’. That single act opened the floodgates and more than half a million people watched the short video within 3 hours. There has been no looking back for Tout ever since: it has gone from strength to strength and enlisted even news and other TV programs like ‘The Talk’ or ‘C-Span’ among its burgeoning number of users.
The winning combination of immediacy, shareability, seamless integration with smartphones and mobile technology and its clear value for personal branding makes Tout a serious contender for the social media awards of 2012 and drives us to believe that it is not a passing fad. The fact is that – along with other novel sites and programs – we are being invited to develop our real-time personal media network as one of the pillars of our personal brands in ways that make us more accessible, more transparent, more connected and in the best of cases more authentic (there can be little question that these videos are much more difficult to artificially enhance or in any shape or form doctor than studio ones).
Your personal branding strategy
Promising as that sounds, personal branders should watch out for online reputation traps before they happily post their videos to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Remember: once it has been posted, there is no way back. Moreover, 15 seconds do not allow you to expand on any given topic and the temptation – just like with Twitter – is to share poorly thought-out recordings that do not show you in the best possible light and can get you into hot water sooner than you think. Having established that, a clever, creative and fun use of Tout can be an immensely helpful add-on to your array of social media tools to communicate what you and your brand are about. So by all means be spontaneous but thoughtful: and above all be yourself.
If Tout continues to gain support in the US, it is only a matter of time before it becomes a global phenomenon. It’s ‘life as it happens’ and we shouldn’t fall into the trap of underestimating its immense potential and how it can shape personal branding and our 2.0 personas in the wake of the ‘mobile revolution’. Only time will tell. In the meantime, becoming acquainted with Tout, following our favourite celebrities and referents, and experimenting ways in which we can use it to bolster our brands is the best advice I can think of as we remain ever alert in the exciting, fast-paced social media world we are in more ways than we think lucky to be living in.