Tout is a new video-based social network on which users posts 15-second videos on whatever they please, kind of like a status update but in video form. Tout first caught my attention when World Wrestling Entertainment started using it heavily. It popped up a few times since then but I didn't really look into the service until the Wall Street Journal got involved.
I like the idea of Tout because it's geared towards short, concise content. So I set up an account for Plan Asia and started experimenting. The idea that my colleague and I came up with was to use Tout as a tool to create content that can be used to promote Plan's Because I am a Girl campaign. That campaign, as you can probably guess, is all about putting girls' rights on the agenda, with a focus on education globally and child marriage in Asia.
The way Tout works is that you record a video either on the site with a webcam or on your phone using the iOS or Android app. What I've done is get Plan staff in Asia to record Touts saying how they think the campaign will benefit girls either in their country or in general. So far we have Touts from Plan's CEO, from the Asia regional director and from colleagues in Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. Those Touts can then be shared on Twitter, Facebook and the like.
Because the Touts are so short, what you say has to be to the point, very much like a Tweet. I think there are a lot of possibilities for using Tout from the perspective of a non-profit. For example, you could Tout short situation reports when disasters happen. You could do Touts from the field, to give people a visual snapshot of programmes that goes beyond a photo. There are also opportunities to interact with people in the form of video discussions.
The trouble with Tout at the moment is that not many people use it and of those who do it's hard to really gauge what their interests are. The search function on Tout isn't that functional, so finding people is difficult. Another issue is sound quality. You really need to use a microphone/headset or else you succumb to the perils of background noise.
But where Tout could really fall down is in main idea behind the concept: the short videos. Fifteen seconds really doesn't give you much time to say anything. You can make a quick point, but you can't elaborate. In future updates, I'd like to see options extended to brands and regular users whereby they can Tout for 30 or 60 seconds.
Another issue, and this is one that non-profits will need to be particularly aware of, is that as of yet there is no function for flagging abusive or bullying Touts. There is no reporting mechanism and Tout support is slow in responding to queries. This needs to be fixed ASAP. Freedom of expression is one thing, but there must be ground rules that can then be effectively enforced.
Finding interesting Touts is another stumbling block. When you look through the most recent Touts, it begins to feel like a little like the worst of Twitter (boring updates) in video form. People are free to Tout about whatever they want and a lot of the time it's very dull. The section for featured Touts isn't so regularly updated and it appears that those Touters who are featured are those brands that have a partnership with Tout. A little more diversity would go a long way.
What I'd like Tout to become is the video equivalent of Audioboo — something people can use to do citizen reporting that can then be shared immediately on social media. All right, you can do this with Youtube, but a Youtube channel isn't necessarily the best place for this kind of content, particularly if there is a level of interaction. Touts are somewhat personal and I don't know if a non-profit or any kind of brand is going to want to populate its Youtube channel with Tout-like videos. It's not the place for it.
So that's Tout in a nutshell. Whether or not it will last will depend on whether it's used effectively. It may just end up a novelty that sticks around for a little while and then dies out. Or it may find its feet and blossom like Pinterest did.