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Tumblr 101

Tumblr 101

Tumblr 101

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What is Tumblr? Who uses it? Is it right for your business?

Tumblr has been around for eight years (introduced in 2007), and it’s still growing, especially among younger users. It’s time you learned about Tumblr, how it fits into the current social media landscape, and how your brand can boost their social media presence while hardly moving a muscle.

What is Tumblr?

One of the first microblogging sites, Tumblr trimmed the fat off the traditional blogging experience, making it more fun, lightweight, and incredibly social. Compared to normal blogs and their traditionally lengthy posts, Tumblr offers the maximum social feedback for the minimum content input. For its trouble, it’s become quite popular – not as popular as Facebook or Twitter, but it rivals Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest in user count.


Conceptually, Tumblr combines features of Facebook and Wordpress – it’s a personal blog, but with social media and sharing functionality built in. Its emphasis towards visual content draws comparisons to Instagram and Pinterest, both of which it predates, and with which it plays ball. It popularized ‘reblogging’ – easily sharing and attributing someone else’s post – for which it deserves a place in the pages of web history.

How is Tumblr?

That’s all well and good in theory – how is it in practice?

Well, Tumblr is young. Very young. A solid majority of its users are younger than 34. Predictably, a very large portion of them are mobile users. Curiously enough, the Tumblr community is noted for being fairly positive and relatively troll-free. This isn’t an accident: since user comments will generally only be seen by people who follow them, trolls don’t find it very sporting.

Compared to other platforms, Tumblr is incredibly social. Over 90% of Tumblr’s content consists of reblogged material. Part of this is the culture of the site, and part is the structure: users’ Dashboards only display posts made or shared by blogs they follow. While there are official, editor-curated highlight pages (ie. Explore and Spotlight), and while users can search for posts by ‘tag’ (think Twitter hashtags), most content is only seen when it’s shared. Fortunately, Tumblr users know this, and don’t skimp on the shares.

What Works on Tumblr?

So Tumblr folk share a lot – but what do they consider shareable? Visuals! Photos – particularly animated GIFs – and video are incredibly popular. Text – either captioning a photo or on its own – does well when it’s very short and snappy. But images are the top dog – most users’ Dashboards are filled with easy-to-skim images, GIFs and text. Tumblr users tend to scroll and skim, and only occasionally pause to pore over something.

Knowing how Tumblr is used, you can alter your content to better fit the experience. Videos do well, but animated GIFs are the site’s bread and butter – they don’t require the user to stop scrolling to hit ‘play,’ and they’re less hassle to view on mobile. If a video of yours doesn’t get shared as much as you think it ought to, try turning it into a few animated GIFs with subtitles – an incredibly popular Tumblr format.


What Can You Do?

Successful Tumblr accounts, whether by brands or individuals, have certain things in common. They generate a fair amount of content on a fairly regular schedule, and they tend to stay focused on a particular topic or theme – covering too much ground runs the risk of driving away followers who liked you for your main subject.

Most importantly, they also interact. A lot. For as busy as the big accounts are creating new content, they are equally busy sharing other peoples’ posts, liking them, and commenting on them. Accounts can gain plenty of followers just by sharing other peoples’ good stuff – some followers will come for the curated content, while others will come because it was their stuff they shared. People like to be engaged with on social media – so engage!

Your best bet is to generate a grassroots following using tried-and-tested social media techniques. For example, hosting a content competition is a great way to boost your (and your fans’) profiles, while providing content that provokes an emotional response response (laughter, surprise or thoughtfulness) is always in style. Advertising has been a bit slow to jump on the Tumblr bandwagon – but that’s likely to change soon. Tumblr is still developing its business model, and is eager to encourage brands to set up shop, as evidenced by their rollout of Tumblr + Brands microsite.

Remember that Tumblr is not a Facebook replacement. It’s a somewhat more personal, intimate environment. Tumblr isn’t social like the real world, but social like a series of fan communities – it can be a bit harder to reach, but for most of its millennial users, it’s where the heart is.

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