Tumblr is an unusual social media platform that many businesses struggle to fully understand. Before you attempt to take it on, make sure you know what it does, how to use it, and most importantly, how your business can best reach Tumblr's unique audience and thoughtfully contribute to its online community.
What is Tumblr?
Tumblr may be new territory to many Internet users, but the platform actually launched in February 2007 by then-20-year-old founder David Karp. According to Tumblr, the network has since grown to host over 200 million blogs. Yahoo purchased the site in June 2013.
So what exactly is Tumblr? It is both a social network and a multimedia microblogging platform, and this combination sets the platform apart from other social networks. Tumblr is much more than a place to share status updates and post photos of your pets — yes, you can share those things, but you also have a ton of options at your disposal. Unlike on Twitter, you're not limited to 140 characters, so you can write long blog posts to your heart's content. And unlike on Instagram, where you can only share one photo or video at a time, on Tumblr, you can share photosets and videos longer than 15 seconds. In fact, there are few limits to what you can share on the platform.
How does Tumblr work?
Once you sign up for a Tumblr account, you need to create a blog. All users must have a primary blog — the one they created when they signed up, and the one from which they can follow other users — but they can also create secondary blogs. For example, users might have their primary blogs as personal blogs where they post and reblog whatever they like, while also having secondary blogs dedicated to promoting their photography. They can post to that secondary blog while logged into their main account, and other users can follow it, but they can't follow other blogs from it — that's only an option from your primary blog. With secondary blogs, you can also add members. This means that if you want to run a secondary blog with the help of other users, you can add them as administrators on that blog and they can post and edit things along with you.
Once you've signed up and set up your blog, you'll see that Tumblr uses a dashboard interface, sort of like what you see on Facebook or Twitter. When a user logs in, the center of the dashboard is a stream of posts from the other blogs that the user follows.
At the very top of the page to the left, there is a search bar. This is where you can search different keywords, tags and trending topics to find new blogs or posts.
To the right is a Home button that takes you to your main dashboard, an Explore button that takes you to the trending page, an Inbox button that takes you to your messages, a Messaging button that allows you to open instant message chats with other users, and an Account button that pulls up a drop-down menu where you can access your settings, get help or log out.
This drop-down menu is also where users can access their own blog(s), the blogs they follow, their followers, the posts they've liked and more.
Next to the Account button, there is also a New Post button that pulls up options for a new blog post. Below that, to the right of the stream of posts on your dashboard, is a box that displays recommended blogs based on your interests, and under that is a box called Radar, which features a sponsored or trending post.
Across the top of the dashboard, above the posts, is a bar that features each type of post that a user can share on Tumblr. Users can click on the type of post they plan to share, which brings up a box in which they can create their posts.
Outside of creating your own posts, you can interact with blogs you follow by liking or reblogging posts. Reblogging is much like retweeting on Twitter; when you reblog a post, it will come up on your blog. You can reblog a post as is, or you can respond with your own commentary or even images. Reblogging is generally how users respond to posts from the blogs they follow, and most users reblog many more posts than they create. Users can also enable replies on their posts, which allows them to post short comments without reblogging the post.
When someone reblogs or likes your post, those are called "notes," and the number of notes is displayed at the bottom of the post on your dashboard, along with buttons to reblog, like, and send posts.
You'll see that popular posts often have hundreds of thousands of notes, and many of them have been making their way across Tumblr for years. The more notes your posts get, the more popular they are — and if you're trying to make something go viral, you can also reblog your own post to give it a boost.
Types of Tumblr posts
As previously mentioned, when you log in to your Tumblr dashboard, there is a bar that features all of the different types of posts at your disposal. There are seven types of posts users can choose from, and each one has its own unique post-creation box, and is formatted differently on your blog and in the dashboard.
- Text: Text posts are exactly what they sound like — posts of text as long or as short as you would like. When you create a text post, you can enter a title (although it's optional) and type in whatever text you want to share.
Posts are in rich-text format, but you can always switch to HTML or markdown if you prefer. To do so, click the gear button in the top-right corner of the post box, and under the "Text editor" section of the drop-down menu, choose your preferred format. To access the rich-text formatting options, simply highlight the text you want to format. Above the highlighted text, you'll see eight floating black buttons: Bold, Italic, Headline, Hyperlink, Strikethrough, Ordered List, Unordered List and Blockquote.
You can also add images and videos to your text posts, and for very long posts, there's a "read more" option that shortens it for sharing purposes. Users can click the "read more" link and read the full post on your blog, but the post will show up as shortened on their dashboards. You can access all of these options by clicking the small, white "+" button to the left of the post box.
- Quotes: Quote posts are designed for sharing a quote from a celebrity or your favorite book, for example.
When you create a quote post, instead of a normal text box featuring a rich-text editor or HTML option, you simply have normal text box in which to place the body of the quote. When typing out the quote, avoid using quotation marks; Tumblr will automatically place them around the quote when you publish the post.
Underneath the quote text box is an optional place to include a source. So, for example, if you were quoting a book or a celebrity, that is where you would put the title or the person's name. Unlike the quote text box, the source text box does feature rich-text editor, markdown and HTML options, so you can include links or photos, or format it however you'd like.
- Chats: Chat posts were designed for sharing conversations. As with text posts, when you create a chat post, you have the option to include a title. Underneath the title box is a text box that automatically formats your chat to look like an instant messaging conversation.
Simply type in each person's name, followed by a colon and what each person said, line-by-line, and the post is formatted for you. For this reason, chat posts do not feature a rich-text editor, markdown or HTML formatting options.
- Links: If you want to share a link on Tumblr, you can do so easily with the "link post" option. When you create a link post, you'll see one box in which you can paste a link. Once you've pasted the link, you'll see a link preview that includes the title (which you can click and edit) and image, and another box below with a rich-text-, markdown- and HTML-enabled caption.
Pasting in a link also automatically puts the page's meta description in a block-quote format in the caption, which you can delete or edit manually.
- Photos: Photo posts are fairly self-explanatory. They're designed for uploading photos, including photography or GIF images (moving images that are generally taken from videos), and you can upload individual images or sets of images, which Tumblr allows you to arrange in a number of ways.
When you create a photo post, you first have to choose and upload your image(s). You can also add an image from the Web by pasting in a link to the photo. Once the images have been uploaded, you're able to add more photos or a caption (which features a rich-text editor and HTML option as well).
- Videos: With video posts, you have the option to embed videos from other websites like YouTube, or you can upload your own.
Users can share as many Internet videos as they please, but they're capped at uploading 5 minutes of video per day and 100MB per file. And unlike with photo posts, users can only upload and share one video at a time.
- Audio: Audio posts on Tumblr are generally music, though some users do record audio posts and share them on their blogs.
To share an audio post, you can either upload your own MP3 audio file (up to 10MB), link to an audio file on the Web, or search for music by entering an artist or track name. You can then choose files from music-streaming services like Spotify or SoundCloud. Once you've selected your audio file, you can add a rich text- and HTML-enabled caption, as you can with video posts.
When posting to Tumblr, you have several options. You can share your post right away by clicking the "post" button at the bottom of the post-creation box, or you can click the arrow next to it, which opens a dropdown menu. On the dropdown menu, you will find the rest of your posting options: You can add the post to your queue, schedule it for a later time, save it as a draft if you're not finished with it or post it privately so only you can access it. If you choose to schedule your post, you can then select the date and time you'd like the post to be published.
But what is the Tumblr queue? It's sort of like scheduling your posts for later, except instead of choosing a specific time, you let Tumblr do the work for you. The queue is a great way to keep your blog active even when you don't have time to post every day. You can set it so that Tumblr automatically posts a certain amount of queued posts during a specific time frame during the day.
If you know you're not going to be active on your blog, you can add a bunch of posts to your queue and let Tumblr automatically publish them. Choose a number of posts you want to be shared throughout the day, and then to serve your audience best, choose a time frame during which the majority of your followers would typically be online and interacting with your posts. [7 Marketing Mistakes You Need to Stop Making on Tumblr ]
Tumblr's tagging system
Like other social networks, Tumblr has a "mentions" system that lets users tag other users via the @ symbol. The network also has its own version of hashtags, which work generally the same way as hashtags on other social networks, with a few major differences. First, Tumblr's tags don't require you to type in a hashtag symbol. Additionally, they can be as long as you want, and they can include spaces. And finally, they are not written in-line with the text of your post, but rather, underneath the post in a separate, horizontally scrolling section.
Prior to Tumblr's addition of the mentions system, users who wanted to tag another user in a post would use the hashtag system to do so, typing in the other blogger's username as a tag. Bloggers often track their username's tag, so they can see posts they are tagged in. Most users rely on both systems to mention other bloggers now. For example, if you were talking about "social marketing" on Twitter, you might type in the hashtag "#socialmarketing" along with the content of your tweet. On Tumblr, however, you would type your hashtag in a separate box, and you could simply write "social marketing" followed by a comma to separate it from any other tags you might use. Once you type in the comma, your tag would automatically appear as "#social marketing" in the post. And as you type in a tag, Tumblr will also automatically suggest popular tags.
Beyond mentioning other users and tagging key topics, many Tumblr users also use the hashtag system as an extension of their blog posts. For example, if you were sharing a "Throwback Thursday" picture of you from your childhood (like you would on Instagram), you might write something like "this is so embarrassing" in the tags, along with tags like "Throwback Thursday" and "TBT."
Users can also use tags to organize posts on their blogs. For example, if you ran a photography blog, you might tag all of the pictures you've taken as "mine" or "my photos" to set them apart from the photos you reblog. Users can then click on that tag on your blog to see other posts labeled with the same tags. Many bloggers also create navigation menus on their blogs to make these tags more accessible. In the photography blog example, you might include a link on your navigation menu labeled "My Photos" which would link to YourUsername.Tumblr.com/tagged/mine or YourUsername.Tumblr.com/tagged/my-photos, depending on the tag.
On other social networks, you can search for tags, and Tumblr is no exception. Not only can you search for tags — so if you were looking for posts about Taylor Swift, you could type in "Taylor Swift" in the search bar on the top right corner of the page (or the search tab in the mobile app) — you can also save tags you want to track.
If you save tags, they will pin to a drop-down menu in the search bar for quick and easy searching later on. Simply click in the search bar and the drop-down menu will display your saved tags — from there, just click on the tag you'd like to search, and you can see all the new and popular posts for that tag.
Messages on Tumblr
Tumblr has several features that allow its users to communicate with each other. First, Tumblr has what is called "Asks," where users can contact each other. Each blog has an Ask box — though you can disable it if you'd rather no one message you — where users can send a question or a comment. Links and photos can't be shared through Asks, however.
If you receive an Ask message, you have two options: You can respond privately and directly to the user, or you can post the person's question along with a response on your blog. When responding to an Ask message, you can add photos. And you don't have to have a Tumblr account to send Asks. Both users and nonusers can submit anonymous messages, though only users who are signed in can send nonanonymous messages. If the Ask message is from an anonymous user, you can respond only by posting to your blog, as there is no option to respond privately.
Tumblr also has a "Submit" function, in which users can submit posts to other blogs. Again, this is a feature you can turn off, but some users rely on the Submit option to communicate as well. Since photos and links can't be sent through the Ask system, the Submit feature gives users a way to share things they wouldn't normally be able to send — although if you receive a submission, you can't respond to it privately. You don't, however, have to publish the submitted posts.
Many people also use the reblogging and mentions features to communicate with other bloggers, though those are entirely public and can be seen on those users' blogs.
Until recently, Tumblr users also had the option to reply to posts and leave a comment without reblogging. For example, if someone posted a photo and you wanted to comment on it without sharing it on your own blog, you could choose to reply to it instead and write something like "Great shot!" However, in 2015, Tumblr made some major changes to how its users could communicate with each other, and that included doing away with the reply option. In its place, Tumblr launched a private instant messaging (IM) system.
To send an IM, simply click on the Messaging button on the top right-hand menu. This will pull up a drop-down box with some suggested Tumblr users and your current chats.
If you have multiple blogs, you can change which one you're chatting from by clicking on your blog's name and selecting the one you'd like to message from. Click the small plus-sign button to start a new chat with a user, and then type in that user's blog name in the "to" field.
When you start a new chat, a small pop-up window in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen will launch.
If you're on the mobile app, you can access your chats from the Chat button on the bottom menu of your screen. This will take you to both your messages and activity feeds, so you can see your blog notifications, or tap Messages to see and respond to chats.
Tumblr profile customization
When you think of social networks like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, customization isn't a feature that comes to mind. Only basic changes can be made; you can upload a profile picture and a cover photo, include some profile information, and link to a website. On Tumblr, however, the only limit to what you can do with your page is what you know about Web design.
Logged-in Tumblr users spend most of their time on their dashboards, where profile customizations are not visible. But customizing your page is important for reaching new followers and for anyone who visits your Tumblr via a link on your website or another social network. It's also important for visitors who may not have a Tumblr account themselves, but still want to peruse your blog.
To customize your Tumblr, you have several options. The platform has a native theme gallery where users can test out dozens of both free and paid themes on their own blogs. These themes range from very simple to intricate, and most of them come with options to customize color schemes, upload banners and background images, and more.
User-made themes are also a popular option among Tumblr users. Many users create themes for other users to implement on their blogs for free or for a small fee, so long as users leave credit to the original designer on the blog.
And of course, if you've got a Web-design team on your side or you understand HTML, you can always create your own custom theme for your organization's blog.
Along with customizing your blog's appearance, you can also easily create pages, not unlike on a typical website. Due to this, along with Tumblr's highly customizable nature, the platform not only gives its users a means to personalize their blogs and express themselves creatively; it's also a great option for hosting a website. Users can purchase URLs and redirect them to their own blogs. If you've ever been on a website that has a gray "follow" button on the top right corner, you've visited a Tumblr-hosted website, and you may not have even realized it.
These customization options are great for desktop users, but what about mobile? Your theme isn't visible on mobile devices, but not to worry; Tumblr offers options for changing how your blog looks on its apps and mobile website, too. With these options, you can change your blog's color scheme, upload a cover photo, and switch the shape of your profile photo to either a square or a circle.
Trending topics on Tumblr
Tumblr does keep track of what's trending on the platform, and you can access these trending topics both via the Web and the mobile app.
On the app, you just go to the search tab to find out what's trending. At the top, you will see a horizontally scrolling bar featuring the top trending topics, and below that you can scroll vertically through the top trending blogs on the network.
To access trending topics on the Web, simply click the Explore button located at the top of the page, next to the Home button. Across the top of the Trending page, you'll see several options — including "Recommended for you" (this is the default page when you click Explore), "Trending" and "Staff picks" — as well as various types of posts, including text, photos, GIFs, quotes, links, chats, audio and video. Clicking on any of these options will take you to a new page.
The "Recommended for you" Explore page shows you posts that Tumblr thinks you'll like, based on your blog. On the top right side, you'll see a box with the top recommended blogs, and below that is a box of recommended searches that is filled with clickable keywords.
The "Trending" page displays the most popular posts at the moment. This page is laid out like the "Recommended for you" page, but in place of recommended blogs and searches that are tailored to your interests, you'll see the most popular trending blogs and topics. This is especially useful for marketers, because you can see what is doing well on the platform and find ways to make those topics work for your business — just make sure they're relevant to your brand.
Clicking the "Staff picks" option also takes you to a similar page, but the content, blogs and searches are curated by the Tumblr staff. And clicking any of the post types will take you to a page with the top posts in that category, as well as blogs and searches that fit the selected post type. For example, if you clicked "Text," you'd see the most popular text posts, blogs that frequently post text posts and searches related to text posts.
Advertising on Tumblr
Tumblr also offers several different native ad products for marketers who want to advertise the platform.
Sponsored posts: Sponsored posts work on both the Web and Tumblr's mobile apps. They look and behave like regular Tumblr posts, so users can like and reblog them, but users don't need to be following you to see these posts. The posts are placed onto users' dashboards among posts from their favorite blogs.
Sponsored video posts: Similar to Tumblr's sponsored-posts option, sponsored video posts work both on the Web and mobile apps, and appear in the dashboard among other posts. Rather than photos or gifs, these posts include videos that auto play and loop (play repeatedly).
- Sponsored blogs: Unlike sponsored posts and sponsored video posts, this option does not appear as a regular post. Instead, it places your business's blog in the Discovery (trending/search) tab on Tumblr's mobile apps, along with other popular blogs and trending topics.
- Sponsored day: This option allows advertisers to take over the top of users' dashboards for an entire day (24 hours). It displays an ad just above the first post on the Tumblr dashboard, below the post box, and allows users to click through to a page filled with posts and other content curated by the brand.
- Radar posts: Radar posts are designed for use on the Web. Like sponsored posts, they look and behave like regular Tumblr posts, but instead of appearing among the other posts in a user's dashboard, radar posts appear in a special section on the right-hand side of the dashboard. It sits above the fold and just under the user's navigation menu.
Tumblr also has options for syndicating ads to Yahoo! as well. You can get more in-depth information about the platform's ad specifications and the submission process on Tumblr.
Like Twitter, Facebook and other social networks, Tumblr has its own unique analytics system so you can track how your posts are doing. This is your "Activity" feed, and it's accessible from the right-hand menu of your dashboard. Your activity feed is fairly simple; it shows your latest notes, followers, fans and top posts.
At the top of the activity feed is a graph showing the times your blog was most popular over the span of the last few days (i.e., when you got the most notes and new followers). Below the graph, you can see the number of notes you've gotten in that time span, as well as how many new followers you've gotten and the total number of followers you have. And below that, your four "biggest fans" are displayed (as in, the four people who have interacted most with your blog in that time span).
Your activity feed also displays your top post, with the number of new notes it has received. If you scroll past that, you can also see a list of all of the notes you've gotten on your posts by day.
Additionally, Tumblr has a separate analytics system that is only available to users with paid ad campaigns. This is aptly named "Analytics" and is also accessible from the right-hand dashboard menu. It shows you much more detailed information about your campaigns.
Along with graphs of your campaign's performance, Tumblr's analytics displays the number of engagements and impressions your campaigns receive, as well as the number of followers you've gained and the engagement-rate percentage. You can toggle between paid and earned engagements, and track the cost per engagement. Additionally, you can view day-by-day performance statistics on individual posts.
You can read more about Tumblr's advertising analytics here.
The Tumblr community
One of the most important things you need to know before using Tumblr isn't how the platform works or what kinds of advertising options are available to you. Rather, what marketers really need to know before they start posting is who the Tumblr audience is, and who they want their brand's audience to be.
What sets Tumblr apart from other social networks is that over the years, it has become a community. And in order to market to that community, you need to do more than just share relevant posts and use the correct hashtags — you need to respect the community and become a part of it in a way that makes sense for your brand. So before your posts fall into a Tumblr void, here's what you need to know about the Tumblr Community.
Most Tumblr users are young. According to digital analytics company ComScore, half of Tumblr's visitor base is under the age of 25. This is good news if you're looking to market to young people, because if you use Tumblr correctly, you can reach millennials and younger generations with ease. Perhaps not surprisingly, this also means that a lot of the content being shared on Tumblr is humorous and often sarcastic. As long as it's relatable to young people, you'll find it on your dashboard. It's important to keep this in mind as you're strategizing how you want to market to your audience.
The community is very supportive. Many Tumblr users identify as social outcasts in some way or another. Over the years, Tumblr has become a safe place for bloggers to share things they can't share on other networks. They can find people all over the world who are going through or can relate to the things they're going through, and they can remain anonymous if they so choose. The Tumblr community is also a huge proponent of mental health awareness, and it's not uncommon to see posts sharing hotlines and inspirational advice go viral on the platform. Many Tumblr users have formed real friendships over the years thanks to the supportive nature of the network.
Fandoms are everywhere. While Tumblr itself is a huge community, the platform is home to many smaller communities within. Some of these smaller communities are just groups of friends, or people who share similar hobbies, like photography or writing poetry, as well as people who promote or support the same social justice causes. Many of these smaller communities, however, are fandoms.
Not familiar with the concept of fandoms? They're groups of people who share a similar interest (and usually post about that interest constantly). These interests can include television shows, movies, comic books, books, video games and more.
Given the popularity of fandoms on Tumblr, if your brand is relevant to the interests of a certain fandom, it could be worth it to find ways to market to them.
Anything goes on Tumblr. From memes to serious news stories, pretty much anything can be shared on Tumblr. And unlike other social networks, Tumblr doesn't censor most things, so don't be surprised if you have a run-in with some NSFW (not safe for work) adult content while perusing the platform. But don't worry, there are third-party browser extensions that can help you avoid these types of posts. Tumblr Savior, a Google Chrome extension, is a popular one that allows users to blacklist certain tags. Most users tend to tag these posts as "NSFW" to make blacklisting easier for other bloggers.
It's also not uncommon to see people discussing things like depression and other often upsetting topics. Generally, users will tag those posts with phrases like "trigger warning" and the topic they discuss. You can also blacklist these tags with third-party apps and extensions.
Tumblr fame is important. It's possible to become famous on Tumblr, and it's a very coveted thing for many bloggers. Achieving Tumblr fame seems to be entirely random — all it takes is one or two of your original posts to go viral, and you could wind up with thousands and thousands of followers.
This may not seem relevant to marketing, but if someone Tumblr famous reblogs your content, it could drive a lot of visitors to your page and increase interactions with your posts. These are the bloggers you want to keep track of. Watch how they interact with their followers and what kinds of things they share. Even if they don't notice your blog, analyzing their Tumblr use could help you strategize your own.
The best way to be successful on Tumblr is to understand the overall community, find your niche and where your brand best fits in that community, and immerse yourself. Don't act like a brand; adopt a personality. Just make sure it's relatable, and most importantly, genuine, so that the Tumblr community respects you. Otherwise, you won't be gaining followers any time soon.
Tumblr may seem like a complicated social network, but there some tips and tricks to make using it a little easier.
There's a Tumblr bookmarklet. If you're using Google Chrome as your Internet browser, you can drag a "share on Tumblr" button to your bookmarks bar for easier sharing. With the bookmarklet, you can share a Tumblr post from anywhere on the Web, not just from your dashboard. And if you want to post a link, the bookmarklet will automatically include it in your post. You can find the bookmarklet on Tumblr's apps page.
You can post via email. Don't have access to the app while you're on the go? Don't worry, you can share posts on Tumblr via email, too. Each blog gets a custom email address from Tumblr, and all you have to do is send your post to that email.
You can phone in audio posts. If you don't have access to a microphone but want to post audio, simply dial the phone number 1-866-584-6757 and follow the instructions to record and share an audio post on your blog.
- Use short URLs. Tumblr post URLs tend to be long, so if you want to share a post elsewhere but have to abide by a character limit, click the gear button at the top of your published post. This will open up a little window that shows you the post date, content source and a "short URL" designed for sharing.
- You can turn off endless scrolling. Prefer to click through pages on your dashboard? Although Tumblr automatically turns on endless scrolling in the dashboard, you can change this by going to your account settings, clicking "dashboard" on the right-hand side, and toggling off the "enable endless scrolling" option.
You can read more-detailed tips on Tumblr.