It’s Taylor Swift’s world, and we’re just living in it. Not only is she taking over the pop charts with her new album “1989,” she’s taking the Internet by storm, too.
Celebrities are already known for their huge social media followings, but Swift’s online presence is more than just a growing collection of fans. The 24-year-old country-turned-pop superstar has truly mastered the art of social networking, and her album and concert ticket sales aren’t the only thing that will benefit from her online strategies — your business can, too.
Swift already has 46 million followers on Twitter, nearly 13 million Instagram followers and over 71 million Facebook fans. But where the star truly shines is on her latest social networking conquest: Tumblr.
Back in September, Swift joined Tumblr much to the delight of her fans (also known as #swifties). But to understand why this is such a big deal, first you need to understand Tumblr. Here’s a breakdown:
- It’s not just a social network; it’s a multimedia microblogging platform. What does that mean? It’s more than just a place to share status updates and photos of your last vacation. When you log in to your Tumblr dashboard, you have several options at your disposal: You can share text posts, links, photos, videos and audio posts. And you can do more than just create and share your own content — like Twitter, where you can retweet a post someone else created that you want to share with your followers, you can “reblog” posts on Tumblr. When you reblog a post, you can share it as is, or add your own commentary.
- Unlike more public platforms like Twitter and Facebook, Tumblr is seen by its users as a community. Tumblr is, by definition, a social networking website just like the others. But to avid users, Tumblr is more like a huge (but still tight-knit) community where everyone can feel like they belong. And it’s full of smaller communities in which, over the years, people have formed real friendships with other users who share their interests all over the world. Some of these smaller communities include “fandoms” (groups of people who like the same television shows, movies, comic books, etc.), and others are people fighting for a similar cause or who share similar hobbies, like writing or gaming.
Tumblr users share everything — funny memes, relatable text posts that range from sad to hilarious, photography, inspiring quotes, funny videos, poetry, music, and often their deepest and darkest thoughts — and the community is supportive and accepting of all of it. On Tumblr, there’s something for everyone.
- It’s incredibly customizable. Unlike on Facebook and Twitter, where your profile is a specific format and you can only customize certain aspects, Tumblr gives you free reign. While your dashboard looks the same no matter what, there are seemingly no limits to what you can make your blog look like. Tumblr offers free theme options, as well as options available for purchase. And many users create their own. This makes it more than just a social networking and blogging platform — it’s a great place to build a website, too. Additionally, it’s a great way for Tumblr users to set themselves apart and express themselves in a way that they can’t on other platforms.
- Tumblr also has its own unique tagging system, similar to hashtags. On Tumblr, users can tag entire sentences (including spaces, unlike on Twitter or Facebook). They can also easily save tags they want to track in a drop-down list. Tumblr bloggers do use the tags practically; for example, if you were blogging about the show “American Horror Story,” you would probably tag it with “American Horror Story” and “AHS” and even the name of the episode you were watching. But users also employ tags in humorous ways or to share more information that they didn’t include in the body of the post. You can additionally use them to organize your blog. For example, many users tag things they write about their everyday lives “personal,” and if you clicked on that tag on their blog, it would take you to all of their other posts with that label.
Everyone already knows that each social network is distinctly different. LinkedIn, of course, is a professional network. Facebook is tailored to sharing news (both about your life and what’s going on in the world) with your friends and family. Instagram is where you post snapshots of your everyday life. But the end result on Tumblr, for many of its users, is an online collage of everything that makes up their personality and interests them, no matter how mainstream or unique those interests may be. And that’s a distinction that many brands and celebrities fail to make when they sign up. Swift, however, just gets it.
Swift’s success on Tumblr is not just because she’s a 20-something like many of her followers, or because she already has a huge fan base (though that doesn’t hurt.) It’s because she encapsulates everything that a typical Tumblr user is: She’s open, funny, personable, interactive and willing to share her interests with the world.
Here’s what Taylor Swift did (and continues to do) right:
- She asked for help. When Swift ventured into the complicated and quirky world of Tumblr, she didn’t just start posting her own content. She sent a message out to her fans that read:
“Taylor here. I’m locking myself in my room and not leaving until I figure out how to use my Tumblr. Well, I might leave for a second to get a snack or something, but that is IT. I am FOCUSED. I have lots of questions, help me.”
And when the community started responding — she reblogged another user who told her to “ask away” — she asked a ton of questions about how to reblog, how to use GIFs (those moving images taken from videos that you’re likely to see all over Tumblr and websites like BuzzFeed) and more.
“Overwhelmed. Taking deep breaths,” Swift posted.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a practical way for everyone to start a blog — Swift obviously had a large amount of followers flocking to her the second she announced she had a Tumblr. But there are a few reasons this worked so well for the singer. First, since she’s a celebrity who is often idolized, it made her seem more human, approachable and likeable. And second, it showed that she had an active interest in not only joining the network, but also in using it the right way.
- She embraces the community. Once Swift figured out how to use Tumblr (thanks in part to all the help she got from her fans), she didn’t just start sharing her own content or talking about herself. She used it to connect with fans and become a part of the Tumblr community. When her fans mention her in posts, she reblogs them and responds. She follows her fans and other blogs that interest her, and reblogs content from those, too.
Even though she just released a new album and is actively promoting her upcoming tour, Swift’s blog is not saturated with her brand. In fact, most of it is her interactions with the community — something many brands don’t achieve on Tumblr. By all accounts, Swift is just like any other Tumblr user, and that’s a huge part of what makes her blog so successful.
- She isn’t afraid to get personal or funny. Swift’s Tumblr strategy is important because she’s not just sharing things her fans post about her; she’s interacting with them in an extremely personal way.
A perfect example of this is her use of the tagging feature. Swift uses the tags the way that most users do, writing humorous things that are often an extension of the body of her posts. For example, Swift recently reblogged a funny photo set that another user posted of Swift and her cat, Olivia. Swift wrote, “‘Are you slowly becoming your cat? Is your cat slowly becoming you?’ (Questions this post evokes),” and tagged it “#yes and yes.”
And Swift’s most famous foray into the Tumblr community didn’t even happen online. A few years ago, Swift was unknowingly the star of a Tumblr post that went viral; a user posted an old, black and white picture of the star, but the caption told a very different story. The user who shared it claimed the picture was of a friend named Becky. When another user reblogged the post and pointed out that it was actually Taylor Swift, a third user replied, “no its becky [sic].” Shortly after Taylor joined Tumblr, she was spotted wearing a shirt that said “no its becky [sic]” much to the surprise and delight of her fans.
She also regularly reblogs pictures and videos of her fans, sharing inspiring words like, “Stay excellent,” and writing, “I love you,” in the tags. Her blog is consistently warm, welcoming, funny and genuine, and her fans love it.
- Her blog itself is simple and appropriately understated. As previously mentioned, Tumblr is very customizable. However, most users spend their time on the dashboard where those customizations aren’t visible. Swift’s blog is simple. The layout is clean; the background is the cover of her most recent album; there are links to her other social networks, and there’s an iTunes widget built right in where users can purchase or listen to her latest releases.
Why is this so important? Since Swift primarily uses her blog to interact with the community, she doesn’t need an overly complicated theme with tons of bells and whistles. Her blog has everything it needs in a way that is not overwhelming to those who visit it. And most importantly, while it gives visitors the appropriate links to purchase her album or connect with her elsewhere, it doesn’t make visitors feel like they’re being persuaded to buy into anything. It doesn’t feel like an advertising hub for a brand; it feels like a real, genuine blog.
If you want your business to step up its Tumblr game, follow Swift’s example. Tailor (so to speak) your content to the audience the best way you can, make things personal and funny when you can, and be interactive. Don’t act like a typical brand and just share your content — take on a relatable persona (just make sure it’s genuine!) and join the community.