- Tumblr is a social media platform filled with blog posts and eye-catching images, making it a great fit for hosting a business page and running ads.
- Tumblr can be a trustworthy option for marketing to younger users, but the platform’s user base has always been smaller than those of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
- Tumblr can integrate with Google Analytics to provide meaningful audience insights.
- This article is for small business owners interested in using Tumblr to promote their brand.
When people talk about social media marketing, Tumblr isn’t always mentioned. But that doesn’t mean this social network and multimedia blogging platform doesn’t have value. Before you dive in and try Tumblr for yourself, read this guide to learn what exactly it is, how to use it and how your business can reach Tumblr’s valuable audience.
Tumblr was launched in 2007 and purchased by Yahoo in 2013. After that, Verizon bought Yahoo in 2017 and thus became Tumblr’s owner. In 2019, Verizon sold Tumblr to Automattic, the company behind WordPress, and Automattic remains Tumblr’s owner today.
Since its inception, Tumblr has grown to host more than 549.5 million blogs, according to the company, and Statista reports it had more than 312 million monthly visits at the start of 2022. What’s the attraction? Compared to some rivals, Tumblr is more than just a place to share life updates, GIFs and pop culture memes. Here, you can write personal or business blog posts and share photos and videos.
Once you sign up for a Tumblr account, you’re prompted to create a blog, as that’s the platform’s main function. All users must have a primary blog, but they can also create secondary blogs. A user might have a personal blog as their primary one while having secondary blogs dedicated to promoting their photography business, for example. The reverse is a great option too.
It’s easy to get acclimated to Tumblr’s dashboard. To the right of the search bar is a row of buttons. The “Explore” button, which looks like a compass, takes you to trending posts. The “Inbox” icon to the right is for private messages. Next are the “Messages” tab for instant chat, the “Activity” tab for notifications, and your account settings. All the way to the right is the “New Post” button for creating a text, photo, quote, link, chat, audio or video post.
Posting to Tumblr
There are seven types of blog posts on Tumblr that function similarly to templates.
- Text posts: You can create text posts as long or as short as you want. When making a text post, you can enter a title and type in whatever text you want to share.
- Quote posts: Quote posts are designed to feature a quote from a celebrity or book, for example.
- Chat posts: Chat posts are meant for sharing conversations. You can also include a title with chat posts. Under the title box is a text box that will format your chat to look like an instant message conversation.
- Link posts: With this format, you can share a link. Once you’ve pasted the link, you’ll see a preview that includes the title (which you can click and edit) and image, as well as another box below.
- Photo posts: You can upload individual pictures or groups of images, which Tumblr allows you to arrange in several ways.
- Video posts: You have the option to embed videos from other websites, such as YouTube, or upload your own.
- Audio posts: Audio posts on Tumblr are generally music, though some users record themselves speaking and share them on their blogs like podcasts.
Once you create a post, you can publish it right away, post it to your queue, schedule it for later, save it as a draft or post it privately so only you have access. The Tumblr queue is similar to scheduling your posts for later, except Tumblr decides when to post them. The queue is a great way to keep an active blog even when you don’t have time to post every day. You can set it so Tumblr automatically publishes a certain number of queued posts in a specific time frame.
Tip: Looking to easily share an in-progress Tumblr post with your team before going public? Post it privately and let employees with access to the account take a peek. This way, you can get their feedback before publishing it for the masses.
Below is some common Tumblr jargon you’ll likely encounter as you start navigating the platform.
- Reblogging: Reblogging is like retweeting on Twitter. You can reblog a post as is or include your own commentary or images. Typically, reblogging is how users respond to posts, and most users reblog more than they create posts.
- Notes: When someone reblogs or likes your post, that is called a note. The number of notes is displayed under a post. Popular posts often have thousands of notes, and many have been making their way across the Tumblr community for years.
- Asks: There are several features on Tumblr that allow users to communicate with each other. One is called Asks. Each blog has an “Ask” box that allows users to send questions or comments. You can respond privately or publicly to a person’s question.
- Submit: While photos and links can’t be sent through the Asks system, they can be shared through the “Submit” button.
- Hashtags: Hashtags on Tumblr are similar to tagging on other social media sites, but there are some key differences. For instance, on Tumblr, they can be as long as you want and include spaces. These hashtags are also written beneath a post and can be used to organize posts as well.
Pros and cons of using Tumblr for business
Tumblr can be a powerful tool for marketing your business and connecting with customers and potential clients, but it has drawbacks too. Below are some of Tumblr’s pros and cons.
Pros of using Tumblr for business
- You can engage with a younger audience. Millennials and Gen Z comprise the majority of the Tumblr user base. That makes Tumblr an excellent choice for your marketing campaigns if your target customers are younger people. [See tips for marketing to Generation Y.]
- You can use visual media. If you’re more comfortable with visual forms of marketing and advertising, Tumblr might be a great fit for your business. The platform leans heavily toward images and art, making it an ideal way to visually promote your company. [Learn how to create a strong visual brand.]
- You can build a website. Tumblr is so customizable that it can be your company’s official business website. In fact, it’s often a less expensive way to build a site, rather than employing a developer. That said, some people may be able to immediately tell that your website is a Tumblr page, which might not come off as the most professional, depending on your target demographic.
Did you know?: Squarespace can help you build a website without obviously revealing that you used some sort of website builder. It may be a better option than Tumblr if you want your website to look professional.
Cons of using Tumblr for business
- Its audience is declining. Tumblr’s audience has been in decline since 2018. This stems from the platform’s decision to ban NSFW content, a choice that is a much bigger deal than it might seem on the surface. Tumblr was one of few major social media platforms to allow NSFW content, so when it enacted this ban, millions of users left in protest. Not many of them have returned.
- It’s not as prevalent as other social media platforms. Even before the user exodus a few years ago, the platform’s user base never quite reached the size of those of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Marketing on Tumblr has always been a choice that small business owners make knowing they’ll reach somewhat fewer people than they would with competing options.
- It’s tough to engage older customers. If you sell products or services that target older demographics, you might strike out on Tumblr. The platform’s user base skews young; according to Statista, most users are between the ages of 15 and 35.
How to use Tumblr for business
You can use Tumblr to aid your business in the following ways.
1. Use it as a website.
Unlike on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, there are many options to customize your blog on Tumblr. There are paid and free themes, or you can create your own. The only limit to what you can do with your page is what you know about web design. Because it’s so easy to customize, some business owners use Tumblr as their company’s website. You can purchase desired URLs that fit your company and redirect them to your Tumblr blog.
“To launch quickly and not invest a whole lot of time and effort into developing a full site, I decided to use Tumblr to build my beta website,” said Jen Refat, founder of Craftic. “It’s incredibly easy to customize. Not only was it easy to develop and launch within a week’s time, [but] the built-in social media functionality has proved really helpful in sharing my content.”
Refat added that Tumblr has a vibrant DIY and craft community, so her posts function as both blog tutorials and promotional posts for fellow crafting enthusiasts.
Did you know?: Taylor Swift is one of Tumblr’s most famous users, with social marketing skills many business owners would envy – and can learn from.
2. Advertise on Tumblr.
Tumblr offers several options for businesses interested in partnering with the platform for advertising. Among the options are native ad experiences and custom opportunities designed to meet your company’s unique needs. The vendor also has what it refers to as the “Tumblr Creatr Network,” a collective of artists and designers with whom businesses can collaborate on ads.
Like most online platforms, Tumblr has an advertising policy that governs what can and can’t be featured in ads, in accordance with the company’s own “guiding principles” and legal regulations. Among its principles, Tumblr recommends advertisers “be honest to a fault” and creative because “Tumblr users appreciate that.” To get the process started, business owners need only fill out a quick form on Tumblr’s advertising page.
3. Identify trending topics.
As on other social media platforms, Tumblr’s trending topics page (within the “Explore” section) is full of news and conversation pieces. It showcases the most popular posts, blogs and topics. Take note of what’s doing well on the platform, and find ways to make a posting about those subjects work for your business. Just make sure the topics are relevant to your brand; otherwise, you’ll seem inauthentic and be targeting the wrong audience.
4. Gather insights into your audience.
Although Tumblr can’t itself run analytics on your page, it integrates seamlessly with Google Analytics. You can link the two to determine your number of blog visitors and how frequently they’re visiting. Other available analytics include the search terms that pull up your page and the location of your audience. See our beginner’s guide to Google Analytics for more details.
FYI: Social media sites like Tumblr and Instagram often get a bad rap for their effects on teens, but these platforms can open surprising doors for companies. For example, check out the unexpected ways Facebook is good for your business.
5. Cater to the Tumblr community.
Tumblr users are very community-oriented. To market to this base, you need to do more than just share relevant posts and use the correct hashtags; you also need to respect the community and become part of it in a way that makes sense for your business. So, before your posts fall into a Tumblr void, here’s what you need to know about the Tumblr family:
- Most Tumblr users are young. This is good news if you’re looking to appeal to young people, as you can reach millennials and Gen Z with ease on this platform. Perhaps not surprisingly, this also means that a lot of the content shared on Tumblr is humorous and sarcastic. Keep this in mind when strategizing how to market to your target audience via this forum.
- The community is very supportive. Many Tumblr users identify as social outcasts. Tumblr has become a safe place for bloggers to share things they can’t on other networks. They find people they can relate to, 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 thanks to the supportive nature of the network.
- Fandoms are everywhere. While Tumblr itself functions as a huge community, the platform is home to many smaller ones. Many of these are fandoms, which are groups of people who share similar interests. These interests can be tied to television shows, movies, comic books, novels, video games and more. If your brand is relevant to the interests of a certain fandom, find ways to market to them on Tumblr.
- Influencers are important. As with other social networks, popular Tumblr users get tons of engagement from their followers. If one of these influencers 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 followers and the things they share. Even if they don’t notice your blog, analyzing their Tumblr usage could help you strategize your own.
To ensure your success as a business on Tumblr, take the time to understand the overall community and find your niche where your brand best fits.
One last tip: Don’t act like a brand. Adopt a personality, making sure it’s relatable and, most importantly, genuine so the Tumblr community respects you. Consumers and brands can maintain humanlike relationships, and Tumblr is one way your business can achieve that.
Max Freedman and Brittney Morgan contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.