When people talk about social media marketing, Tumblr typically isn't mentioned. But that doesn't mean it doesn't have value. The social network and multimedia microblogging platform has more than 345 million users.
Before you dive into the Tumblr world, read this guide to learn what it is, how to use it, how to contribute to its community and how your business can reach Tumblr's audience.
Tumblr was launched in 2007 and purchased by Yahoo in 2013. Since its inception, Tumblr has grown to host more than 430 million blogs.
It's more than just a place to share life updates, GIFs and pop culture memes. On Tumblr, you can write long blog posts and share photo sets and videos. Unlike on other platforms, there are few limits to what you can share on the site.
Once you sign up for a Tumblr account, you are prompted to create a blog. 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, for example.
It's easy to get acclimated to Tumblr's dashboard. After the search bar is a row of buttons. The Explore button takes you to trending posts, the Inbox icon is for private messages, the Messages tab is for instant chat, the Activity tab shows your notifications such as likes and reblogs, and the New Post button is for creating a text, photo, quote, link, chat, audio or video post.
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Posting to Tumblr
There are seven types of blog posts:
- Text: You can create text posts as long or as short as you want. When you create a text post, you can enter a title and type in whatever text you want to share.
- Quotes: Quote posts are designed for sharing a quote from a celebrity or book, for example.
- Chats: Chat posts are designed for sharing conversations. You can also share 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.
- Links: Here 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, and another box below.
- Photos: You can upload individual images or sets of images, which Tumblr allows you to arrange in several ways.
- Videos: You have the option to embed videos from other websites, such as YouTube, or upload your own.
- Audio: Audio posts on Tumblr are generally music, though some users record audio posts and share them on their blogs.
Once you create a post, you can share 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 it. 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 posts a certain number of queued posts in a certain timeframe.
- 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, those are called notes. The number of notes is displayed under a post. Popular posts often have thousands of notes, and many have been making their way across Tumblr 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 other social media sites, but there are some differences. For instance, they can be as long as you want and can include spaces. Hashtags on Tumblr are also written beneath a post and can be used to organize posts as well.
How to use Tumblr for business
1. Use it as a website.
Unlike on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, there are many options to customize your blog on Tumblr. 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 website.
There are paid and free themes, or you can create your own. Users can purchase URLs and redirect them to their 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, 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 the community.
2. Advertise on Tumblr.
There are several ways marketers can advertise on the platform.
- Sponsored posts: These posts look and behave like regular Tumblr posts, so users can like and reblog them; but they don't need to be following you to see these posts. The posts are placed onto users' dashboards among posts from their favorite blogs. They are targetable by gender, location and interests.
- Sponsored video posts: Sponsored video posts appear in the dashboard among other posts. Rather than photos or GIFs, these posts include videos that autoplay and loop (play repeatedly).
- Sponsored day: This option allows advertisers to take over the top of users' dashboards for 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.
You can learn more about advertising on Tumblr here.
3. Look at trending topics.
As on other social media platforms, the trending topics page is full of ideas. Tumblr's trending page showcases the most popular posts, blogs and topics. Take note of what's doing well on the platform and find ways to make these topics work for your business. Just make sure they're relevant to your brand.
4. Cater to the Tumblr community.
Tumblr users are very community-oriented. To market to this community, you need to do more than just share relevant posts and use the correct hashtags – you need to respect it and become 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. This is good news if you're looking to market to young people, because you can reach millennials and Generation Z with ease. Perhaps not surprisingly, this also means that a lot of the content being shared on Tumblr is humorous and sarcastic. Keep this in mind when you're strategizing how to market to your audience.
- 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 share 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 communities. Many of these are fandoms, which are groups of people who share similar interests. These interests can be television shows, movies, comic books, books, video games and more. If your brand is relevant to the interests of a certain fandom, find ways to market to them.
- Anything goes on Tumblr. From memes to serious news stories, pretty much anything can be shared on Tumblr. Unlike other social networks, Tumblr doesn't censor many 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.
- 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 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 and find your niche and where your brand best fits. But don't act like a brand. Adopt a personality, making sure it's relatable and, most importantly, genuine so that the Tumblr community respects you.
Additional reporting by Brittney Morgan. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.