An essential guide for brands on Tumblr

Buzz about the blogging platform is reaching a fever pitch. Here’s what you need to know to establish a presence on the site.


Blogging platform Tumblr has exploded in the last year. According to the company, it boasts 20 billion posts and 50 million blogs. Those numbers continue to rise every day.

As Tumblr blogs such as “Texts from Hillary” and “Kim Jong Il Looking at Things” going viral and making national headlines, it’s likely that the platform’s popularity will continue to grow.

Some brands have already taken note and set up shop on Tumblr. Fashion companies, for example, have set the standard in how Tumblr should be used to support the lifestyle branding mentality. Media companies have also trickled there to share content with legions of followers.

Tumblr isn’t blogging like you’ve come to know it on platforms such as WordPress and Movable Type. While you can create text-based posts like you would find on those platforms, Tumblr skews more to the ADD set. Links, images, and video are the most popular pieces of content. You follow people as you would on Twitter, and their posts show up in your dashboard. From there, you have the option of reblogging their posts. As brand managers, your success on Tumblr will largely rely on your ability to inspire your followers to reblog your content.

Tumblr’s 25-year-old founder and CEO David Karp recently gave Advertising Age a few hints of how he plans to make the platform more brand-friendly in the near future.

But why wait? Every company and agency is going to have its own criteria to determine whether it’s time to launch into a new social media. If you have the resources to build a robust presence in Tumblr and your fan base is already talking about you there, it’s probably time to get started.

Luckily, there’s plenty we can learn from those who have gone before us:

Start with the basics

Where will your Tumblr posts originate?

If your brand creates media—through a blog, YouTube channel, or some other online avenue—there’s a built-in content stream. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to curate and aggregate from around the Web and from other Tumblr users.

Some legal departments won’t be entirely comfortable with this. You’ll know best how to navigate your company’s legal landscape, but it’s always a good idea to come to them with as many examples from other brands as possible.

Understand your goals

The basic questions you need to ask are:

  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • How will this medium help you accomplish that?

Tumblr is not a place for shameless promotion. If anything, you’re promoting a lifestyle. You’re promoting links, videos, audio clips and images that will interest your audience.

Establish your benchmarks for success

There’s no go-to formula for establishing success benchmarks on Tumblr right now, so it’s probably best to create a mix of qualitative and quantitative goals you’d like to meet. You can establish a number of followers and re-blogs you’d like to hit, but it might serve your brand better in the onset to measure individual success stories and quality interactions. Becoming a valuable asset to the Tumblr community should be your initial focus.

Tumblr’s analytics are somewhat paltry, so you’ll want to work with your metrics team to reach outside of Tumblr for better ideas of how you’re growing month-over-month.

Think temporary

There’s still a mindset in corporate marketing culture that blogs must be permanent things that last for years and exist in perpetuity. That’s not necessary true. Tumblr’s nature is such that you can create a temporary blog to highlight an event or product launch. In these cases, think of Tumblr as more of a living pamphlet that will lose its relevance eventually.

That said, you’ll want to keep a main brand presence, but don’t be afraid to create blogs for focused purposes and kill them when that purpose is met. Target did this during Fashion Week with some success.

Focus on Images

Take a look at Vogue‘s Tumblr. The magazine is posting only a couple of times a week right now, but each post sees a high engagement level. That’s because of the strong imagery. They’re not just shoveling out a ton of content because they can. They’re using the best images—the most relevant content for the medium.

This goes for all social platforms, but keep your copy short and let the images and links do your talking. If this is too daunting, or if you don’t have the type of content that would fit this approach, you may want to rethink whether Tumblr’s the best medium for you to reach your fans.

Avoid embarrassment

There haven’t been any brands to make major gaffes on Tumblr—yet. You don’t want to be the first. If anyone in a brainstorming session says something like “We should create a meme!” that should be your cue to take pause.

A meme is a concept or idea—think pictures, such as Photoshopped images of Angelina Jolie’s leg or Hillary Clinton text messaging—that spreads virally online.

By nature, memes aren’t created. They just happen. Brands who try to force it in this medium will find themselves on the wrong side of ridicule.

Consider highlighted posts

There has been plenty of speculation in the past year on how Tumblr expects to monetize its platform. We got the first hint when the company unveiled highlighted posts, which, for $1 a pop, help your highlighted post stand out in the dashboard.

As the Tumblr staff blog explains: “Every now and then, a post comes along that’s meant for big things. It could be pulling the wraps off your new project, promoting your next show, raising awareness for a cause, or just sharing a truly incredible photo.”

This feature might be a good way for your brand to grab some attention on Tumblr. But avoid overdoing it. Remember, you’re trying to inspire audiences, to create a lifestyle around your product or service—not drown them in sales pitches.

(Image via)

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