Jonathan Gillette is credited with first using the term tumbleblogs to refer to short-form or microblogs in 2005. In the following year, a 20-year old David Karp would borrow the term to name his new microblogging platform, Tumblr.
Tumblr launched in 2007 and within weeks had over 75,000 users. In 2012, Yahoo! acquired Tumblr — and, as of the time of this writing (July 15, 2014), the site boasts 195 million blogs, 83.1 billion total posts, and 97 million daily posts.
For the 13- to 25-year-old demographic, Tumblr is more popular than Facebook. It would be a mistake to think that Tumblr is simply a playground for adolescents, however — according to 2013 demographic data from Quantcast, 88% of Tumblr users are over 18, and 57% have at least a college degree.
The platform is popular with Hispanics, who comprise Tumblr’s largest ethnic contingent. And it’s worth noting that when Tumblr fans spend time on the platform, they tend to spend more time than their counterparts on Facebook or Twitter.
If you do the online ethnography for your important segments, you’d do well to know if they are represented on Tumblr. If your company sells micro-oscillator widgets that go into industrial machinery, no, this might not be the place for you. If you are consumer-oriented in any way, though, you should take a look.
The large numbers should earn marketers’ attention. However, as a student of social media – and let’s face it, we should all be students of social media — what’s truly intriguing about Tumblr has less to do with its user demographics or actual toolset, and more to do with the culture of how it’s used.
For instance, on Facebook, the tools are there to share content. Yet, users on Facebook who repost content dozens of times in a day are frowned upon. On Tumblr, that behavior is completely normal and expected. It’s built into how the platform is used.
A user on Tumblr might simply scroll through their feed, clicking away on the “love” button or occasionally reblogging something they want on their own feed. On Facebook, the user might be more selective in how they share.
For an example of Tumblr culture, take the following: A Tumblr user posted the question, “Why does Denny’s have Tumblr?” The brand responded, “Why do you?” To date, that post has over 350,000 notes.
In fact, Denny’s has been considered to exemplify how a brand can use Tumblr well. The response above might be considered a bit too cheeky if posted on Twitter — on Tumblr, it strikes just the right note.
Denny’s Tumblr archive provides a great illustration of the type of content that tends to do well on Tumblr: animated gifs, witty bits of text, and a second-helping of humor.
A “note” in the parlance of Tumblr is any instance of a post being liked or reblogged.
If you’re a community manager who’s well versed in the ways of Facebook and Twitter but hasn’t played in the Tumblr sandbox, beware: it’s not just the same thing.
Many Tumblr users consider the leaving of spurious comments on a post to be rude. As one user described, “It’s as though someone borrowed a book from the library and left a written note in the book saying, “Wow, this is cool!’” In other words, it’s not considered good form to comment on a post unless somehow your comments make the original post even better.
Content most commonly noted on Tumblr includes bits of humor that you might only understand if you spent some time on the platform. For instance, one meme is based on variations of “I just came here to have a good time and honestly I feel like I’m being attacked.”
One place it is considered perfectly okay to comment is by using a hashtag.
Hashtags are used a bit differently on Tumblr than they are on the other social platforms. For example, you can use spaces in between words.
They’re not only used to allow users to find content using search, but are a way of communicating, too.
In the Denny’s example, above, where the user asked why Denny’s was on Tumblr, the response included a hashtag of “#because it’s fun.”
Tumblr As Blog
Many businesses are using Tumblr as their primary blog. A great example is Threadless, a brand that seems to be custom-made for Tumblr.
While not for their primary blog, Hyundai recently had a dedicated Tumblr account for their sponsorship of the World Cup.
The best examples tend to be businesses that have either great imagery by default, such as a fashion brand or media outlet, or are willing to create imagery specifically for the platform.
Just posting great images can go a long way. The best uses of Tumblr, though, come from organizations with community managers who are sensitive to the ethos of the platform. I recommend that if you’re not familiar with Tumblr, dig in! Create an account. Spend some time with it. Pretend you’re one of your own community members with interests in the things you’d expect from that group. And then, have some fun.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.