There are just so many social platforms a marketer is expected to stay on top of — like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and even Foursquare and Instagram — that it can be hard to justify adding another one to the mix. But wait! Tumblr is a unique platform that encourages your audience to engage with you, and you with them. It can be a great tool for B2C content creation — if you have the right target demographic. And it’s actually not that hard to keep a Tumblr up to date and interesting.
But first, what is Tumblr?
Tumblr is a micro-blogging platform launched in 2007. Its users have created over 44 billion total posts between about 98 million blogs, according to the service. One of the primary features of Tumblr is the “reblog” function, which allows users to copy a piece of content over to their own blog and share it with their own followers (similar to Pinterest’s “repin” function). Users can like a post, reblog it, or reblog it with their own commentary.
Wait — reblog? Does that mean duplicating content?
Yes, Tumblr was created entirely around the idea of duplicate content, a fact which has led to its massive popularity, as well as causing it to lose Google ranking power in the past — before its adoption of “nofollow” tags on links. Links from Tumblr to your website will not pass ranking power, but if you have your link attached to a trending post, it will certainly bring you traffic.
Tumblr has found its place in the social arena as a primarily image-centric social network. It’s unlikely that you will see large chunks of text gaining traction on Tumblr — that’s just not how it works. But the advantage of this is that you don’t need to be concerned with duplicate content; just stick to images, videos, and occasional short snippets of text that pack punch and power.
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Once you adapt to this new format, Tumblr can be a powerful content creation (and content curation) tool that increases engagement, website traffic, and inbound leads.
Here are six tips that will help you get started with content marketing on Tumblr.
1. Customize the look
Your Tumblr page is an extension of your brand, so it needs to be set up as conscientiously as you would any other social outpost — i.e., so that its look, feel, and messaging are consistent and in alignment with your overall brand strategy and goals. Even if you aren’t a design expert, Tumblr pages can be easily customized using free and premium themes. But if you do have a designer or user-experience pro at your disposal, custom HTML and CSS codes can also be implemented.
Brands like Kate Spade, IBM, and the 92nd Street Y community center in New York have all customized their Tumblr themes to align with their overall brand message. For example, Kate Spade’s landing page displays 14 posts at once, looking much like a Polaroid picture collage, while the 92nd Street Y took a much simpler route, displaying just a small logo and a single post at the top of its page.
2. Pick a target community, and stick with it
Tumblr is all about small, tight-knit niche communities. To start out, it’s best to pick one or two specific topics related to your brand and create all your content around that proposed theme. Focusing on a few brand-relevant topics will help your brand connect with audiences that are specifically interested in the subjects that you have selected to be associated with your products or services.
To connect with engaged Tumblr communities, always be sure to tag your posts with a few relevant topics. For example, an SEO company would likely tag their Tumblr posts with “SEO,” and possibly “design,” since it’s relatable to the brand, as well as being a top Tumblr topic.
Exploring popular Tumblr tags is a great way to investigate new and emerging trends that are capturing attention on the network. But, as a general rule, the “LOL” tag for humorous content consistently hits the top of the list, as does content related to fashion, art, and media. So if you create content that helps associate your brand with any of these tags, you can give your Tumblr page a distinct advantage.
You might also want to take a look at your competitors’ Tumblr pages to see what types of tags they are using, as well as the types of content they are posting — and how it’s performing.
When you are ready to go deeper into Tumblr strategy, you can search for Tumblr blogs by industry using dedicated Tumblr directories, like this one from Higher Ed Social Media. Searching this list will reveal education industry-related Tumblr accounts from universities, online colleges, and various college departments.
3. Tell an informal story through imagery
The most reblogged posts on Tumblr are those that evoke emotion. But they also tend to be informal. Think of a brand-relevant theme or story that you can tell through the content you create and post on Tumblr. Because of the flexibility that the channel offers, your stories can stick to one running theme, or you can switch them up by the day, by the week, or even on a monthly basis. By varying your stories, you can increase the likelihood that your content will be found by new audiences — or keep existing audience interest fresh and engaged.
For example, Target utilizes Tumblr to promote its fashion and beauty product lines. One of its major themes is, “It’s Time.” The company consistently uses this overarching theme to showcase different outfits and accessories, but to make posts more unique, it varies the “It’s Time” tagline it uses for different looks — e.g., “It’s Time for Lovely Lace” or “It’s Time for Pretty Pastels.” Each post includes a photo of the look, the tagline, a short, descriptive caption, and links to buy each item.
4. Make your mark
A tip for increasing referral traffic from your Tumblr posts is to watermark them with links back to your Tumblr page and your website. This way if users haven’t yet subscribed to your Tumblr page but have found your post while exploring other Tumblr pages, or through the news feed, they can still click on the links in your original post.
The Village Voice watermarks its posts by including a strong visual and a link to the actual content on its website. That way, each time the story gets reblogged, readers can click on the link to learn more about the visual.
5. Post multiple times per day
Just like Twitter, Tumblr is a fast-paced environment. It is perfectly acceptable to post more than once per day — as long as your content is relevant and meaningful. However, unlike Twitter, the content life cycle is a lot less limited: Engagement on Tumblr can build over time, as posts make their way through the site’s various online communities. So, if your content is tagged properly, your posts can continue to receive “likes,” comments, and reblogs days, weeks, and even months after you share it.
6. Give a sneak peak of longer blog posts
As I mentioned earlier, Tumblr is not the best outlet for long-form blog posts, since content success on the platform relies heavily on visuals and short snippets of text. However, you can create Tumblr posts to promote or give a sneak preview of content that you will be hosting on your other channels, such as your website or your blog. To do this, select the most interesting aspect of your blog entry or news article to use as your Tumblr post, include a link to the corresponding blog or website, and post it on your Tumblr page.
In the example below, the Huffington Post used a screen capture with a short caption to encourage readers to access the full article on the Huffington Post website. The headline is intriguing and might convince Tumblr users to click through for a longer version of the post, driving traffic to huffingtonpost.com.
Need a little more inspiration?
If you’re still unsure if Tumblr is right for your brand, or if you need a little inspiration, here are five additional brands that are successfully using Tumblr for content marketing. Take a look at their pages, and see if you can identify the themes, stories, and tactics they use to create branded content on their pages.
For more examples of how brands are creating content on the latest social media channels, read CMI’s Ultimate eBook: 100 Content Marketing Examples.