Is Tumblr Really a Valid Marketing Tool?

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Just over a year ago, Yahoo! paid a billion dollars to acquire Tumblr. They may have done this to get in on the social scene and expand their offerings, or they may have just been trying to impress the cool kids. Either way, this caused a lot of talk in the industry, and a lot of marketers were writing about the best ways to use the microblogging site in their content marketing campaigns.

So, in the last year or so, what has changed? Is it still a valid marketing tool?  Is it worth getting involved with one more social platform when you already have a blog that demands your attention like a very loud and very spoiled child?

Let’s take a look at what Tumblr really is. A lot of you have likely heard of it, heard that it was something you needed to get involved with it, but weren’t sure what, exactly, it was. Ask anyone what Twitter is and they’ll tell you that it’s for updating the world on what you ate for dinner. Ask someone else what Pinterest is for, and they’ll say recipes and crafts. (Neither of these things are completely true anymore, but go with me on this.) If you were asked what Tumblr is, would you say:

a)      Just one more free blogging site
b)      A place for hipsters to post pictures of people who are well aware they’re way cooler than you
c)       A dumping ground for memes and gifs
d)      A conglomeration of rabid Sherlock and Dr. Who fans
e)      A corner of the internet with readers who will be quick to defend or destroy everything you post

Of them all, e) is probably the closest to the correct answer.

However, because all those other options aren’t exactly wrong, a lot of companies have written off Tumblr as just being too unprofessional. Then again, a lot of really big brands have jumped on the Tumblr train and really made good use of it. Just a smattering of examples includes:

  • Calvin Klein
  • Audi
  • Target
  • Disney
  • eBay
  • GQ
  • Coca-Cola

It is getting a lot of notice because the word has gone out that the ever-important demographic (those under 25 – otherwise known as the “cool kids”) have gotten bored with Facebook. What? I hear you say. Facebook is not dead, you add. Facebook is life! Well, there are a lot of people out there looking for a new life – one in which they can express themselves, and one in which they are no longer assaulted by unwanted friend requests and farming simulators.

Tumblr has become the single blogging platform where your general worthiness isn’t based on page views, but about your community – the people who have found and liked your stuff.

But What Is It Really?

Tumblr hit the sweet spot right between Pintrest, WordPress, and Facebook. It has the blogging tools you need to present yourself how you want, the social media tools that make it easy for people to find, share, and subscribe to your stuff, and an image-centric community that makes it ideal for people with a lot visuals.

Consider if you will, the humble hashtag. While this is something that you can use in Facebook, it doesn’t have a whole lot of meaning. In Tumblr, however, the hashtag is actually useful because users are actually using the platform to find new content. Facebook keeps modifying its algorithm to reward content creators who pay for more reach – i.e. just to reach the people who are already following you. The blogging mentality of Tumblr means that you can reach people who are simply looking for good content.

It certainly sounds like there’s a lot of potential here to reach new customers and make it easy for them to follow and share your stuff.

Why Does It Matter to Marketers?

According to Tumblr’s numbers, there are 125K new users signing up every day, and there have already been 189 million blogs and 83 billion posts created (almost 93 million a day). The level of activity on Tumblr is growing faster than almost any other platform.

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Image source: marketr.tumblr.com

But this is just the start. According to some other figures, Tumblr is growing in many different ways and posting some impressive stats, including:

  • 300 million unique monthly visitors
  • 20 billion page views per month
  • 28th highest traffic site on the web
  • 65% of users have a college education
  • 50% of users are under the age of 25 (which may not be as cool as they seem to imply, because we could just as easily say that 50% of users are over 25)
  • 17% of visits occur while at work, meaning most users are at home where they can take some time and enjoy the content

Once something makes it on Tumble, it also tends to have a much longer lifespan. This graph shows one of their latest studies to see how long the audience kept information about their favorite show circulating on Tumblr and Twitter.

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Image source: marketr.tumblr.com

So Is It for You?

Okay, so it’s got a lot of great features. Is it really worth the effort for you to add yet another social platform into your campaign? There are a few things that may determine whether or not it will be worth it to you.

Think of Pinterest. If you’re using it, or can use it, you can probably make good use of Tumblr, too. If your company is very image based – products, charts, developments – or your company culture is something you show off, this can be a powerful tool.

You may also employ Tumblr if you want to start building a new audience. Maybe you want to share more casual items about your company, but your blog has been cultivating a very professional audience. Maybe this is where you can share incidental stuff to your business, things that don’t fit anywhere else but might attract more followers.

If You Gotta Do It, Do It Right

So you’ve decided to bite the bullet and jump on the Tumblr train. You’ve decided it can work for you, so you need to strategize a little to make sure it will work for you.

  • Use Images – If you provide no images, you provide no reason for anyone to share your stuff.
  • Be Focused – Don’t try to be everything to everyone on Tumblr. This audience likes finding content about their favorite things, and they like a unique perspective.
  • Be a Person – Not a marketer. This is not the forum for marketing messages. It’s a place for hanging with the cool kids.
  • Provide Quality – Don’t believe that the casual nature means that you can be sloppy. Aim for high-quality, valuable content, just like everything else.
  • Quick Updates and Evergreen Content are Both Valid – By its nature, things posted on Tumblr have a longer lifespan, but users still prefer some brevity in their content. Still, it’s a good place to host some evergreen content that users can keep coming back to.
  • Be Shareable – Give people a reason to share something. Text-heavy articles are pretty bland, long content is only shared if it really has something worthwhile in it, and memes are only interesting the first hundred times they’re reblogged. Be creative and go for an emotional response.
  • Be a Brand – Give your audience what they expect from your brand, or be very clear that your Tumblr exists specifically to give them something new.
  • Be a Pal – Follow, share, and reblog other stuff. Respond to comments. Make comments on other posts. Networking – remember that?
  • Don’t Just Reproduce Your Blog – Focus on something particular about your brand. Branch out. Get philosophical. Find a new angle on your product that may not be a direct benefit, but is still cool.
  • Ask for Submissions – Work with your community. People on Tumblr are used to creating content, so it’s not such a big step for them to create something for you. There’s a submission feature that you can enable on your Tumblr if that kind of interaction fits with your strategy.

Tumblr offers a lot of opportunities for large and small companies. While a lot of big brands have shown that they can build a great audience on the platform, many small businesses have moved in and done the same. It may not fit with your overall strategy, or you may simply not have enough time for yet another social media channel, but as the audience there continues to grow, it will become harder and harder to ignore.

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