Tumbln into Tumblr: 7 Reasons it Hits a Social Media Sweet Spot

Tumbln into Tumblr: 7 Reasons it Hits a Social Media Sweet Spot

The recent announcement that Yahoo is buying Tumblr has, among other things, raised people’s curiosity about the platform. Contrary to popular perception, it isn’t “just” for teenagers, techies, and hipsters. If you haven’t considered adding Tumblr to your social media portfolio yet, this article offers seven reasons why it hits a “sweet spot” for established individual and organizational users, complementing and augmenting engagement on other platforms in unique and effective ways. (May 28, 2013)

Author: Courtney Hunt


Tumblr. Follow the world’s creators.

That’s how Tumblr presents itself. On its About page, it goes on to say:

Tumblr lets you effortlessly share anything. Post text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos from your browser, phone, desktop, email or wherever you happen to be. You can customize everything, from colors to your theme’s HTML.

Although Tumblr is over six years old and has more than 100 million blogs, until the Yahoo announcement it was virtually unknown – and probably even less understood. I confess that my initial experiences with it weren’t positive, and it took me a while to figure out its vibe (yes, it’s the kind of platform that has a “vibe”), but its potential value became clear once we started to work with it. Because images seemed to predominate Tumblr content (or so we thought), we originally assumed it would be a good place to occasionally reshare some of the original content from our Pinterest boards. We quickly realized Tumblr offers many more possibilities, however, and decided to fully integrate it into our digital network and engagement strategy (unfortunately, due to resource constraints, we later had to drop it).

There are seven main reasons Tumblr hit a “sweet spot” for us…

1. Tumblr is designed for multimedia sharing. Sure, other platforms allow for multimedia sharing, but none of them do it as comprehensively, seamlessly, and easily as Tumblr does. As the icons in the graphic below depict, there are seven options for types of posts: Text, Photo, Quote, Link, Chat, Audio, and Video. Not only are these options clear for post creators, they’re also clearly indicated for post readers. In addition to immediately conveying its content, each post has a visual tag indicating what type it is.

Tumblr options graphic

2. Tumblr enables sharing of posts that are longer (and richer) than tweets and status updates, but not as long as regular blog posts.

From the blogger’s perspective… Tumblr posts require more thought and effort than a typical tweet or status update, but the investment required to create a high-quality Tumblr post is significantly lower than the investment required for a typical blog post. That balance enables the creation and sharing of more content while avoiding information overload or posts that get lost in a high-volume, fast-moving stream.

From the reader’s perspective… With only 140 characters, tweets can’t convey a lot of information beyond headlines for content-oriented posts. If you want to see an image or see a synopsis of a post, you have to click on the link (or view the tweet directly on Twitter). Posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ can provide more information, but the format is generally restricted to a thumbnail image, a title, and a brief description. With Tumblr, however, the “at a glance” view can either share a complete story or provide stronger indications that a deeper dive is warranted. At the same time, because the posts are short form, they don’t require as much of a time commitment as a blog post to review and absorb.

To share a food-related analogy… Tumblr provides a nice “small plates” alternative to the tastings offered by Twitter and the full meals offered by blog posts.

3. Tumblr allows for a better balance between personal and professional identities than other platforms. Many early adopters and social media enthusiasts believe it’s okay to blur the boundaries between their personal and professional networks and activities, but most people don’t share that view. They see Facebook for personal use, for example, and LinkedIn for professional use, and often create separate accounts for their personal and professionally-oriented Twitter activity. Because of the types of posts that can be created on Tumblr, as well as the way in which engagement works on the platform (i.e., following is asynchronous, and direct interactions are relatively limited), it’s easier to convey individual personalities while still maintaining a high degree of professionalism and not getting too personal. I especially appreciate the fact that people can be a little more informal and cheeky with Tumblr posts than on places like LinkedIn – or even a primary blog.

4. Tumblr provides a unique balance between flow and permanence. The main feed on a Tumblr page is a stream, similar to what you would find on Twitter, a Facebook or Google+ page, or a LinkedIn group. Unlike some of these other streams (especially Twitter), the stream can flow fairly slowly. In addition, each post can be tagged, like in a full-form blog, which allows bloggers to aggregate content on specific topics. Visitors to the page can then either view the stream in reverse chronological order, or they can click on a tag to see content related to a topic of interest.

5. Tumblr blends subscription options, offering readers more flexibility. Like many social media platforms, readers can “follow” a tumblelog (yes, that’s what they’re called) if they have their own Tumblr account, which means that posts from that blog will show up in the feed on their own dashboard. They can also subscribe to a tumblelog using the RSS service (with or without having their own account), including receiving posts via email, a reader, or a social media aggregator. And of course if a tumblelog is public, anyone can view it by visiting the page.

6. Tumblr facilitates differentiated sharing and resharing of content better than other platforms. All social media platforms allow sharing and resharing of content, but what I like about Tumblr is that each type of sharing is clearly indicated. Reblogs, for example, are clearly marked in the main feed. In addition, posts that have been “liked” can be listed in a separate section of clickable snapshots. And for readers, sharing options for each of post can be clearly indicated, making it easy for them to reshare via multiple platforms.

7. Tumblr can serve as a great aggregator of content from other platforms. This may be my favorite reason for leveraging Tumblr. Although it probably can’t be used as a sole or primary platform, it can be a very powerful and effective secondary platform for individuals and organizations that are well established in other places and can capitalize on and benefit from Tumblr’s unique characteristics. Its multimedia format in particular makes it very easy to channel content from other platforms (e.g., Pinterest, a main blog, SlideShare, YouTube) into a single, well-differentiated feed that is both more appealing and easier to digest than the feeds in other platforms.

Can you think of other reasons why Tumblr is worth adding to an individual’s or organization’s social media portfolio? We’d love to hear from you!


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