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January 10, 2013

Tips on Thursday: tumblr

I was asked in the comments of last week's tips post if I had any thoughts on tumblr. Of course, I have thoughts on tumblr was my answer and then I told them they would have to wait until this week. Tumblr is actually one of the few chapters I have written for the book I'm unsuccessfully attempting to write.  

What is tumblr? 

I like to refer to tumblr as blogging lite, but the correct term is microblogging. According to web definitions from Wikipedia, tumblr is a blogging platform that allow users to post text, images, multimedia, links, and quotes. 

Image representing Tumblr as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase
If you already know what blogging is, then the definition is a no brainer. But it probably still doesn't tell you a whole lot about how you might want to use tumblr or why you even want a tumblr.

Why have a tumblr?

Ease of Use

If you are thinking about blogging, but want an easy to use platform that still has a decent accompaniment of bells & whistles, then tumblr is worth looking into. In the heiracrchy of blogging platforms, I rank tumblr number one for ease of use, followed by Blogger and Wordpress.

If you want to focus solely on content in your blogging, then tumblr is the way to go. Those who blog using Blogger and Wordpress, have to spend a chunk of time "behind the scenes" working on layout and design - optimizing our sites for user engagement.

Short form content

A second reason I often hear why people don't blog (I'm thinking authors here as that is who I'm usually advising about increasing their social media presence) is they don't know what they would talk about. However, it really isn't about the topic they are worried, but the length they can discuss such topics. When people think blogging they think "essay" length content. And if you ask people in the blogging world for a standard word count for a blog post, you will hear 500 - 1000 words (I actually wrote a tips post on length in my early days of giving advice). 
I know blogging can be daunting when you think about word count, and that is why microblogging has grown so rapidly.  People have been microblogging on Facebook and Twitter for years - sharing tidbits of their lives and thoughts on things that have caught their interest. Tumblr can sort of be seen as a marriage between Facebook and Twitter. 

If a paragraph or less of text is your normal blogging, then tumblr is the place to be - particularly if you are more interested in sharing links, images, videos, and audio. I'm not saying this isn't done on Blogger and Wordpress, but the standard is different.

Do I need a tumblr?

You may be thinking, I'm already on Twitter and Facebook, do I really need a tumblr? The answer is probably yes. 

If you aren't already long form blogging (and not ready to take the plunge), then the answer is definitely. At the end of 2012, there were over 86.8 million tumblr blogs with a combined total of posts in excess of 39 billion (Wikipedia). It will allow you to reach readers in a different way than Twitter and Facebook does.

Aesthetically, tumblr will provide a better presentation for the information you are already conveying on Twitter and Facebook. And in comparison to Twitter, it gives you a bit more room to express yourself. You will be able to customize your post a bit more than you do on Facebook and tumblr doesn't decide for you which of your followers get to see your post like Facebook does.

If you are already long form blogging, it's not as necessary, but could still be useful. If your posts tend to be more observational, shorter, or not really conversation starters (doesn't lend itself to commenting), and you are short on time, you may find tumblr to a great alternative to long form blogging. And as that platform is all about shorter posts then you might find more of an audience.

You can also use tumblr as a "promo" or add-on sites for your long form blog. Much like we use Twitter and Facebook to draw readers to our blogs, we can use tumblr as a teaser. If you are going this route, I do recommend you add tumblr specific posts as well so it isn't just promos all the time. You can share items that aren't fully relevant to the focus of your blog. For me, I might use it to discuss publishing industry news. While it is related to my blog (so interesting to a similar audience), industry news is not a focus on my blog.

A pro & a con to consider:

A cool feature I really like about tumblr is it's built in "Ask my anything" widget. It allows readers to submit questions privately to you that you then can answer publicly on your tumblr. For those familiar with Formspring, the concept is the same, but again, for tumblr, it is built into the platform and not something you have add-on and externally manage. It adds a layer of interaction with your readers, which leads be to probably the biggest "con" I have with tumblr.

Commenting... Unlike with Wordpress and Blogger where users that are on other platforms (or don't have accounts on any of them) can comment on a post, tumblr requires a tumblr log in to reply to a post. Comments are also limited in length. I have read about ways to add traditional commenting to tumblr using Disqus.

Are you a tumblr?

I'm all for experimentation in social media: it's not one platform fits all. If traditional blogging isn't working out for you or you can't fit a thought into 140 characters on Twitter, definitely try out tumblr.

Are you using tumblr currently? I would love to hear what is working (or not) for you.

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  1. I understand the microblogging platform idea (and like it) but I really struggle with the technical aspects of Tumblr. I can never get my posts right.

    1. Hmm. If have something specific maybe I can help. Shoot me an email and we can talk more about it.