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November 25, 2013

Alison DeLuca: Using Tumblr, or: How to Become an Arctic Monkey

Tumblr Icon
Tumblr Icon (Photo credit: chadarizona)
For a long time I was conflicted about Tumblr. After setting up an account, I posted a few text posts and then let it lag. Facebook and Twitter were doing it all for me, and I saw no reason to use Tumblr. Besides, I just didn’t “get” it.

Recently I decided to give it another go, and I got sucked in. I’ve discovered what a clean, elegant site it is, and the design allows for a lot of fun. Do be warned that Tumblr is a serious time suck once you start following a decent amount of blogs, but it is also a great way to connect with people who are interested in the same things you are.

As an example, Alex Turner and The Arctic Monkeys market their music on Tumblr by putting up sound bites, pictures, and videos. You’ll probably run into them as you dig deeper into the site – it has certainly worked out for that band. They are doing it right.

Below I’m going to explain how to set up a Tumblr blog, what to do with it, after which I’ll issue some warnings and give a bit of advice to make your Tumblr experience smoother. But before I do all that – why use Tumblr at all? 

There are nine million accounts currently on the site, and more are opening up each day. The majority of the users are young, artistic readers, although there are exceptions, of course. If that profile fits the audience you’re looking for, I highly suggest setting up your own account.
And here are the steps to do that:
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  1. Go to to create an account with your email. This is a matter of entering an email address, choosing a password, and selecting a user name. Click Sign Up, give your age and agree to the user terms, and you’re in.
  2. This takes you straight to the Make a Blog page. Click on the avatar to add an image. Select a background by using the arrows, click on title to create your blog title, and give a description of your blog (also by clicking on the Description.)
  3. Next you go to a Follow blogs page. You’ll need to follow three to create your account. I suggest going to the top right Find and Follow Blogs space to type in your interests : movies, dance, cooking, music – whatever you want to reflect in your dashboard. (I’ll explain this later.) Once you click on the plus sign beside three blogs, you’re on to your next step.
  4. Next you can select your choice of Tumblr app for apple, windows, android – or skip this altogether.
  5. Finally they will ask you to verify your email. Do that and you have a blog! Your url is YOUR USER NAME, although you can customize it.
  6. Now start posting to get the hang of it. You can create text, photo, link, conversation, quotes, clips, and video posts – there is a menu at the top of your page. Click on one option – text, for example - and follow the easy instructions to post the blog of your choice.
  7. IF YOU POST AN IMAGE BE CERTAIN TO ATTRIBUTE IT TO THE PROPER SOURCE. I cannot stress enough how important this is. First it’s the right thing to do. Second, since Tumblr is an art-friendly community, the other users will be quick to pounce on anyone who takes uncredited images and throws them up on their blog or “dashboard.” This includes gifs and edited photos. You will get a reputation, as well as nasty anonymous mail in your inbox if you do not do this from the start. Of course this goes for text and video as well – anything, really. (If you want to create original images and are Photoshop illiterate like me, I suggest a cookie cutter image site like PicMonkey for creating your own edits and manips.)
  8. Once you have a few posts up and get the feel of creating Tumblr input, you can start to reblog. Remember how you searched your own interests and followed a few? On your dash, their posts should be coming up. Since you only followed three, you have a couple of posts to reblog. Do that by clicking the reblog button at the bottom of the post, never forgetting to attribute and tag the post. I tag mine as #reblog and with the source’s tumblr name. At the same time, you can continue to search your interests and follow more blogs – the more you follow, the more posts you will see on your dash. Plus, you’ll start to get followers.
  9. Now you can trick out your blog. Click on the gear wheel and go to the tab with your Tumblr blog name on it. There you can change your avatar, customize your URL, and pick a custom theme for your blog. There are many free themes you can choose. In other words, you do not have to pay for a theme any longer. Tumblr offers a lot of great freebies, although you can also find others online if you’re fairly tech-savvy. 
  10. Regarding comments: Tumblr is pretty comment free, unless you set up Disqus (VERY easy to do from the Disqus site.) You can allow replies on a text post if your title has a question mark at the end, or you can go to your inbox and start to send fanmail to the people you follow. Don’t be shy – Tumblr users love getting mail and reply willingly to friendly, fun messages. Occasionally you might run into a Cranky Pants – it happens to us all. Unfollow and walk quickly away.
  11. After a few days, you’ll start to see your blog posts reblogged if you have fun, clever, original content. Not so much if you’re spamming buy links 24/7, but I think that goes for any social site. Tumblr gives constant Activity feedback in your sidebar – just click on it to see who reblogged what. You’ll also see your followers start to mount up, although not nearly as quickly as on Twitter and Facebook. In a way it’s a good thing – those who follow you really are interested in what you post.
  12. Your main blog is the first one you create. You are allowed to create secondary blogs, but you can’t follow back or send Asks (a type of message) from those. Within any of your blogs you can create pages – an ongoing series of memes, quotes from your books or favorite movies – whatever you like. This is easily done by going to the actual blog url (not your dashboard) and click Customize at the top right. Scroll down on the menu that appears and click +Add a page; it will appear in your blog’s menu.
As long as you respect other users’ intellectual property, create your own fun content, and are friendly and open, you will find yourself with a good-sized list of followers. The number following back is exponential – it starts to increase at certain levels, especially if you are a constant poster. To that end, you can “queue” posts within the app by clicking the pulldown menu for a reblog or original post. You can also customize the number and timing of the queued posts from the gear at the top of your dashboard.

I’ve found Tumblr to be a great place to meet other writers and prospective readers, as well as a window into a young thought process. The users are energetic, intelligent, funny, and the experience is addictive. To that end, the creator of Tumblr has fixed a limit on the number of reblogs you are allowed; he says the reason for that is to force you to go outside every so often! And I must agree with him – it’s good advice.

~About the Author~

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.
Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.

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  1. Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Donna!

  2. I've tried Tumblr a few times and didn't really "get it" either. I'm going to give it a try again. Do you use it to promote your blog like Facebook and Twitter or do you cross-post posts there?

    1. I have put up some posts on Tumblr - it's a good space for reblogging a post that you sweated over. That's a great way of getting up original content!

      Just make certain you aren't spamming your stream or you'll get people unfollowing you. As long as you post content that is interesting and original, along with some reblogs, you'll gain followers.

      Best of luck, and I hope to see you on Tumblr! I'll be certain to follow you if I do.

  3. Good info - thanks Alison and Donna!

  4. style URLs only work for the author. If you have more than one Tumblr, then you can see the dashboards for each site you own. is the URL you want to give to others. Though, I think if anyone not the author is redirected to this one. And this is the version you want to check to see how your site looks to others.

    Disqus only really works if people visit your URL directly. Most Tumblrs browse content through the Dashboard, so they will not see Disqus. Two users who mutually follow each other get a Reply option for anything not a Reblog. These replies show up in the Notes. Sometimes I reblog something as a way to leave a comment.