This wine is too good for toast-drinking, my dear. You don't want to mix emotions up with a wine like that. You lose the taste.
Inspired in part by Anthony De Rosa’s Social Media cheat sheet and the overall dearth of actionable best practices and case studies on the use of Tumblr, I’ve taken a moment to jot down what I think are some of the best ways for brands to use Tumblr.
Know Thyself: More often than not brands are stepping into new social platforms quickly and without a roadmap. Being first doesnt necessarily mean being effective, and optimizing your content isnt the same thing as making it up as you go.
For publishers, driving traffic to an owned site generating ad revenue is likely a top priority. For a retailer an ultimate goal could be a lift in sales. These are hard goals you can build your content strategy around. While you can make the argument that a Tumblr site dedicated to reblogging glossy pictures of people drinking your brand’s soft drink or wearing your brand’s sunglasses is a loyalty or awareness play, its hard to justify the return on time invested without measurable goals especially in a time where marketing budgets are being slashed.
This doesnt mean your KPIs should be limited to click-throughs or conversions. Growing your followers through engaging content begging to be reblogged should be a very basic goal, but once you have that audience what will you do and say to drive your brand forward? Have that nailed down from day one.
And guess what - Tumblr’s firehose is finally open for real-time consumption! Hey thats OK. I dont technically know what a firehose is either but it basically means data. Manage your KPIs against your data regularly and optimize and adjust your content accordingly. Listen. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
More often than not a brand may have multiple community managers, content developers or stakeholders. Although redundant content will get stale its important to have a consistent center which ideally is documented for internal use. Its important that when someone is blogging on behalf of a brand, what they say is in line with that brands identity, mission, and position. There should always be room for colorful commentary but personal opinions should be saved for personal blogs.
Possibly more important than understanding your voice is understanding your audience. Who do you want to reach, what is their language, and how to leverage each specific platform to communicate effectively.
A great example of a publisher with a unique voice on tumblr is Newsweek. As a trusted news source they have done a pitch perfect job of maintaining the integrity of an established brand while adding a looser/less editorially formal voice to their commentary on shared posts and clever spins on original content that drive traffic to their site while really “getting” their audience.
Of the 500+ million page views a day, 70% of that is for the Dashboard. Keep your audiences consumption habits in mind when developing content. Reblogging, liking, messaging, can all happen without visiting someones actual page.
Creating Content: At its core Tumblr is a blogging platform that encourages stream of consciousness short form blogging. Think Twitter + Instagram + Viddy. But having great content doesnt necessarily mean it will be seen or engaged with in a valuable way.
An important part of any community management strategy is a content calendar. Developing tent-pole events around measurable goals that can be teased prior to launch have a greater potential for impact when rolled out effectively.
Is your audience interested in Fashion week? You dont necessarily need to be in the apparel industry to leverage an audience interested in fashion, which is huge on Tumblr. A clever single serving site featuring fashion called Capitol Coture whetted the appetite of Hunger Games fans prior to the release of the film.
A live event, whether the release of a new Apple product or a TV show premiere almost always drives live-blogging. Plan to capitalize on it. MTV launched a cross platform social initiative for their 2012 Movie Awards that included the following:
Highlights from the show played out in animated photographs (.gif) on the Tumblr page, like the moment that Johnny Depp joined the Black Keys on stage. The talent also had access to a .gif photo booth where they could take their own pictures.
Small events matter just as much as large ones. Football season, Holidays, Happy Hour. Having consistently thoughtful quality content served up in a relevant way will increase your odds on being heard. And dont forget to use your queue to time your posts! Finding the best time to post will vary by social networks, but Tumblrs are apparently night owls says Bitly:
Tumblr likes to party! This network shows a drastically different pattern of usage from Facebook and Twitter. One should wait until at least 4pm to post. Also postings after 7pm on average receive more clicks over 24 hours than content posted mid-day during the week. Friday evening, a no-man’s land on other platforms, is an optimal time to post on Tumblr.
Many people view Tumblr as their news feed or entertainment hub. Some people just want to flip through their virtual magazine of pretty pictures and/or celebrity moms. With 500 million page views a day and 15B+ page views month, it would be impossible and inefficient for one brand to create enough new content to satiate that appetite. Being a respected and valued content curator will earn you loyal followers who would rather not sift through the noise and can count on you for breaking news.
The “reblogging” function, while simple, is the foundation on which a rich community was built. I cringe every time someone asks me whats the difference between a Tumblr and a WordPress blog is because theyre worlds apart. While long form is possible, short form blogging is king. It begs to be reblogged and the ability to include personal commentary adds a depth of engagement not possible on Twitter. Twitter is a one to one phone call, Tumblr is a party line.
Carve out time to engage with your audience. Have fun. Use the the “Ask Me Anything” tool. Participate in a meme. While there is a time and place for strategy, being timely and relevant and human is imperative in creating a genuine bond within the Tumblr community.
Tumblr is often personal, irreverent, and thoughtful. Tumblr blogs can range from personal life streams, to the intellectual, to the artistic, to memes - but there is a consistent thread of whimsy that lives somewhere between the playfulness of NyanCat the honesty of LiveJournal and the bawdiness of 4chan. Its incredibly strong sense of community can be its largest asset when looking to deepen brand loyalty and advocacy.
Cats: If all else fails…cats.