The Quirky Blogger’s Guide to Tumblr
By Mitali Bellamkonda
Tumblr is a quirky microblogging site. It’s people at their best, their worst and every iteration in between. You will find a blog for everything on tumblr and if you don’t, you can make one.
There are 7 post types that you can use:
Text and Photo posts are the most popular types of posting forms, but quotes, audio, chat and video get used often too. The only time you’ll find link posts are if someone is linking to an extremely long article or a website. You can use all of these forms or just a few of them, depending on what type of content you want to post. The maximum post limit is 250 posts per day. This gets reset at midnight in your time zone. The individual post forms such as photo and video have data limits, but as far as I know, there is no word limit for the text posts.
A lot of people on tumblr are lazy. They’re people, they’re allowed to be. But, being lazy means that they typically won’t read long posts. Plus, the font on tumblr is kind of small, which makes it hard for people to read. People could install one of those online site reader things, but that takes too much work (see first sentence) or they don’t know about them. So, it’s best to keep your text posts short. Under or around 500 words should do the trick. Or, you could do what I do and format the posts so that they look easier to read, by having short paragraphs with plenty of spaces in between (like in this article). There’s no need to clump the info into huge paragraphs that look intimidating.
But, it may be better to try and share the information visually or through audio if you have a lot of it to share. Try an infographic or upload a podcast, be careful with the photo sets though, no one wants extremely long ones on their dashboard (the feed of people you follow). Try and keep it to five pics or less.
Unlike Twitter, tumblr tags don’t need a # in front of the tag to be a viable tag. Instead there is a tag field where you can type in your own tags. Tags are custom, meaning you can create your own tags and are separated by a comma.
You can also track tags. However, be careful with the tags you use as many of them will have unrelated content. For example, the tag DC is used both for DC comics and Washington DC, so if you’re posting about one of those things, the other one is most likely irrelevant to you.
Another thing about tags is that they do not wrap around. If the tag starts going off the tag field, your tag is too long and no one will be able to read the full post unless they have an extension installed (more on this later). Make sure that your tags are short. Also, be sure you consistently use the same tags, so your content is easily found.
Many people use tags as a way of commenting on posts that they reblog, as tumblr has a tendency to jump down people’s throats at whatever comment they add to the actual reblogged post itself. Be careful when commenting on reblogged posts, sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t and sometimes you’ll receive a five hundred reply word back and forth that just becomes worse and worse. Commenting in the tags is like whispering under your breath to your friends in a crowded lecture hall. It’s generally better than commenting on reblogged posts unless you have a source link or some type of update to offer.
tl;dr Tags are important, use them and be careful with them
P.S. Track the url of your blog (not the .tumblr.com part, no one uses that, but the other one, the one that appears on your posts), that’s the one people will use when replying to you. Also tag people with their url, otherwise they may miss your replies to them.
The Tumblr Community
Here, there be dragons…
There are multiple sub-communities on tumblr that make up the tumblr community. These sub-communities mesh and merge and generally there isn’t any sort of clear distinction between them. I’m going to talk about the major one, fandom.
This is the blood tumblr. This is the largest community that tumblr has. There is a fandom for everything, even bathrooms (no, seriously, have you seen the designs for bathrooms lately? They’re awesome!) Anyway, the point is that fandom is huge and the size makes it important.
Fans are people who like, well, anything, but you typically find fans who are fans of stories, whether it be in written, audio or video form. Fans are typically great people. They write great stories about your show/podcast/book/whatever (fanfic), they make art about said thing (fan art) and they even write in-depth analyses of your stuff (seriously, if literary analyse classes actually asked people to write analyses of what they like, more people would be getting As).
However, fans are also volatile, sometimes vicious people. (Note: not all fans are like this, but many of the ones that are vocal about their displeasure give the rest of the fanbase a bad name.) That’s okay though, they’re people first and foremost, and people are like that. There’s no set way to avoid angering a fandom or even individual people in that fandom, but I don’t believe many fans get vicious about release dates (unless you’re talking about the Sherlock fandom which has really long breaks in between seasons).
So, what do you do about this group?
I’m not really sure because they, we, like to be left alone to do our own thing. You may have seen those interviews with the celebs where the interviewer shows them fan art to see their reaction, yes? Yeah, that’s a big NO. Most of us don’t want the celebs/writers/whoever’s involved with the thing to be involved with the fandom beyond knowing it exists and maybe alluding to us once in a while; anything beyond that is a definite NO.
So, how would you market to such a group?
The Daily Dot has a pretty good article about that, in which the main takeaway is tell them stories.
Make up your own universe, your own characters, even your own filing system! There are fans on tumblr who would be interested in the minute details like that. And once you get people to care about your universe/characters/filing system, there’s a good chance it’ll spread.
Disclaimer: I have no idea what makes a post go viral on tumblr.
As far as I know there’s no set formula for that. The most notes (the equivalent of ‘likes’ + the number of times the post has been reblogged) I’ve ever received on a post is three hundred. But, if you tell people a story, there’s a pretty decent chance they’ll share it with other people.
tl;dr: Fans are people, meaning they’re volatile. Be careful with them, they can hold grudges for a fairly long time.