Why Publishers Should Keep an Eye on Tumblr

May 23, 2013

For publishers, participating in social media is often about two things: resources and branding.

There isn’t anything definitive that says using Tumblr is a must for all publishers, but recent developments certainly suggest it’s one to watch. 

First things first. You need to understand what Tumblr is.

Most will describe Tumblr as a blogging platform, and the numbers support that definition with over 107.5 million blogs created on the six-year old platform and over 70 million new posts a day.  Yet, Tumblr supports the sharing of many types of content that include photos, links, music and video (notably, it supports GIF files).

What perhaps sets it apart from other social platforms is its marketing potential: its users (46.5% are between the ages of 18 and 34 years old) express themselves very creatively and often use the platform to celebrate a particular brand.  In fact, they create communities around a brand, which is perhaps one of the more compelling reasons for looking at Tumblr for its marketing and branding.

But, Tumblr is also unique in that Founder and CEO David Karp has historically expressed an aversion to common types of online advertising and his measured approach to introducing advertising on the platform can be credited (in part) for the loyalty of its users.

That loyalty and Tumblr’s approach is about to be tested. With the news that Yahoo! purchased Tumblr for $1.1 billion—there is a lot of speculation (naturally) about whether the deal will change the platform too much for the liking of its users.

But, both Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer and Karp say that Tumblr will retain its own identity and maintain its mission to “empower creators.” Theoretically, Tumblr will get more resources and faster growing ability, while Yahoo will use the platform to help refresh its own brand.

There is plenty of talk about what types of advertising opportunities will be introduced and a lot of it centers on creating a model that truly suits the platform. To date, the advertising introduced on Tumblr isn’t extensive:

Two products, one that allows brands to promote their Tumblr to a percentage of users, and one that allows brands to promote their posts in specific categories support the idea that brands use Tumblr like other users do and that the platform’s commitment to beautiful, creative, memorable content (that is sometimes brand-oriented) is honored.

Meanwhile, Tumblr’s mobile ads were introduced just recently. With this step into Yahoo, it will be interesting to see how the ad model evolves and where it succeeds—that process in itself, offers value to publishers who are exploring their own ad models.

BUT, how are brands using Tumblr as a marketing tactic, regardless of ads?

Generally speaking, a few brands are using Tumblr to establish a presence that provides background and tells the story of their company. And because most brands have been slow to catch on to Tumblr’s potential, it’s an opportunity to beat out your competitors.

Like with any social platform, it’s about engaging, quality content that is useful and in Tumblr’s case, inspirational to the community with which you are engaging. Check out 5 Brands that get Tumblr, to see how companies like Coke, Target, Sesame Street, American Express and Disney are making the most of the platform’s multimedia capabilities. Coke may provide a particularly compelling example for publishers, since it recently launched its own online magazine on its corporate site.

Another one worth a peek is the #My Girls Initiative from Adidas.

Whether you decide that Tumblr suits your brand or not, watching how it is used and how it evolves in the coming year, will certainly provide some insight that you can apply to your own marketing and advertising tactics.