It’s time to take tumblr seriously in 2013

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About 12 months ago, I promised a colleague of mine I’d write a blog post about what Tumblr is and how brands could leverage it as part of their social media presence.

In that time, tumblr has matured massively, and its role within the broader social media landscape has become really clear, especially in relation to a very specific and powerful demographic.

The following excerpt (from cbslocal.com) sets the scene:

“Sixty per cent of teens (in the USA) see tumblr as their primary social network.”

There are some very obvious reasons for this and some not so obvious ones. But, before we get into that, let’s profile the platform and how it is being used.

What is tumblr?

Tumbr is a short-form blogging platform. It features Twitter-like ‘following’ functionality, Facebook-style ‘liking’ ability and has imagery at the heart of its existence (a la Pinterest).

This is also mashed up with the functionality of WordPress or Blogger, allowing you to publish your content on a blog-like interface.

That description really doesn’t do it justice, but it is important to put its key features in context versus some of the other platforms.

What are the key platform benefits?

The benefits of tumblr probably tell the platform story better than its relevant positioning does.

When you sign up to tumblr you’ll notice that you’ll spend the most of your time navigating your dashboard. The key feature of the dashboard is the ‘feed’ which features posts from the people you follow.

The search functionality within the dashboard also makes content discovery a really simple process, serving up results based on post tags.

This means, as a user, you get to follow posts from people you know / like and search for content you’re interested in, all in the one place – in essence, you’re essentially getting a less noisy, and more in depth Twitter experience.

Why are teens flocking to tumblr?

The two answers given above will (hopefully) proved some clarity.

But, there are some other important reasons too.

It isn’t a place parents and extended family members congregate. Tumblr is, primarily, an interest-based network as opposed to an activity based one.

Also, as you have your own ‘blog’, you really need to dedicate some time to it (but not huge amounts as a lot of it can feature re-blogged or liked content). This is a pretty significant barrier to entry by older age groups.

This, like re-blogging and the other technical nuances, also make it more of a domain of the more technically-savvy, younger generation.

A lot of the content featured on tumblr naturally appeals to that audience too, with sectors like fashion and music being especially visible.

What can brands do? Is it too late?

It’s never too late for brands to enter a new social domain but they must behave in a way that adds value to the niche space they want to operate in (within tumblr).

If anything, it is more important to like and re-blog content on tumblr than it is to create and publish your own content.

This is still something many brands have yet to master on other platforms which suggests they may not be able to adjust accordingly here.

Does your brand need to be there?

This is where user stats and platform insights come into play.

As of November 2012, tumblr had 168 million worldwide users (putting in firmly within the top 10 most popular social platforms in the world).

In Australia, where I’m based, tumblr ranks fourth as far as users go behind Facebook, YouTube and Blogger (according to socialmedianews.com.au).

Now, the worst thing you can do from a brand perspective is try and be everywhere, all the time.

But, there are worst places to look than tumblr if you want to get some traction with an active user base, especially if you want to engage teens now and well into the future.

(image by Cara & Louie via staff.tumblr.com)

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