If you are looking for a free blogging solution for your personal or professional marketing needs – one that is easy to use, au courant, and heavily trafficked by younger Internet users, consider Tumblr. Simpler to use than blogging platforms like WordPress, and more versatile a social media tool than social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, Tumblr (pronounced “Tumbler”) could very well be what you need.

How to Use Tumblr for Your Business

© Shutterstock.com | I AM NIKOM

In this article we will cover 1) the purpose of Tumblr, 2) benefits of using Tumblr, 3) how to set up a Tumblr account, 4) using Tumblr for business, 5) key terms related to Tumblr, and 6) best practices for using Tumblr / case study of a business using Tumblr well.


Tumblr is a widely used microblogging platform, hosting nearly 200 million blogs as of August 2014. It is extremely popular with users under 25, which comprise half of its visitors. As of the beginning of 2014, Tumblr blogs received approximately 48 million visits per month from PCs, desktops, laptops, and phones, with approximately one-third of these visits coming from the U.S.

Tumblr is not only a blogging platform; it is also a social networking website. Users can follow others and share interesting content with other Tumblr users.

History of Tumblr

Tumblr was founded by David Karp and Marco Arment in 2006, and remained a private firm until its acquisition by Internet firm Yahoo! Inc. in March of 2013 for $1.1 billion in cash. Karp, a web developer, who at 20, had already served as the head of product for online parenting website UrbanBaby, started a computer consulting firm, Davidville, in 2006. While Davidville was between contracts, Karp began to work on what would become Tumblr with Davidville engineer Marco Arment. The microblogging platform officially launched in February of 2007 and signed up 75,000 users in the first two weeks of operation alone. As of June 2014, it is the sixth largest social network in terms of active users, as per Statista.

David Karp: When It All Came Together

Tumblr makes money by selling advertising revenue, as well as themes (software packages that allow users to change the appearance of a website, software application, or operating system). However, as of May 2014, and indeed throughout Tumblr’s history, revenue has been sparse. This is because even though it receives 48 million visits per month, Tumblr does not collect much demographic data on its visitors. It’s hard to sell advertising when you cannot tell potential advertisers who their ads will reach. By contrast, Tumblr’s competitors for advertising revenue – Internet and software firms like Facebook and Google, can provide potential advertisers with reams of data about their respective visitor bases.

Main purpose of Tumblr

Tumblr is what is known as a tumblelog or microblog – a type of blog differentiated by the small size (file size and length) of its posts. A typical microblog text posts may only be a couple of sentences; likewise, the number of photos per post may be limited. Microblogging platforms are designed specifically to facilitate this level of content sharing. Twitter and Plurk are other prominent examples of microblogs (though, unlike Tumblr, these have restrictions on length of content). As per its website, Tumblr is built around seven key post types: text, photos, links, quotes, chat, audio, and video.The platform is best suited for frequently updated blogs heavy on rich media content. 


Tumblr can be used to great effect for a personal or corporate blog, as well as a secondary blog if you already have one in place on another platform. The benefits are many and include the following aspects.


Tumblr is very popular among younger Internet users, and celebrities including the likes of many celebrities, such as actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, musicians Lady Gaga and Donald Glover, and even U.S. President Barack Obama. Using Tumblr appropriately allows you to target a very attractive demographic. 

Visibility and reach

Use of Tumblr as a blog allows you to extend your personal or professional brand, engage followers, share content, and network with other Tumblr bloggers. Tumblr updates can also be synced to other social media accounts, allowing you to automatically share your Tumblr posts to Twitter, for example, or your Tweets to automatically appear on your Tumblr page, broadening your reach. Tumblr blogs are indexed by search engines, which help increase your SEO. It is also optimized for mobile viewing, a key benefit, as the worldwide smartphone market is expected to grow from 1.2 billion units to 1.7 billion units by 2018, according to market research firm IDC.

Further, in mid-2014, Facebook changed algorithms that led to a decline in the organic reach of its posts. Tumblr has no such algorithm and engagement with its posts already lasted longer on average than Facebook engagement posts before the algorithm changes. It is likely that certain content creators may benefit from heavier use of Tumblr rather than Facebook.


Tumblr allows users to restrict access to their blogs, which paradoxically affects revenue, increases usage and engagement among younger users. This feature can also be leveraged for target marketing. Also, Tumblr allows users to use GIFS – animated graphics, unsupported by Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. 

Ease of Use

Tumblr is easier to manage than many other blogging platforms, notably WordPress. No real technical skills are required to begin blogging. Tumblr’s Bookmarklet feature makes it easy to incorporate online posts into your content. Dragging the tool into your bookmarks toolbar and then clicking it when you are on a page you would like to share create a post that you can customize immediately. Because Tumblr is hosted software, you don’t have to worry about back-end maintenance. And you can create multiple blogs easily, as well as blogs with multiple authors. 


tumblr - flickr

© Flickr | David Horowitz

Tumblr strives to make everything easy for users and setting up an account is no different, as all you need is an email address. Visit www.tumblr.com and fill out the email address you would like associated with your Tumblr account, a password and the subdomain you would like to use for your blog’s URL (which will appear as subdomain.tumblr.com). Once you click the Sign in and start posting button below (and assuming your email address and subdomain are not already in use), you are free to start configuring, designing, and posting on your blog.

Chances are high you will want to customize your blog to some extent. Don’t worry if you do not know much – or any – HTML. Tumblr makes themes available for you, most of which come with simple editing interfaces that allow you to change things like color and text size with a few keystrokes. If no theme has a layout that suits your purpose, you can click on Customize in the Tumblr dashboard, click Theme, and the click Use custom HTML. Tumblr has a page called How to create a custom HTML theme, with considerable information on how to customize your blog for further reading. 


While its precise demographic data remains murky, Tumblr is a strong social media tool for business. It can and should be used for: 

Creating unique content

With its emphasis on rich media, Tumblr practically demands that marketers follow the age-old adage about good writing: show, don’t tell. Text- and link-based posts are unlikely to get your blog any traction. Instead, marketers should take full advantage of the elegant way Tumblr’s many themes can display photo and video content to create compelling and engaging content. And as with any social media tool, just don’t post as things occur to you. Before you start your first post, lay out your content strategy, a single document that outlines what content you will post, how you will obtain it, and when it will be posted. With nearly 200 million blogs, your content has a lot of competition for eyeballs, so be strategic in what you post.

Expanding reach / visibility

On Tumblr itself, using tags to categorize Tumblr posts is critical to increase your blog’s visibility. They can be used to enhance searchability on the Tumblr site, and gain the attention of Tag Editors who can increase your visibility on Tumblr. Further, many Tumblr users use tags, allowing marketers to identify users interested in particular topics. For example, a soft drink manufacturing firm looking to introduce a new lime-flavored beverage that created brand awareness ads concerning limes, and added them to posts with relevant tags (e.g. limes, drinks), might very well increase its traffic.

Growing your network

Tumblr allows you to follow blogs of interest, as well as be followed by other users who are interested in the content you create. Keys to gain a large following are some fundamental rules of social networking, such as creating compelling content, posting new content frequently, following others, and engaging others. You can do the latter by liking their content, commenting on it, or reblogging it.

Enhancing your SEO

Adding a Tumblr blog to your SEO mix can increase your overall corporate visibility in search engines in general. Tumblr blog posts are indexed by search engines, and can be found by any online user searching for your, or similar, content.

Engaging customers / generating sales leads

You can search Tumblr by topic of interest or tag to develop a list of those who might be interested in your product or service. But given the sheer number of blogs, not to mention private and untagged ones, this could be challenging unless you have a fairly narrowly defined market or a brand already strongly represented on Tumblr. Proper use of tags will help Tumblr users find you. Further, Tumblr has begun to evolve as a platform where users engage with content for longer periods than on other networks. This is partially due to the emphasis on evergreen content – content which is often shared a month or more after the original post. This is also due to the rich media nature of most content, and the fact that in order to stand out, content has to be unique and engaging. You can generate a lot of traffic with a simple, quirky GIF that people find funny, interesting, or unique, which you can then direct to other digital assets.

You can also use your Tumblr blog as an informal channel for customer service, product or brand research, or product launches. Don’t just post updates. Ask questions.

Developing microsites for marketing campaigns and initiatives

You can use Tumblr to develop microsites for specific marketing campaigns or initiatives. For example, the aforementioned soft drink manufacturing firm could use Tumblr to document product launches of its drink occurring simultaneously in multiple cities, with brand ambassadors and consumers alike live-blogging the event on Tumblr. Tracking basic information about site usage can be done with Tumblr’s own analytics. For more robust options, Google Analytics can be implemented easily. Another option for firms is the Professional version of Tumblr-endorsed Union Metrics, an analytics application that has different pricing options depending on the depth of data you want to track.

How To Use Tumblr: Tips for Entrepreneurs


Reblog – A function that allows you to add another user’s Tumblr content to your blog while crediting them for the post.

Notes – The number of likes and reblogs a post receives.

Asks – Questions users ask each other that appear on their respective dashboards, with a 500- character limit.

Tags – Descriptive words or phrases without spaces that are used by Tumblr to categorize posts. Tumblr tags are not HTML metadata tags. 

Please note there are a number of slang terms that are prevalent among younger and heavy Tumblr users. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with them so that you can decipher the feedback you receive from your Tumblr blog viewers properly. For a good guide, check out Words People Use on Tumblr, a Tumblr blog, or The Daily Dot’s A sincere guide to Tumblr slang. 


Best practices for Tumblr include:

  • Posting rich media content.
  • Posting short-form content. Not only is Tumblr designed for short-form content, young adults don’t have the longest attention spans. (While there are no character limit restrictions on Tumblr posts, the Tumblr platform limits you to ten photos per post). Quote and link to long-form content on your other digital assets, such as a press release, to drive Tumblr user traffic to it.
  • Posting frequently. Optimal number of posts is about three to five post per day when doing posting on average three to five days per week.
  • Sharing just as frequently (if not more so). Don’t forget that Tumblr is a social networking site as well as a blogging platform, and sharing content is a good way to gain followers and interest in your blog(s).
  • Using tags: Tumblr only makes the first five tags visible in search. However, the optimum number is between 7 and 12 tags per post, according to Neil Patel (the co-founder of KISSmetrics).
  • Using the Ask feature: The Ask feature allows users who select it to ask a question which can appear on your Tumblr blog as a post, along with the answer to your question. Adding the Ask button to your Tumblr theme helps you: create content (through viewer-generated questions), create a perception of responsiveness and public intimacy, and identify issues.
  • Avoiding news where possible: Tumblr works best when you post material that can be continually liked, commented on, and reblogged. News, in general, is not that kind of content.
  • Customizing your blog to reflect your brand
  • Adding social sharing buttons: This will help you extend your content’s reach.
  • Creating multiple blogs with complementary content: This also allows you to grow your content reach and Tumblr follower base.
  • Being original and authentic.

A great example of a firm with Tumblr blogs that follows these practices is IBM. IBM has three Tumblr blogs – a primary blog, A Smarter Planet, and two complementary blogs, The Social Business and The Smarter Cities Scan, all of which follow most if not all of these practices. What makes IBM’s use of Tumblr interesting is that these are not official corporate blogs, as IBM lacks one. IBM’s blogging strategy involves allowing IBM staff and alum to be themselves and post content free of brand-based restrictions. Blogs like a Smarter Planet, which focuses on leveraging smarter technologies to improve the world in which we live, exemplify originality and authenticity, which helped IBM become #4 on Interbrand’s best global brands list in 2013, retaining a spot within the top 5 brands for the past 5 years.

Image credit: Flickr | David Horowitz under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

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