FYI Corner: Tumblr De-Mystified

by Rachel Lim, PBS Station Products & Innovation

Those of you interested in social media have probably been hearing a lot about a microblogging site called Tumblr. In June, Tumblr surpassed the ubiquitous blogging platform Wordpress with nearly 8 billion total posts and 2.4 million total blogs. Boasting clean, attractive layouts and an effortless sharing system that encourages instantaneous blogging, Tumblr combines features of both Twitter and traditional blogging platforms for a hybrid user experience. A member's Dashboard features a news stream from followed blogs, much like a Twitter stream or feed might appear. Users can also choose to "reblog" posts they like, contributing to the viral effect of the most popular Tumblr posts. However, like any other social media platform, Tumblr has its own personality, community and vibe.

For those looking to dive into the Tumblr world, consider these three tips to help you get acquainted and decide if Tumblr is right for your station:

Tip #1: Visuals rule!
Unlike Twitter, Tumblr posts are not restricted to 140 characters, and they can include video, images and GIFs. In comparison to Twitter, Tumblr is not about brevity, puns, and turns of phrase. It's about visuals: eye-catching images, infographics, maps and GIFs thrive in the Tumblosphere.

From Mountain Lake PBS's Tumblr
Take, for example, the Tumblr curated by PBS NewsHour. Though the NewsHour site features full-length articles with lots of text, their Tumblr is image-focused, with interesting, captivating images acting as headlines instead of the usual line of text.

If you're attempting to share something that is more text-based, consider the creative strategy employed by Mountain Lake PBS. Instead of simply having a paragraph of text for each post, Mountain Lake integrated their media tips into an attractive image that can then be easily reblogged.

Tip #2: Tumblr is clean.
If you like heavily patterned backgrounds, flashy fonts or lots of widgets, Tumblr might not be for you. In fact, Tumblr boasts interface simplicity, effectively honing in on content. So forget the dropdown menus and interactive modules and allow Tumblr to function at its best, with clean backgrounds and scroll-friendly material.
From ThirteenNY's Tumblr

The follks behind ThirteenNY's Tumblr, for example, have distinguished their content by setting it off against a clean white background, with large images to balance out text, providing a user-friendly experience that invites scrolling and exploring.

Tip #3: Tumblr is about interaction.
Unlike Twitter or Facebook pages, which might frequently redirect users back to station websites, Tumblr does not necessarily yield greater click-throughs or page views. Instead, Tumblr is about user engagement and interaction.

This means that Tumblr, unlike Twitter, should not include every single piece of content that your station has produced. To use an old cliche, Tumblr is about quality, not quantity. It is about carefully selecting content that has the most potential for your Tumblr audience, which expects posts to be visually appealing and is driven by reblogging and reposting.

Take, for example, The Parent Show Tumblr, which combines curated content from across the Web as well as original material. All of their posts are specifically targeted for an audience -- parents, in this case -- and are designed to elicit reader feedback and foster engagement.

In fact, the Tumblr audience skews younger: about 40% of their users are in the 18-34 age bracket, with 16% aged 13-17. Knowing the demographics of your Tumblr audience will help you decide what content would be best for this platform.

Have anything else you'd like us to explore? Let us know in the comment box below and check back soon!

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