Why Your Brand Needs To Be On Tumblr — And Why It Doesn’t

At BRANDEMiX, when we advise clients on digital branding, we encourage them to create accounts on the Four Essential Profiles: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn. However, a fifth social network may be emerging. According to Alexa, it recently cracked the top 50 most popular sites in the world, and the top 25 in the US. The site is Tumblr.

Tumblr is a free, short-form blogging service that combines the publishing ability of WordPress with the social aspects of Facebook and Twitter. Since Tumblr doesn’t replace these other platforms, anyone can use it, whether or not they have another web presence. In fact, Tumblr’s emphasis on short posts make it attractive to brands who aren’t blogging.


But the service is not without its problems – or its controversy. So should you create a “tumbleblog” in this quickly growing community? It depends on your brand, your audience, and your needs.

Why Your Brand Needs To Be On Tumblr

It’s Easy
Easy to set up and easy to use. Yes, even easier than WordPress. The interface is intuitive. It’s no trouble to customize with Tumblr’s variety of themes – or your own, if you know some HTML. You can publish content via email, mobile, or through a bookmarklet in your browser, so you can post new material or share a discovery from anywhere. Tumblr hosts text, photos, video, audio, and links, so if you’re new to social media or don’t have time for elaborate layouts, Tumblr is perfect for you.

It’s Social
Tumblr allows readers to “like” a post, similar to Facebook, or to “reblog” it, similar to a retweet on Twitter. Users can follow other blogs, creating a single content feed like both Facebook and Twitter. Tumblr users love the site’s community, sharing a creative sensibility that you don’t see on other social networks. It’s a great place to engage an involved audience.

It’s Young
According to comScore, 29% of its users are aged 18-24. 20% are aged 25-34 and 20% are 12-17. And the numbers are growing: from 4.2 million visitors in July 2010 to 13.4 million in July 2011. So if your brand is targeting those age groups, you should stake your claim on Tumblr.


It Hosts Some Big Names
Brands with a lot of assets and content are wildly popular on Tumblr. Fashion brands in particular seem to thrive there, including J. Crew, Kate Spade, and Ann Taylor. In fact, Tumblr hosted a special New York Fashion Week page, sending 20 of its most popular fashion bloggers (such as What I Wore’s Jessica Quirk) to cover all the major events. Media companies and publishers are also using Tumblr, from Comedy Central to The Today Show, and from Rolling Stone to Newsweek.

Why Your Brand Doesn’t Need To Be On Tumblr

It Doesn’t Offer Analytics
Tumblr’s dashboard doesn’t include any sort of tracking. How many likes did one of your posts get? How many times was it reblogged? You actually have to go to each of your posts and count the actions by hand. Google Analytics and Site Meter only partly solve the problem because they can’t track Tumblr’s internal links. If you need hard numbers that can be analyzed on a spreadsheet, Tumblr may not be for you.

It’s Not That Social
There are no comments on Tumblr. You can add a sort of semi-comment “note” or reblog someone’s post on your own blog, but you can’t have a real dialogue with visitors or other Tumblr users. Facebook and Twitter, and even Google+, know the importance of conversing and sharing, but Tumblr simply isn’t designed that way. If you want to truly engage your audience, you might find Tumblr disappointing.

It’s Too Young
Almost 70% of Tumbler users are 34 or under, including 20% who are 17 or under. After that, the numbers drop as the ages go up. If your brand is a luxury product or is aimed at middle-aged or senior consumers, Tumblr’s audience simply isn’t there.


It Has Angered Some Big Names
Remember those top fashion Tumblr bloggers covering New York Fashion Week 2011? Tumblr actually charged the designers for coverage, asking for up to $350,000 for promoted content, even though the bloggers didn’t actually work for Tumblr. Based on an expected one million impressions for the week, this meant a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) of $70, compared to $3 to be featured on the front page of the New York Times website. As I mentioned, Tumblr couldn’t even provide designers with advanced analytics to see if their spend was justified.

Tumblr is simple to use, growing in popularity, and attracting some big brands. It also skews very young, presents problems for marketers, and has some frustrating limitations. Is it right for your brand? That’s up to you. But whether it ends in success or failure, I’m pretty sure the Tumblr story has a long way to go.

For the latest on social media, online recruiting, mobile marketing, and other branding trends, please like BRANDEMiX on Facebookfollow us on Twitter, and join our LinkedIn group, Your Digital Brand.

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