Experts Blog

Tumblr For Businesses And Brands: The Pros, Cons And Success Stories

By Shelly Kramer on Dec 14, 2011 - 02:19 PM

There's no denying that Tumblr is the new darling of the blogging world. Founded four years ago, the microblogging platform's popularity has skyrocketed this year thanks to a number of businesses and brands that have flocked to the site as a way to broaden their audience and extend the reach of their content.

In June, Mashable reported that Tumblr had become a blogger's preferred platform. The number of Tumblr blogs surpassed those created on WordPress, a compelling statistic that illustrates Tumblr's flourishing popularity.

Here's the million-dollar question: should your brand or business start a Tumblr blog? As with any other social media tool, you should take some time to familiarize yourself with Tumblr, and create a plan for what you want to do with the site. And that's where I come in. Let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of Tumblr, and after that, I'll share some examples of businesses that are innovatively using the platform.

Tumblr: The Pros

One of the biggest appeals of Tumblr is that it's simple. If you've navigated Blogger or Wordpress, you'll likely find Tumblr even easier to use.

If you find yourself blogging on the go, Tumblr might be the best choice. You can post to Tumblr from a variety of sources, including a mobile phone, browser or desktop. Posts typically tend to be visual and include photo or video, as opposed to a large amount of text that you might see on other blogging platforms. Keep in mind, however, that just because your Tumblr posts may be brief or highly visual, you still want to ensure you're sharing quality content that appeals to your audience and aligns with your brand or business strategy.

Engagement is an important part of any social media presence, and Tumblr makes it relatively easy for brands and companies to connect with their followers. You can opt to open your Tumblr blog to user submissions. One of my favorites? Unhappy Hipsters, which is always good for a laugh.

Tumblr's structure is inherently social, too. Consider these attributes as outlined by Social Media Examiner: “Users choose to follow other Tumblr blogs that appear in their dashboards much like an RSS feed. They can then ‘reblog' to their own Tumblr feed. This reblog feature encourages the redistribution of content, which can spread quickly if it's interesting.”

Tumblr: The Cons

As great as it is, Tumblr isn't for everyone. Keep in mind that a typical Tumblr audience skews younger than that of other social media platforms, so if your brand or business won't be relevant to this group, you may want to focus your attention elsewhere.

And because Tumblr posts tend to be highly visual, you'll want to ensure you have an adequate supply of high-quality photos and/or videos before you start posting. Apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic are making it easier to take eye-catching, artful photos and post them across a variety of platforms, including Tumblr. Research your options and think about what you'll want to post before you start so that you can ensure Tumblr is the best fit when it comes to executing your overall digital strategy.

Tumblr may be easy-to-use, but you'll have less control when it comes to site customization. If you know HTML (or know someone who does), you can modify existing Tumblr themes by adding widgets and other features, but you won't have the flexibility and array of themes available on a site like WordPress. And Tumblr blogs can't be self-hosted, meaning you're at the mercy of the site—and it's somewhat frequent outages.

Tumblr Success Stories

What do Kate Spade, Barack Obama, the Los Angeles Times, Huggies and Doctors Without Borders have in common? They all maintain successful Tumblr blogs that share a variety of content in order to spread each brand's message and engage a wider audience.

When you start to explore Tumblr, the opportunities are virtually endless. Tumblr is an ideal outlet for creative content that can help share a new side of your brand or business, convey a message, encourage the sharing of viral content and more.

Erika Bearman, director of communications for Oscar de la Renta, started a Tumblr under the same name as her Twitter handle: OscarPRgirl. According to a look at fashion's top brands on Tumblr by Mashable, “…Bearman uses Tumblr as an extension of Twitter, but with greater emphasis on images – mainly vintage photographs of Oscar de la Renta and women wearing his designs – with the occasional short caption or quotation.”

At first glance, one would assume that the purpose of a Tumblr for a luxury brand like Oscar de la Renta would be to sell clothing and accessories. Yet because the brand's price point is prohibitive to many of its fans, the Tumblr blog takes a different approach.

“The goal of Oscar PR Girl's Tumblr, he [Richard Tong, Tumblr fashion director] said, is to give the community something to aspire to, to make Oscar de la Renta ‘present and persistent in their minds' so that if and when they can afford a dress or a prized accessory, it's one of Mr. de la Renta's,” according to Mashable.

And that's a perfect example of what a Tumblr blog can be. You may not necessarily need to immediately convert your audience to purchases, but instead focus on building brand recognition and loyalty so that your brand or business is at the forefront of someone's mind should they decide to buy from you or engage your services.

Doctors Without Borders is another example of a successful Tumblr blog. The international medical humanitarian organization posts a mix of quotes, photos and longer posts that detail specific treatments, therapies and outreach efforts, such as providing those in impoverished countries with HIV/AIDS medications. Not only does DWB's Tumblr show a look at the organization's efforts and who they help, but also brings attention to worldwide health problems while encouraging activism, whether through volunteer work, donations or other methods.

These two different examples only begin to highlight the versatility of Tumblr and how you might use it to develop your own brand or business. It may be tempting to dive right in, but taking some time to think through your Tumblr strategy and plan out your first few posts will ensure you're using the platform to its full potential—and making it work for your company.

Have you decided to use Tumblr for your business? If so, I'd love to hear your experience so far, as well as your content strategy.