How Leading Businesses Use Tumblr for Marketing

You may or may not be familiar with microblogging site Tumblr. After all, it’s quite a task to manage the major social networks without having to consider the ancillary ones. Sure, Yahoo just spent one billion dollars to acquire Tumblr – but they’re kind of a desperate lot, right?

tumblr1Wrong. According to Pew, Tumblr is the second most popular social media site behind Facebook for young adults (18-29) and there is some evidence that it may be even more popular with teenagers. Yahoo and its Gen Z obsessed CMO appear to have made Tumblr the cornerstone of their effort to bring youth back into the fold.

The same opportunity is present for businesses on Tumblr. Pew recently released its annual social media demographics study showing 18-29 year olds had the highest saturation of users – more than 10% higher than their predecessors and more than 200% higher than baby boomers.

There’s a good possibility that Tumblr will become more important to your digital marketing mix in the not-so-distant future.

Let’s take a look at what makes Tumblr content unique (comparable to more familiar social networks) and showcase some businesses that are using Tumblr for marketing.

What exactly is Tumblr?

Tumblr is a microblogging site that allows users to post multiple types of content (text, photo, video, audio) using myriad methods (the most nontraditional method of posting may be phoning in a post). Tumblr sites are customizable with free and paid themes similar to WordPress. Followers can like, comment on, and reblog posts. Readers can also share posts to other social networks.

The key to Tumblr is brevity. A long blog post or photo album that may be appropriate on your site, G+ or Facebook may be inappropriate for the Tumblr community.

Noted marketing expert Sally Hogshead says that users have an attention span of goldfish (about nine seconds). A good rule of thumb for Tumblr content may be to let your “goldfish” fans consume your content with a couple seconds to spare.

This a very cursory overview, but I wanted to point out that despite the different community norms of Tumblr there are many aspects that are similar to other social networks. It’s less time-consuming to create content and a bit more egalitarian than other networks (because of its non-intrusive Radar advertising product and the expectation for brevity).

eBay uses Tumblr to add depth to its product offerings

If you’ve ever visited eBay, you know that it’s a well organized auction. It’s purpose is to marry supply and demand as directly as possible.

If you’ve ever watched “Antiques Roadshow” they have a different purpose. They share the story of an item. The appraisal of an item is of secondary importance to the history behind it. Of course storytelling is one of the most compelling ways that a business can sell to its customers, but eBay isn’t well positioned to provide Antiques Roadshow-style storytelling on their eCommerce site.

That’s where The Inside Source is important. The Inside Source is eBay’s Tumblr page showcasing everything from specific product categories to interviews to videos and “junkweb” content. The content is exceptionally visual, the writing is exceptionally brief, and everything is tied back to an eBay page.

Net-A-Porter uses exclusive visual content on its Tumblr page

Net A Porter

Net-A-Porter repurposes magazine shoots for Tumblr

High-end fashion retailer Net-A-Porter publishes their in-house magazine The Edit to showcase different pieces in their collection. With annual web traffic well into the millions, Net-A-Porter and The Edit are well-renowned sources of fashion-specific content.

On their Tumblr page, Net-A-Porter does something quite ingenious: they publish outtakes from their photo spreads in The Edit.

This serves the same purpose as a (low-cost) remarketing campaign: taking users that are familiar with the site and possibly the pieces, providing content that re-engages them and directs them back to specific fashion pieces on the site.

Sephora uses Tumblr as their fashion magazine

In contrast to Net-A-Porter, Sephora doesn’t have an in-house magazine. What they do have is a high-trafficked eCommerce site selling health and beauty products online (and to support their brick-and-mortar stores).

Sephora’s Tumblr page, “The Glossy” is their de facto magazine and is linked directly from the main site from the “Trends” button.

The Glossy offers short interviews with health and beauty experts, how-to tips, and other visual content. In contrast to Net-A-Porter and eBay, Sephora links to multiple relevant products from each of their Tumblr posts multiplying the purchase opportunity for its readers.

Whole Foods uses Tumblr to create a brand persona


Whole Foods’ Dark Rye Tumblr

What does a brand post on Tumblr if they’re not an eCommerce site?

Whole Foods created an online magazine, “Dark Rye” that features short-form content (photos. videos, curated content and quotes) that reinforce a health-conscious living style. Everything from tips to cook corn, to quotes on community and creativity.

Whole Foods isn’t selling any specific product on Tumblr, but they are creating and sharing content that is congruent to their target audience lifestyle and values.

c|net uses Tumblr as Cliff’s Notes

You man remember Cliff’s Notes, small pamphlets that distilled famous literary works into an easily digestible nugget (as an aside, many are available for free now on their website ).

Technology website c|net uses their Tumblr page to post (highly) abbreviated versions of their articles. For example, the caption underneath this article might read: “Many businesses use Tumblr.”

c|net’s use of Tumblr actually works very well, creating a visual, multimedia headline that prompts the reader to click through to the full content (and its adverting).

Hopefully this gives you a sense of how businesses are using Tumblr in their digital marketing mix. There are plenty of ways to generate attention on the platform so long as you are mindful of the community norms and keep your content brief.

Jim Dougherty is an expert on social media and technology who blogs at Leaders WestFor more marketing advice from Jim, click here.



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