Should you Tumblr!?

At one point in time, we could safely talk about a trifecta of key social media channels that brands and other large organisations should embrace: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Over time, and driven entirely by consumer interest, brands have also cherry picked from other emerging social networks and its not unusual to see services like Pinterest and Instagram (now part of Facebook) in the short list of key channels.

Tumblr has long been the cool alternative to WordPress and Google’s Blogger, but now that Yahoo has confirmed its acquisition of Tumblr for US$1.1 billion, what does this mean for your social media channel strategy?

In its media release for the acquisition, Yahoo explicitly “Promises not to screw it up” and outlined its intention to operate Tumblr as an independent business. At this stage both Yahoo and Tumblr management are hinting at advertising as the basis of their future business model. In an interview reported on a New York Times blog, Tumblr CEO David Karp explains:

…80% of the activity on Tumblr is on Web pages that can have advertising, though the company has been careful to allow only ads that are “native,” or fit with the aesthetic and format of the site.

That means Yahoo won’t just slap on graphical or video ads willy-nilly, Mr. Karp and Ms. Mayer said. But Yahoo will unleash its 2,500-strong salesforce to help sell ads on Tumblr, Ms. Mayer said. (Tumblr has only 25 sales people.) Ms. Mayer said there also are opportunities for Yahoo to introduce ads when people use Tumblr’s search function to look for certain content on the site.

“We talked to lots of brands trying to work with Tumblr, and they’re so eager to being in front of these users,” Ms. Mayer said.

This advertising model will take time to emerge and Yahoo does need it to get it right to avoid an exodus of users.

In the immediate term, a more fundamental decision is to understand how Tumblr works and if the platform suits your engagement or social advertising strategy. This is because Tumblr is all about content and the niche communities who create and share it. It is not a good fit for the typical news or marketing content that might be shared through other channels.

There are plenty of overseas brands using Tumblr well, but locally one of the better examples is Vogue Australia. While not the most sophisticated Tumblr site, Vogue Australia are able to tap into their own supply of visual content. The success of this engagement can be seen in the number of users liking and reblogging Vogue Australia’s posts.

If you are thinking about adding Tumblr to your social media channel mix, some points to consider:

  • What elements of your brand make it a good fit for the Tumblr?
  • Do you know why you want to engage or advertise through Tumblr? (Tumblr should not be treated as just another content syndication channel).
  • Do you have interesting content? (This means content that is creative, engaging, sharable and has relatively good longevity)
  • Do you want to advertise or engage with the Tumblr user demographic? (Tumblr’s overall user base is smaller than other networks, but has a greater proportion of younger users)
  • How will you manage, measure and integrate your Tumblr presence with the other channel you are using?

Remember, its not just Yahoo who might screw up Tumblr. Think about how you brand can add to the vibrant and creative community that already exists on Tumblr today.