Today’s guest post is from Liba Rubenstein who runs Causes and Politics for Tumblr. Liba was key to inspiring the Ad Council to launch a Tumblr where we hope to bring our campaigns to a new generation interested in social change.
Tumbling for Good
Perhaps you’ve encountered one of those ever-ubiquitous meme blogs, read about the Obama campaign’s favorite social platform, or noticed recent reports that show teens flocking to a new social network over Facebook; one way or another, you’ve probably heard a lot more about Tumblr recently. And if you haven’t yet asked yourself or your team how Tumblr will fit in to your digital strategy, you should.
First, a little myth-busting. We may be famous for memes, but equally important (if less publicized) are the many brands–from Twitter to the U.S. Government—that host their official blogs on Tumblr. Despite press about our popularity among teens, 50 percent of our traffic is from young adults, ages 18-34. We’re really big–broke into the top 10 most-trafficked sites in the US last year, and surpassed 100 million blogs last month–but Tumblr’s magic lies in our engagement metrics: we’re second only to Facebook and nearly quadruple Twitter in all possible engagement metrics, from time spent per month to pageviews per visit. And the content-centric, customizable, tool-rich platform means Tumblr is complementary, not competitive, with other social media. In short, there’s a reason for any organization or campaign to be on Tumblr; the question, then, is where to start.
1. Determine what sort of Tumblr you want to be
Perhaps the least-understood attribute of Tumblr is its versatility. Becoming familiar with the wide variety of use cases is especially important for nonprofits and cause marketers (i.e. those with limited resources who may not have a ton of buy-in or flexibility to just have fun and experiment with new platforms). If you’re not sure where to start on Tumblr, focus on the function that best fits your current needs. Just don’t be surprised if you get hooked and end up wanting to try them all!
Your Tumblr can:
- Power your main site’s blog, like blog.usa.gov.
- Extend your overall social media strategy, like Upworthy’s.
- Showcase one key facet of your brand via a distinctive theme or content library, like Planned Parenthood’s Ask Us Anything, the National Archive’s Today’s Document or the NYC Government’s Daily Pothole.
- Leverage our unique toolset—like submissions, Q&As, group blogging or APIs—to power part of your main site, like Mayor Bloomberg’s March for Innovation (submissions) and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation (APIs).
- Host something completely independent and new, like the gorgeous Dadaab Stories
2. Express a unique voice, without going it alone
You already know that a distinct and authentic voice paired with compelling original content will help your cause or organization stand out on social media. But if the creative, multimedia nature of Tumblr feels intimidating—or if you simply don’t generate a ton of original content and aren’t ready to start now—consider these approaches:
- Collaborate—Use a group (AKA “secondary”) blog to spread the responsibility for posting and leverage more talent across your organization.
- Crowdsource—The most wildly successful meme and art Tumblrs are populated mostly with submissions. So was Occupy Wall Street, NPR’s Inauguration initiative and organized labor’s immigration blog Meet My Immigrant Mom. Creation and submission is part of the DNA of the Tumblr community, so take advantage of it!
- Curate—Consider using your Tumblr to establish a curatorial voice around a topic on which you have authority, like the World Bank did around data visualization. That way, a lot of the content can be sourced from other sites (especially easy through the Tumblr bookmarklet) or reblogged from your Tumblr dashboard, but reflects a consistent topic with a unique point of view.
3. Make your content discoverable
- Use tags to facilitate search and add structure to your Tumblr.
- Follow, like and reblog—interacting with other Tumblrs builds relationships and credibility and spreads your links.
- Cross-promote via your main site, email list and other social media accounts. You can even syndicate posts to Twitter & Facebook directly from Tumblr, which automatically links back to the original post.
- Optimize posts for SEO by creating custom URLs, page titles and meta-descriptions, and creating and submitting a site map to Google
- Ask to be added to a Spotlight community directory, and contact the editors of the most relevant curated tags.
4. Play the long game
There’s no question that a highly-targeted Tumblr can be very effective for a short-term campaign, especially if it’s newsworthy and can generate earned media. But unlocking the magic of Tumblr—and making it a sustainable part of your digital strategy—means building a community. And that takes time.
This is especially true if your ultimate goal is to drive concrete online or offline action, since it’s only once you’ve cultivated a following that you can effectively activate Tumblr’s super-engaged audience. But those organizations who’ve made the investment will tell you it was well worth their while.
For more nitty-gritty how-tos and best practices for organizations and campaigns, look here.
Liba Rubenstein works at the intersection of mass and social media, cause marketing, civic innovation, environmental sustainability, online activism, and triple bottom line business strategies. Now responsible for all things related to social and civic engagement at Tumblr, she previously ran News Corporation’s global environmental sustainability initiatives and founded Myspace’s Impact Channel for causes & politics.