Marketing on Tumblr: Where It Helps to Be Honest (And Weird)

Marketing on Tumblr: Where It Helps to Be Honest (And Weird)

Kristen Smirnov (Whittier College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5187-4.ch060
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Abstract

Despite many demographic, behavioral, and technical features that should make it an appealing destination for social media marketers, the Tumblr platform has lagged in marketing adoption. This chapter discusses the site features that drive its potential, while also acknowledging the challenges that Tumblr presents. Contrasts are offered between the limited flexibility but easier adoption curve of other platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, with the phenomenon known as choice overload discussed as a possible explanation for non-Tumblr preferences. Three Tumblr case studies are presented in depth to illustrate best practices (Denny's diner chain and the musician Taylor Swift) and to warn against certain common pitfalls (Nordstrom). The chapter concludes with potential future research directions to pursue on this growing but underutilized platform.
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Background

In the introduction, Tumblr was referred to as one of the major social media platforms. That label would surprise many people, who often leave it out of discussions of the most important social media players. Tumblr was founded in 2007 by David Karp and Marco Arment. In 2013, Yahoo acquired Tumblr for $1.1 billion (Statista, 2015). Tumblr is known as a microblogging platform, and accordingly, each user is described as having his or her own blog. An early assessment of the site described it thusly:

It's a happy medium between a tidbit posting service, such as Twitter, and a full-fledged blogging tool, such as WordPress or Blogger. Tumblr is aimed at folks who feel they may not have enough content or time to write a full blog, yet still want to write and share links and media. (Lowensohn, 2007)

This platform style, off-the-cuff but media-rich, proved popular. Tumblr is one of the fastest-growing major platforms (along with Pinterest), with nearly 100% active user growth between 2014 – 2015 (Cohen, 2015). During 2014, it registered nearly twice Instagram's growth rate for active users (Luden, 2014). Higher growth rates are easier for smaller companies, of course. Tumblr's information page (http://www.tumblr.com/about) states that it hosts approximately 260 million blogs with 122 billion posts, as of late 2015. Individual users may own multiple blogs, so the number of users would be somewhat smaller than that 260 million figure. While that is a large group of users, there are bigger platforms yet. Here stands one understandable reason for Tumblr's historic lack of attention compared to the even larger platforms of Instagram, Twitter, or the true behemoth, Facebook.

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