I’m disclaiming this post with one thing: I’m still new to Tumblr. I’m still building my base and learning the best practices. But here I want to talk basic and broad, and discuss A) why Tumblr is a great tool with which to build your social media strategy and author platform, and B) how to use it effectively without feeling like it’s a time-sink or “just one more thing to do.” Tumblr can be both fun, educational, and another way to get involved in your community and build an audience–particularly in the YA and MG writer communities. Guess who’s on Tumblr the most?
Young adults and tweens. Your readers are right here, spending huge amounts of time on this new social media network (now that their parents are all on Facebook and it’s no longer a safe haven for them). So grab it by the horns.
What is Tumblr?
Think of Tumblr as Facebook meets blogging. You have a “Dashboard,” which is essentially a Facebook feed. You “follow” other Tumblrs, and their posts appear on your feed. You have a few options:
– Reblog: Essentially the same as a Facebook “Share,” where you re-post something that someone else posted, with the option to attach your own thoughts.
– Bookmark: Adds the post to your “Bookmarks” list so you can return to it at any time.
– Create new post: Text, photo (or photoset), quotes, chats, and more.
Everything you reblog or create appears on your personal Tumblr. Your Tumblr is totally customizable, and looks and feels a bit like a blog. Some features of Tumblr:
– Create custom pages that appear in a menu.
– Choose from an existing template, create your own, or modify a template.
– Posts appear on your Tumblr like blog posts would on WordPress or Blogger.
– Offer visitors the option to ask you a question, which you can answer on your Tumblr blog.
– Allow visitors to submit a post that you can add to your Tumblr, if you choose.
How do I use Tumblr?
How do you use Facebook? How do you use WordPress or Blogger? Everyone approaches these two platforms in different ways, and your Tumblr experience is similarly customizable.
You can always view a Tumblr blog simply by visiting its URL; it will display much like a blog, though you can’t “Follow” it (receive updates) unless you are signed up and signed in to Tumblr. But signing up and creating a Tumblr for yourself is quite simple, and once you have an account, you can create as many additional Tumblr blogs as you choose.
1. Visit www.tumblr.com and click “Sign Up.”
2. Create an account–all you need is an email address, password, and username.
A note on usernames: As I mentioned, you can create additional Tumblr blogs with different names attached to them. For example, my primary Tumblr is kiersi.tumblr.com, based on my username “Kiersi.” Additionally I run typewriterstories.tumblr.com, which allows me to both create new posts and reblog/like other people’s posts as user “Typewriterstories.”
When selecting your username, be aware that this will become your primary Tumblr account’s URL. So if you select “Doug” as your username, your primary Tumblr account will be doug.tumblr.com.
3. Visit your blog, click “Customize” in the top corner, and select a theme for your blog. There are other themes out there in the world, so go and explore. I’m not going to dive into that too much in this post, but there are plenty of resources available.
4. Start posting and reblogging!
What Tumblr accounts should I follow?
Some Tumblrs I follow are very niche and specific; for example, The Art of Animation only posts photosets (a series of pictures) featuring an artist, usually all artwork in a similar vein or style. AuthorLife (a great Tumblr to follow for authors, by the way) and Title2Come both harness the very popular “Caption this funny gif!” meme (a meme in which I am not afraid to admit I occasionally participate).
Other Tumblrs are less niche and more personal. Some simply reblog pictures of kittens all day; others spend time and energy constructing smart, concise posts reminiscent of a short-form blog. Even more Tumblrs are run by dedicated fans, usually fans of The Avengers, Doctor Who, and some throwback 90s videogames.
I’d be willing to guess that most of Tumblr’s traffic are reblogs of Robert Downey Jr. photosets, but again–Tumblr is whatever you want it to be. You choose who you follow. Posts that appear on your feed include a “reblogged from” link, so if someone posts something you like, you can track down where it originated and find new and interesting Tumblrs to follow.
I think it’s important to know what you like, and not be afraid to like that thing. When you are building an audience and an author platform, readers will come looking not for dry writing advice or shameless self-promotion (that’s what blogs and Twitter are for, ha ha, JOKING), but for you: You just as you are, as someone they admire, as a unique individual with varied interests and an eye for the witty and interesting.
Think about famous authors you follow, and try to pin down what it is they do that you like: what types of posts do they make that resonate with you? What kind of content do you enjoy seeing on your feed? You are curating the content you see and produce for your followers.
Why should I use Tumblr?
You have a lot to do as an author. Promotion is a big part of that in this era, but it’s important to focus on your craft, too.
A lot of authors approach social media platforms like Twitter or Tumblr with the belief that, “This is intimidating, and new, and I don’t have time to do it.” There are a lot of things demanding your attention: your blog, your Facebook page, your email. I get that–I really, really do. And I get that doing those things takes time away from writing, from family, from all those other things happening in our lives.
But Tumblr doesn’t have to be work. I mean, it’s good to think of building your social media platform that way: as a part of your job, as something you need to set aside time for, that requires some small degree of dedication. There is a learning curve.
All that stuff I mentioned about Robert Downey Jr., about cats, about funny author memes? That is why you should use Tumblr. Because it’s a way for you to connect with your audience in a way that is enjoyable. It only takes as much time as you have for it. Check your Tumblr dashboard a few times a day. Scroll through it, reblog things you like, queue them up so you don’t fill your followers’ feeds with a bunch of posts all at once. Have funny conversations with yourself or your characters. Talk about what you’re working on, and your frustrations with it.
Whatever you want to do, do it. Think of Tumblr as separate and different from your other platforms like Facebook or your blog; think of it as a place where you can be yourself, and reblog kittens to infinity if you want, because nobody on Twitter would put up with you doing that.
And best of all, your audience will feel how much fun you’re having, and they will want to continue interacting with you.