Tumblr: The Final Frontier

By Lindsay Miller @lindzaymiller

Facebook. Tumblr. Instagram. Even Snapchat is getting into the game.  Sooner or later, every social media site sells out to sponsored content.  But how can brands turn these interruptions into calls-to-action that people will respond to?

First and foremost, brands need to understand their platforms.  Facebook is different from Twitter which is different from Instagram.  The same content cannot be passively shoved into each platform.  Facebook is a great tool for general marketing, Twitter is used to send out important information and interact with consumers, and Instagram is a platform for sharing images relevant to your brand.  So what is Tumblr for?

Tumblr is a social media site and microblogging platform that was founded in 2007 by David Karp.  Since then, the site has come to house over 200 million blogs worldwide.  Users can share photos, music, videos, GIFs, quotes, and written posts. The interface is interactive and allows users to reblog, like, and “ask” questions to other users.  In June of 2013, Yahoo! Inc. acquired Tumblr, and with the acquisition came numerous changes.  Most notably, in less than two weeks, Yahoo began to run sponsored posts.  Though Tumblr had previously made some headway in the native advertising realm, Yahoo really pushed the sponsored posts into the forefront of the website.

Introducing Tumblr Sponsored Posts Powered by Yahoo Advertising: Creative Storytelling Meets Leading Technology<br /> We’re kicking off 2014 with a major upgrade to our advertising platform: Tumblr Sponsored Posts Powered by Yahoo Advertising. That’s right, now the things you promote on Tumblr can take advantage of the marketing finesse that Yahoo technology has to offer.<br /> The big deal:<br /> Tailor your audience: Use gender and location to deliver your content with accuracy. <br /> Only pay for engagement: You’re only charged for Reblogs, Likes, follows, or clicks made directly from the Sponsored Post itself. <br /> Remove the guesswork: Try out different creative approaches, and we’ll narrow your campaign down to the one that performs best.<br /> Measure the results: Our analytics tools now report demographic data. <br /> The power of a Sponsored Post:<br /> 60% of users who’ve seen Sponsored Posts find the content fun, engaging, and high quality.<br /> 70% of consumers perceive a brand more favorably after seeing a Sponsored Post.<br /> 50% of users who saw Sponsored Posts researched the sponsor afterward.<br /> We’re excited to introduce these enhanced capabilities to the striking creative work and native advertising experience that define sponsorships on Tumblr. This is where advertising is actually fun, and we plan on keeping it that way.<br /> Ready to get started? Visit www.tumblr.com/business.<br /> &lt;3<br /> Source: Nielsen/Tumblr Brand Tracker, 2013

For many brands, it’s easy to see why advertising on Tumblr is attractive.  The majority of Tumblr’s users are between the sought-after age group of 16-24, and on average users spend 18 minutes per visit on the site–more than any of the other top 100 most visited websites.  In fact, more time is spent on Tumblr per month than is spent watching the top 10 primetime shows combined.

However, there is an issue: Tumblr users hate your ads.


Users typically view sponsored posts as an interruption from a website that they enjoy and are engaged with.  At best, they see the dollar sign in the top right corner signifying a sponsored post and ignore it, and at worst, they read/watch the post to then realize that it is an advertisement.  Often, users feel like they’re being yelled at to buy something they weren’t even looking for.

<br /><br /> Since we launched our first sponsored post on Tumblr Radar one year ago, we’ve been proud to see our partners bring their most creative work to Tumblr. Their posts have already earned more than 10 million likes and reblogs.</p><br /> <p>Today, we’ll start to bring sponsored posts to your Dashboard on the web. Just like in our mobile apps, these posts will simply blend in with the posts from the blogs you follow.<br /><br /> Now back to your regularly scheduled Dashboard!

By and large, these sponsored posts are trying (and failing) to appeal to the Tumblr crowd.  These brands take the basics that they know about the site and then slap them into ad form.  But Tumblr users are interested in more than just cats, memes, and GIFs, and can spot these campy advertising tactics a mile away.  One advertisement by Home Depot, featuring a meme they entitled Richard the Cat, received an enormous amount of backlash for Tumblr users.

dennys post 1 Tumblr teams up with Ford, Universal, AT&T, Dennys and more to bring ads to your dashboard

In many ways, brands are trying to force their way into the Tumblr culture.  What they fail to understand when advertising through the site are the various nuances that differentiate it from other social media.  Unlike Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, Tumblr is much more anonymous, and often much more personal.  And though many users do enjoy cats and GIFs and memes, they don’t enjoy when brands try to target them through those means.

So how do brands reach Tumblr users? The first step lies within one of the main features of Tumblr–its interactivity.  Brands can’t shout at users and expect for there to be reciprocation.  They need to engage and become active members in the community for users to notice them.

So far many brands haven’t been successful within the Tumblr community, but a select few are making progress.  One such example is the horror movie Ouija, which was released earlier this year.

(68) Likes  Tumblr 2014-11-19 23-05-57

First and foremost, Ouija realized that its target audience would be the 16-24 year old age group that inhabits Tumblr.  They set their sights on this age group, took an in-depth look at Tumblr users and how to market to them.  What they ended up doing for a marketing campaign was taking six “Tumblr-famous” artists, and having them create concept art relevant to the movie. They then not only distributed this artwork through sponsored posts, but the artists themselves would post what they had created. Thus the marketing campaign would not only be through paid advertisements, but regular Tumblr posts as well. This made the campaign itself feel much less like a campaign, and more like a collaboration with Tumblr users.

Tumblr has a lot to offer brands if brands would take the time to understand how to interact with Tumblr users.  Companies need to understand that the platform is ineffective if they simply push advertisements onto users.  They must consider how to interact the people that use the site and speak to them in meaningful ways.  Tumblr has always been a site for collaboration and interactivity, and in order to successfully market to users, brands must use that in their campaigns.


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