5 Brands Using Tumblr Effectively

It may not seem as glamorous as big networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, but with over 50 million users and 20 billion posts, it is unwise to overlook Tumblr as an effective medium for brands.

On the surface, one might assume that Tumblr is just a place for One Direction fangirls to share each other’s crushes through reblogs and likes. The channel catches a lot of flack for not creating much unique content (it is trying to remedy this perception through the creative collaboration that is Reblorg), but it is actually a thriving community. Tumblr reaches a much larger demographic than you might imagine, as seen in Ignite Social Media’s 2012 Social Network Analysis. Many brands are utilizing the channel with incredible effectiveness, possibly implying that more brands should follow suit.

Tumblr Overview

Before we start listing off some spectacular branded Tumblr blogs, there are a few things you should know about the platform:

  1. Engagement is measured in Reblogs and Likes
  2. Users can add comments to their reblogs
  3. Users can add their own tags to reblogs
  4. Brand pages are no different from user pages

With that out of the way, here are some examples of brands doing a great job of social media marketing on Tumblr:

Coca-Cola “Happiness Is”

Demographic: Teenage Bloggers, “Pinners”

Coca-Cola is a leading presence in social media across the board. And although Coca-Cola’s target Tumblr audience is indeed the teen “Directioner” demographic according to SocialFresh, the soft drink company has a very mature approach.

Coke’s Tumblr accentuates what their Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts have already alluded to: Coca-Cola knows social media. You won’t see a lot of text on “Happiness Is” because Coke knows that Tumblr is not your average blogging site.

You see, Tumblr is fueled by the reblog. This works just like the retweet, except that on Tumblr it is (generally) acceptable to have a blog that consists solely of recycled content. Coke maintains a very healthy balance with all of the content it posts on Tumblr on two main scales: Original Content vs. Reblogged Content.

Coca-Cola has created some really great images, including awesome animated GIFs that generate a ton of engagement. Their original content complements the many images they carefully curate from other users on Tumblr.

And though it may seem counter-intuitive, not all the content featured on “Happiness Is” is branded with the Coca-Cola name. Again, it is all carefully curated, but Coke knows what sells on Tumblr. A good reblog of a fun and bright GIF can generate an amazing amount of engagement and click-backs. This is another example of how well Coca-Cola understands Tumblr marketing.

It is also worth noting the integration of Facebook and Twitter buttons help fans engage further and increases the potential virality of Coca-Cola’s posts.


Demographic: College Graduates, Middle Aged Men and Women

NPR has a very active presence on Tumblr. It is extremely different than Coca-Cola, but equally (if not more) effective. With a layout and theme similar to NPR.org, the news organization’s Tumblr achieves success by being relevant and personal.

The NPR Tumblr feed stays relevant with breaking political, social, economic, and tech news. NPR’s Tumblr team (see above) maintains a steady stream of content that usually comes from NPR.org. They are also reblogging fiends, and have been known to share content from sources like The Atlantic, Mashable, and The New York Times – as well as lesser known publications and users. Text updates are common (usually accompanied by photos), but most of them are short excerpts or summaries from the articles they promote. Followers can also expect videos and an occasional long article.

This Tumblr is also very personable. The radio channel’s page is run by four very informed and engaged community managers who, unlike most social media managers, are allowed to openly use their own names and wit to communicate with fans on the page. This blog takes advantage of the “Ask” feature offered by Tumblr, where followers can ask the curators questions and await a response either publically or privately, depending on the sensitivity of the question. These serve as a platform for both informative interaction and comedic relief. Remember that followers enjoy knowing there is a real personality behind a brand’s social image, much like in the example below:

Warby Parker “Zagg Pepper”

Demographic: People who like to be fashionable for a reasonable price, Hipsters

Warby Parker is an online designer eyewear brand that donates a pair of glasses for every pair it sells. Their products are super trendy and equally affordable (I love my Sinclairs), and the NYC based company is growing quickly. Despite this growth, Warby Parker remains accessible to their fan base by opening up their products and operations to fans via their Tumblr blog.

The first notable bit about Warby Parker’s Tumblr is that they use it as their main blog. They’ve utilized Tumblr’s hosting capability to run off their current web domain (blog.warbyparker.com). Any Tumblr user can do this with their domain, brands included (again, Tumblr makes no distinction). Taking this approach to Tumblr makes the brand’s official blog more social and easy to share. Warby Parker is able to combine traditional standard blogging with photos and material suitable to Tumblr sharing. The only problem with this method is that blogs on Tumblr aren’t very SEO-friendly. If you depend on SEO to drive traffic to your blog, you’ll want to take this into consideration before making Tumblr your official blog site.

The other piece that makes Warby Parker a noteworthy Tumblr brand is that they are able to effectively use the channel to simultaneously promote their products and give their followers a view into their operations. Followers can expect new product announcements, office highlights, and updates on the company’s community involvement. Fans love to share this kind of content, and it positively increases brand sentiment and virality.

Saks Fifth Avenue “10022-SHOE”

Demographic: Women with expensive taste in shoes.

For those of you who don’t know that much about shoes, you may be surprised to learn that Saks Fifth Avenue shoe floor is so large, it literally has its own zip code. Mail can be sent to the zip code 10022-SHOE and it will make it to the shoe department of the massive store in New York City. Saks has given this zip code personality in the form of a Tumblr blog devoted to shoes.

This Saks blog, titled “10022-SHOE,” is a good example of a consumer-based Tumblr blog that focuses on an older demographic with a larger disposable income – proving that Tumblr isn’t just for materialistic, self-indulged teenagers. Are they actually reaching their target demographic? It’s hard to say exactly, but the hundreds of notes on most of their posts implies something must be working.

“10022-SHOE” uses Tumblr to cross-promote events and contests on Saks’ other channels, and keeps followers updated on new releases and shoe salon news. When photos go viral through Tumblr reblogs, people are also exposed to the corresponding text you supply. Saks takes their image a step further by adding a watermark to their original photos, keeping their brand associated with viral images. Also, if you visit their Tumblr blog, take note of the embedded Twitter and Facebook sharing functionality in each post. Tumblr notes (likes and reblogs) are easily the highest form of engagement, but there is a bit of cross-platform sharing happening as well.


Demographic: Anyone with a soul

Beyond being generally awesome, the DisneyPixar team really understands the goal of Tumblr. Their posts feature video clips and stills from their movies and shorts, hand sketched storyboards, a little cross-platform marketing, and something much more worthwhile: questions. The quality and sentiment of their movies have effectively done most of the legwork, but the brand knows what the people want (gifs and memes), and it gives it to them.

Take the repurposed meme above for instance. Disney-Pixar is aware enough of Tumblr (and Internet) culture to appeal to their followers by repurposing pre-existing content. With a caption, “Visual Development Edna is not impressed.” it gives users an inside look at the Pixar development process while also entertaining. As of writing, this post has nearly 500 notes.

Disney-Pixar also uses a Tumblr engagement tool that allows you to answer questions they ask you. Aside from the way they’ve used it in this image, brands can request that users leave feedback for a product or service, comment on posts, or otherwise join in on a conversation.

BONUS: What Doesn’t Seem To Work

So, there are lots of great examples of brands using Tumblr effectively to help make their brand viral. However, one thing none of these brands seems to be using is Tumblr’s Promoted Post features. Recently, Tumblr has been providing its users with the ability to promote a post by either highlighting them in the feeds of followers ($2) or pinning them to the top of feeds for 24 hours ($5). Here’s how Tumblr describes the promotions:

Why aren’t these brands using them? Well, they don’t really seem to work and they are kind of annoying.

A pinned post stays at the top of the news feed and is obtrusive, tacky, and overall obnoxious. Highlighted posts are equally gaudy and importunate. Neither of these goes over well with followers. Take a look at what a couple users have to say about promoted posts:

I don’t know what people expected from promoted posts that only cost $5. Having said that, if you’ve seen a brand using these effectively, please let us know. It may have potential if used in the right way.

UPDATE: The aforementioned Tumblr post promotion options have been made obsolete. For more information see this post from Mashable (case and point).

Key Takeaway

As always in social media…content is king. Tumblr is a great outlet for brands to focus on their users and engage them in a unique way. Tumblr users are eager to share content, so virality should be a key goal when building your strategy for this platform. There are tons of ways to engage users with Tumblr. Utilize gifs and memes, share unique content, and give followers insight into your company. Just be aware of SEO issues when using Tumblr as your primary blog. And of course…make ’em laugh.

Ignite Social Media