Ah, Tumblr – birthplace to some of the most unique content on the web. It’s brought us gems such as “TL;DR Wikipedia,” “Beyoncé vs. Zombies,” and the dress argued ‘round the world within mere hours of being posted. With viral-prone content like this, it’s no surprise that as of Q3 2014, Tumblr became the fastest growing social platform. It is also currently the 13th-most visited site in the U.S.

However, many businesses that would benefit from being on Tumblr still lack a presence on the platform. Why? With a Tumblr blog comes a solid SEO boost, as search engines index the platform, in addition to yet another great mobile touchpoint on which to engage potential customers. Best of all? It’s free.

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The belief that this is a hub for creativity, activism and pop culture shouldn’t deter marketers – it should encourage them. The key to getting started and finding success lies in truly understanding the type of content that thrives among the Tumblr community, two-thirds of which is under 35. So, never mind the analysts who claim Tumblr is a “little too artsy for marketers to make inroads.” Follow this guide, and thank us later.

Do get started!

After creating an account, the first step is to decide on a blog layout and theme. As we’ve established, creative image-driven content dominates Tumblr. You want to cater to that, so don’t choose a text-focused layout. You want to make it as easy as possible for your fans to scroll through your content.

At this stage, it’s also critical to design a theme that reflects your brand. MTV’s Tumblr background, for example, extracts images posted on the blog and floats them around in an animated fashion. It screams, “pop culture!” CoverGirl has a simple white and pink theme, but the blog’s header is a collage of photos of Katy Perry in drastic, colorful makeup. It stays true to the CoverGirl brand, as well as the audience on Tumblr.

Once these steps are completed, it’s time to start creating content.

Do reblog fans.

One of the most interesting things about Tumblr is that it is heavily reliant on the sharing of content from other users (known as a reblog). Many blogs on the platform simply thrive on the basis of reblogging content from other blogs. It’s great to see brands pay homage to their biggest fans by sharing their content.

urban outfitters tumblr reblog

Urban Outfitters does it often, and does it extremely well. In this case, the brand reblogged this user’s photo of flowers they spotted during a hike. It doesn’t feature any UO products, but because the image is consistent with the spirit of the brand, it just fits.

This is the beauty of Tumblr. Marketers might be intimidated by the artsy, creative feel of the platform, but the ability to find and share content that’s consistent with the brand narrative is powerful. Of course, you don’t want every single piece of content to be a reblog, but if you’re ever in a lull or you simply want to give a shoutout to an awesome fan photo, don’t hesitate to go for it.

Don’t rely on Tumblr for real-time marketing.

Tumblr’s great for a lot of things, but something that doesn’t quite execute well on the platform is real-time marketing. Remember Oreo’s epic “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet during the blackout at Super Bowl XLVII? It was perfectly executed on Twitter because that’s where everyone was exchanging live commentary about the event. That type of content wouldn’t have performed so well on Tumblr.

According to Lee Brown, global head of brand partnerships at Tumblr, one-third of the engagement on a Tumblr post is received one month after the content is originally posted.

That said, Tumblr shouldn’t be relied on for immediacy. GE is a brand that does a fantastic job at acknowledging timely events all while making the content everlasting.

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This Pi Day GIF was posted on 3/14 to honor every mathematician’s favorite day of the year, but the GE team did not put a timestamp on the content. It’s something that any math lover could enjoy on any day. The GIF got a lot of engagement the day it was posted, but it’s still continuing to garner likes and reblogs, which speaks to its everlasting nature.

Do use GIFs.

Animated GIFs are a huge part of Tumblr culture. If you’re not hip to using them yet, you should be! This doesn’t mean everything you post needs to include a GIF, but followers will enjoy seeing them every so often. If done correctly, they can work for nearly every brand.

Refinery29, for example, created this GIF featuring a variety of makeup products spilling out of a makeup bag.

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Upon clicking the GIF, the user is taken to a larger photo that displays all of the products in a static image. If the user clicks it again, they’ll be taken to Refinery29’s website for tips on how to complete a makeup set on any budget. In this case, Refinery29 relied on a GIF to catch the eyes of the Tumblr audience and then effectively drove traffic back to their own site.

Don’t overdo it with hashtags.

Although you can hide hashtags on your Tumblr blog, users who follow you directly will still be able to see tags when your post comes up on their private feed. As with any other social platform, it’s important not to go crazy with hashtags because the post will come across as spammy. The last thing you want to do is detract attention from a great photo because it comes with an overload of tagged text.

ben and jerrys hashtags

This photo from Ben & Jerry’s, for instance, relies heavily on hashtags. Many of the hashtags, “half for me,” “half for you,” “split pint,”  and “fudge covered waffle cone,” among others, are not terms people are inclined to search for on Tumblr. The addition of those tags doesn’t provide much benefit from a search perspective, but it does unfortunately make the post look a bit like spam. In the case of hashtags, less is certainly more.

Do answer questions.

One of Tumblr’s most standout features is the ability to send blog owners questions that can then be answered publicly. Users can remain anonymous, if they’d like. It probably wouldn’t make sense for a retailer like J. Crew to take advantage of this, but for brands like Taco Bell or Denny’s, it absolutely works.

taco bell tumblr question

Fans get really excited when they see a reply from a company they love. A strategy like this also works toward further humanizing the brand.

What are you waiting for?

Tumblr is an effective platform for engaging your fans and getting effective traffic back to your site. In fact, a lot of your brand’s images could already be living and thriving on Tumblr, and you might not even know it. Curalate’s Dashboard can help you identify who’s been promoting your brand on the platform – and who can help you continue to do so.