June 13, 2011Into fashion? You — and your brand — need to get into Tumblr.

When I joined Tumblr in 2009, I thought I was pretty late to the party. But the microblogging platform has only gone from strength to strength to strength. But although I hang out there all the time, and have even made a few friends there (although not as many as my livejournal days) I don’t use it for business.

Tumblr started out a little like a cooler version of Twitter. I’ve often said that Twitter feels like a water cooler for us bored, lonely freelancers who don’t get to enjoy the simple pleasures of office gossip — well, Tumblr started out kind of like a hyper-specific water cooler for graphic designers, artists, and techie hipsters who mostly wanted to reblog each other’s cool designs. Some time between the year I joined and now, something changed.

Tumblr is indisputably the platform of choice for teenage (and slightly older) girls. I don’t know what the exact ratio of girls to boys on tumblr is, but one thing I can tell you is, unlike the rest of the internet, it isn’t a sausage fest. Heck, I actually went on a date with a girl I met on tumblr and she didn’t turn out to be a cave dweller or a social reject. In fact she was fairly typical of the friends I’ve made on tumblr. Young, pretty, urban, sophisticated, and very, very interested in fashion.

Okay, Tumblr isn’t quite as hipster as it used to be, but it’s still very cool. It’s full of young, affluent, fashionable people with lots of disposable income. That makes it a perfect place to  promote your brand — if it’s already fashionable, you’re already playing to a captive audience. If you’re looking to become more fashionable, tumblr  is the definitive social media platform with “fashionable” street cred. GQ is on Tumblr — and it’s as effortlessly cool as the magazine.

But how do you get it right? What’s the right way to promote your brand on Tumblr?

1. Stop trying to sell me something

Like all social media, if you out and out spam me with “buy this! subscribe to that! follow me! follow me! WHY WON’T YOU FOLLOW ME???” junk I will ignore you, block you, or report you. Fortunately, Tumblr is mostly free of that kind of crap — which is why we like it. And we’d like to keep it that way, please.

That’s especially true on tumblr, where the aim of the game is to share ideas and inspiration — very rarely original content. My tumblr is mostly full of the music I like, interspersed with a little bit of architecture and photography. I have a graphic designer friend who shows off her talent using her tumblr — but she never, ever hassles anyone to buy anything. She simply draws something, puts it up for free, and tells you you can buy a print, if you really want. If you’re a brand, you could learn a lot from her.

2. Inspire and be inspired

Sweet Home Style is a great example of a conversation happening online. People submit photos of their interior designs and other people follow. Sweet Home Style is such a popular tumblr it offers monthly sponsorship, without being intrusive. It relies on user generated content — in essence, it’s a forum where people come to share ideas — to inspire and be inspired. Even if you’re trying to sell your own products through Tumblr, your Tumblr shouldn’t just be about you — it should be about the things that inspire you and your readers. Tumblr is a medium that cries out for user generated content to be shared and enjoyed — so make the most of it.

3. Set the mood

I recently suggested to a brand that was lacking direction they could crowdsource what people thought of them visually by setting up a tumblr and asking subscribers to submit images, music, quotes etc that they thought evoked the mood of the brand. But on the whole, most brands know their image already — and a Tumblr is a great way to set the mood for your brand by posting images and ideas that fit your unique style. Do you run a burlesque night? Or are you an acid house promoter? You’ll want to post a lot of pictures of girls in corsets or old videos of 80s warehouse parties, then. Find out what your followers are into — and post things that will appeal to them and solidify your brand identity.

4. Make use of Tumblr’s unique features

I have a journalist / blogger / freelancer friend who works in fashion. She uses Tumblr to aggregate all of her blog posts from across several different sites into one place. The result? A much wider audience for her fashion journalism, as well as a quick and easy repository of all her work for potential future employers and commissions. Tumblr is so easy to use you can start posting in minutes — and it’s a much more versatile platform than Twitter. Think of it as a simpler, slightly cooler socially oriented version of WordPress crossed with Twitter — then think of all the possibilities a platform like that can give you.

The golden rule – Tumblr is a unique community.
Normal rules of social media don’t apply.

Tumblr is home to rampant image piracy and has more repeats than terrestrial television. Expect to see the same old blurry vintage effect photos with helvetica quotes stamped on them a lot. Expect to see fluffy kittens and teenage angst daily. But also expect to find a really solid community of people who care about each other and who aren’t afraid to speak their minds — a little like the good old days of Livejournal. Take it easy at first — Forget what you know from Facebook and Twitter. Tumblr has its own set of rules and etiquette, so don’t offend the natives. And don’t try to spam us or sell us crap.

People on Tumblr trust other people on Tumblr. It’s still a much smaller, friendlier place than Twitter or Facebook. That means brands who go there — and get it right — get a lot more respect, too.


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This entry was posted on Monday, June 13th, 2011 at 7:27 pm and is filed under Blog, Digital, Social Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One comment

  1. Emma says:

    Amazing article and so very true. I frustrates me how so many brands get social media wrong…and like your self I have scurried over to the safety of tumblr too. Fantastic way to see and be seen.

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