Is Tumblr making a return?
Tumblr, a social network with a unique microblogging platform, was unveiled by David Karp in 2007.
For anyone who signed up, creating a distinctive space on Tumblr was (and still is) easy, thanks to the platform's user-friendly interface and customizable templates.
The platform's social networking aspect also allowed creators to follow and interact with users with similar interests, fostering a sense of community that you couldn’t find anywhere else during the late 2000s.
But what really allowed Tumblr to stand out was the multimedia features – the platform's emphasis on visual content, such as images, GIFs, and videos, which provided the ideal setting for creators to share their work and interact with their audience.
Since this was pre-Instagram, users could take photos and upload them directly to the platform with whatever text or media they wanted to add to give it a creative flair. For many, Tumblr was the answer to that middle ground left by Twitter (which, once upon a time, had a character limit) and Facebook (where finding subcultures and anonymity wasn’t easy).
It quickly became the preferred outlet for writers, photographers, and other artists who wanted to share their content with a large audience. Tumblr also carved out space for a younger generation; young adults and teenagers (with newly released smartphones) created most accounts due to the platform's creative incentive.
Emerging artists and celebrities used the site to interact with fans and post content. Fans united over the love of a television show or other pop culture icons of the time. By 2013, the platform had grown to 73 million accounts.
After Yahoo acquired it in the same year for $1.1 billion dollars, the platform's popularity took a tumble. The acquiring company realized there was no real way for Tumblr to become a profitable platform and, in an attempt to turn things around, the new owners looked to ad sales as a way to monetize the site.
But it wasn’t that simple.
Since one could sign up for Tumblr without using any identifying information, advertisers had a hurdle in targeting the right audience. Adult and NSFW content also became a huge issue on the platform, and once it was banned in 2018, it led to a staggering 30 percent (151 million page views monthly) decline in traffic.
Tumblr changed hands again in 2019 – this time for three million dollars – to Automattic, and as newer social media platforms like Instagram emerged, Tumblr's user base went all but dormant.
Despite the changes, there’s always been a space carved out for a social platform like Tumblr. When other platforms want users to focus on certain mediums – video or text, for example – Tumblr is still one of the lone spaces on the Internet that offers a more open-ended and creative approach.
For that reason (and the frequent annoyance creators have toward platforms like Twitter and Instagram), creators are once again reminiscent of just how good the Tumblr days were for creativity and developing an online presence.
Tumblr's microblogging platform stands out because it combines social media and traditional blogging.
Users can customize the microblogs they make on their own using a variety of templates and themes. Thus, they can create a distinctive online space showcasing their personalities and interests.
Don’t want to commit to just writing blogs? Maybe you want to mix things up by adding video or photo content. With Tumblr, it’s all possible.
Tumblr users can access various content types, including text, images, videos, and audio files. The platform is an excellent choice for creators who want to present their work in various formats due to its multimedia capabilities.
The social networking features on Tumblr allow users to follow and interact with people who have similar interests. Users can "reblog," or essentially repost, the content of others on their blogs. This feature lets creators quickly share inspiring or fascinating content with their followers.
The freedom of creative expression on Tumblr is one feature that distinguishes it from other social media sites, enough so that there is even a Tumblr aesthetic.
A platform designed for creativity.
Another aspect of Tumblr's appeal to creators is its emphasis on originality and creativity.
Tumblr makes it simple for creators to express their sense of style and present their work in a way that feels true to their brand, thanks to its ability to customize blogs with distinctive themes, layouts, and designs.
With this degree of customization, creators can set themselves apart from the competition and build a reputation in their specialized markets.
For writers, poets, and other content creators, the multimedia approach Tumblr takes makes it easy to tell stories through various mediums and doesn’t require them to pigeonhole the type of content they create.
Tumblr's emphasis on text-based postings and longer content allows artists to elaborate on their ideas, viewpoints, and personal experiences, which can be difficult on other social media platforms that value short-form content.
Last but not least, Tumblr's low entry barrier and ease of use make it a tempting option for creators starting out in their respective industries. With no demand for a massive following or expensive equipment, creators can utilize Tumblr to get their work viewed and connect with other like-minded users.
Tumblr's reblogging function helps creators reach a broader audience, making it easier to get their work noticed and establish a following, much like on other social platforms, such as YouTube.
Tumblr's emphasis on creativity, freedom of expression, and community make it, in the end, an appealing platform for creators looking to showcase their work, establish their personal brand, and interact with other creatives.
What went wrong with Tumblr?
As enticing a platform as Tumblr was, some aspects needed to be addressed.
Though the platform encouraged user expression, the availability of explicit content raised outsider questions about child safety, prompting Apple to remove the platform from the App store.
Advertisers were concerned about system security despite the platform's implementation of content guidelines and the flagging of offensive content. Despite the ban on adult content, advertisers declined options to advertise on a site that didn’t match up with brand standards.
After Yahoo acquired Tumblr in 2013, the platform's primary users thought it was less appealing because of its increased focus on monetization, the addition of ads, and the introduction of sponsored content – all of which had been resisted by previous owners.
As creators moved to platforms like YouTube and Instagram, along with their faces and voices on full display, it became even harder for Tumblr to remain a viable competitor simply because it was based in a culture that favored anonymity.
Tumblr offered a unique platform for artistic expression, but it was unable to change to meet the evolving needs of its users, which caused a sharp decline in its user base.
For today’s Tumblr users there are some functionality aspects that creators want to see addressed. One example is how the main feed filters content for users.
While users on Instagram constantly ask for chronological posts, Tumblr is a different story. Users aren’t a fan of the chronological layout and prefer the algorithm to deliver more appealing content–much like TikTok does.
How are creators moving forward with Tumblr?
Even though Tumblr's user base has declined over the last decade, creators and brands still favor using it as a platform in their marketing strategy.
Brands, such as Manscaped, find the lack of competition an advantage.
In an interview with Marketing Brew, senior manager of paid social, Jenny Broekemeier, shared that when testing ads on Tumblr, they “spent 50% fewer ad dollars on Tumblr than it did in 2020…and drove 524% more revenue.”
Reblogs allow content to gain reach, and the brand finds good engagement on ads. Broekemeier hopes that the resurgence in awareness for Tumblr makes it an even bigger channel for them in the future.
On the content side, creators still use Tumblr to grow their online presence, share their work and connect with other creators.
Along with networking and building their brands, some creators use Tumblr to promote their goods and services. The ecommerce tools on Tumblr let creators set up online shops and sell to their followers. It is helpful for independent designers and creators who want to make money off their work without going through a third-party marketplace.
Despite past difficulties, Tumblr has spent time and effort reviving its platform. The company has enhanced and added new features that allow content creators to monetize their work.
For instance, Tumblr introduced the "post+" feature in 2019, enabling creators to provide their followers with exclusive content in exchange for a monthly subscription fee. The platform also collaborates with businesses like Patreon and PayPal to make it simpler for content creators to monetize their work.
Even though it is uncertain whether these initiatives will be successful in completely reversing the platform's decline, many creators are upbeat about the future.
Despite competition from other social media platforms, Tumblr's distinctive community and commitment to individual expression will keep it operating and attracting new users.
The platform’s CEO, Jeff D’Onofrio, highlights that he wants the intimacy of Tumblr to be the aspect that attracts creators back to the site.
Instead of going after advertising dollars, he aims to partner with networks like Netflix and Disney to tap into the fandoms the platform is known for.
And while Tumblr is still the little engine that could, its growth and resurgence depend on how the platform wants to move forward with features and incentives in a world where many users are tired of the Twitter drama and Instagram shenanigans.