No Comment: Using Tumblr to Tell Your Brand Story

by Liz Courtney 02 Apr 2013 Blog Post

As digital brand marketers, we understand too well the enormous time requirements of effective community management. We sometimes ask ourselves “I wonder, if there’s a social network where we could engage our customers, and inspire them to share on our behalf, without the clutter of comments and replies and FAQs. A social platform where content is king and engagement comes only in the form of like it, share it, or start your own page?”

Ah, but this platform does exist, and it has for years! Oh Tumblr, how I love thee.

For the uninitiated, Tumblr may seem just like another blogging platform like WordPress or Blogger. While it can indeed play the role of traditional blog, its dashboard feed and searchable hashtags are akin to Twitter or Instagram where the latest content from those you follow appear at the top of your page upon log in.

Tumblr Split Screen

Target Style’s Tumblr (left) and how it appears in the Tumblr dashboard (right)

Unique about Tumblr

From a digital marketing standpoint, unique is that there are, by default, no user comments. Blog owners can turn on a feature called Replies, but it only enables replies to happen in the dashboard view, and only from those who follow you for more than two weeks (thereby discouraging trolls and spammers). You can show your approval of someone’s post by “liking” it, but in order to write any kind of comment, you have to actually re-blog it on your own Tumblr page, writing your response there. In other words, to engage with a brand’s content, you have to first share it with your own social network, and this behavior is highly encouraged. This was a very deliberate design that Tumblr CEO David Karp says is a way for people to give feedback without “the world of horrible anonymous Internet awfulness.” You can’t just write something nasty on someone’s page, and then leave. You have to truly own your statements.

Furthermore Tumblr is not just a platform, it’s a community. A community of content creators and consumers. An average Tumblr user spends 1 hour and 38 minutes on the site per month doing nothing but consuming content. As brand marketers, if we can add quality content to the community, we earn the right to play there.

“A central component of Tumblr is visual content, which also plays well with aspirational brands,” writes Dr. Scott Hendrickson, data scientist at Gnip who recently spoke at our Social Business Summit in Austin. It also has a longer tail than your average tweet or Facebook post. “Tumblr content is both extremely viral and has a long shelf life meaning that content shared on Tumblr can be shared for longer periods of time and jump to more diverse sub-groups within the network than other social networks”

With no comments to moderate and the brand initiating all the content on their page, brands are free to create a highly customized and idealized brand experience within Tumblr. That doesn’t just mean publishing cat gifs and generating Ryan Gosling memes about new products. No, the most savvy brands are doing something more elegant, using Tumblr to craft an emotive, sharable, and very visual narrative around their brand. Let’s look at a few examples.

Telling Your Brand Story

Ace Hotel

ACE Hotel

Ace Hotel has done a great job of bringing the design aesthetic of their hotels to the content of their blog. While Ace uses their Tumblog to promote the hotels’ music and fashion events, the brand also understands that not every post has to advertise. Some updates can serve to perpetuate the brand personality, and nothing more. And when it comes to personality, Ace Hotel nails it on Tumblr. Their site seems to say, “stepping into the Ace Hotel is not unlike stepping back in time to an America where people still make things with their hands, wild horses roamed free on the great plains, we advertised with movable type, captured our life moments with Polaroids and held up our pants with suspenders. But this isn’t some antique-y B&B, and you can expect only the latest in music and fashion within these sepia toned walls.”

Disney Parks

Disney Parks

Making the most of the creative community aspect of Tumblr, Disney Parks invited a group of influential Tumblr photographers to the amusement parks and let them have creative control – the ask was for them to shoot photos they’d want to see and share. The Disney Parks Photo Project “The Looking Glass” has indeed been sharable with new photos going up nearly every day and getting hundreds of reblogs each. Best of all, the photo content comes with the added authenticity of coming from people outside of the brand who have their own unique fan bases.

Whole Foods

Whole Foods

Similar to Disney, Whole Foods uses creative partnerships to create high-caliber content for their Tumblr blog “Dark Rye.” – bloggers, photographers, illustrators and food experts. It’s an extension of their online magazine, served up in bite-sized slices (I’ll keep going with the bread metaphors here…) Not only does their Tumblr reinforce the Whole Foods brand image through visual content, it provides utilitarian value to its followers in the way of how-to videos, articles and daily inspiration.

NYC.gov

NYC

As a New Yorker, the big city we live in can feel pretty overwhelming. Which is why I am endlessly impressed by NYC.gov’s ability to boil down a massive swirl of information into a super digestible, and downright entertaining, Tumblr blog. NYCgov.tumblr.com serves as the central hub for all of the city’s digital content from departments including Schools & Education, “Getting Around” (the MTA, the Port Authority, the DOT, etc), Arts & Culture, Volunteer, Jobs and “311” (FAQs and breaking info). You’d be amazed at how information, like a report from the NYC Department of Transportation on pothole repair, becomes fun to read about. Gorgeous Instagram pics from locals and quotes from famous New Yorkers pepper the feed, breaking up the latest updates on city legislation and pics of Mike Bloomberg at ribbon cutting ceremonies. Spend five minutes a day with this Tumblr and the Big Apple (which, admit it, is a “brand” too) will feel like a small town, in a good way.

All these companies have their own unique objectives on Tumblr, but what they have in common is really high quality content – be it vibrant photography, or informed voices delivering well-written material. When content is front and center, Tumblr can be the stage for some truly engaging brand stories.