The evolution of Tumblr: From micro-blogging platform to an eco-system of content

September  22,  2014 / By Taylor Blog

It started out of sheer boredom my freshman year of undergrad that I happened to find myself signed up for Tumblr. I initially used it for blogging purposes, which quickly faded because, well, fandoms happened and then I realized that Tumblr was built to do so much more than I expected.

How to use Tumblr

Tumblr is a haven for what I like to call the “extroverted-introverts.” Meaning, it allows you to be as social as possible while still maintaining just your little piece of the Internet. You can still have as much anonymity as you would like, but also be in really personal discussions with complete strangers. For example, nearly every Tumblr user I know would never share their URL with friends they really know (irl: “in real life”). It’s just something about that space that allows for being social and private at the same time. Now clearly that’s a blanket statement and the anonymity of Tumblr can vary from one user to the next, but I’m using the extreme to make the point that Tumblr is not another Facebook. It is a micro-blogging platform that is more about personalizing and creating a network of content than creating a network of users.

The basics.

I won’t insult your intelligence with a lot of this history of Tumblr, so just a few details. Tumblr was created by David Karp (aka Daddy) and is currently valued at $800 million. Karp sold his baby for approximately $1 billion to Yahoo this past year. Tumblr is a first and foremost a social blogging platform. It offers a short form blogging space for its users. Posting occurs in mixed mediums (quotes, videos, gifs (a lot of gifs), text, audio, links etc.). Not difficult to see why or how this platform has been referred to as a creative playground.

Tumblr launched its mobile app four years ago and since then, they have allegedly seen 251% total engagement growth from the app alone. Tumblr also began running ads in 2013 (same time it was acquired by Yahoo) and they claim that a user can expect to see about four ads per day. In June of this year, Marissa Mayer announced that “Tumblr’s native-styled sponsored posts were now available for placement across Yahoo’s properties.” A user can now also find ads on their dashboard.

The users.

According to the most credible of sources (Wikipedia), half of Tumblr’s visitor base is under the age of 25. Tumblr themselves state that they are currently hosting 202.6 million blogs. Which is fantastic because it was only recently that a Google search for Tumblr would produce a slew of warnings…the answer to the question, “Should I get a Tumblr?” was, “No! Tumblr causes viruses.”

Let me just say, Tumblr does not cause viruses, this was just a ploy by bloggers to keep Tumblr “underground” as long as possible. Which let’s face it, would have been a shame because we now have President Obama, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lady Gaga on Tumblr. Similarly, organizations such as G.E., Human Rights Watch, NPR, and Forbes have found their way to this fantastic platform. It would be safe to say that by now most major organizations and a large handful of celebrities have created a Tumblr (for better or for worse).

The evolution.

Tumblr is all about the user experience and customization. They really try to understand how content is shared, created, and curated on their platform. To be as ambiguous as possible, most users start by focusing on a specific interest or subculture. They then follow tumblrs who blog (original content) or re-blog curated content specific to that interest. This sounds simple but Tumblr is like a hipster in the fall, there are just so many layers of interaction. As a user becomes interested in more subcultures, they can choose to add them to their current blog or create another blog entirely devoted to that interest. He/she can also create a third blog, which is just “personal,” and what that usually means is that it will be more random content rather than content tied to a specific interest. But despite the fact that you can engage with this platform on so many levels, somehow all users will still get the inside jokes and still consider themselves part of the “Tumblrverse” at large (granted you put in your 4-plus daily hours).

This is where I think Tumblr’s evolution is best illustrated; in the interaction between and creation of various subcultures on this platform. What started as a way to micro-blog (a change of pace from the Blogger, Livejournal, and WordPress days) has turned into a thriving eco-system of content. Tumblr gives you a platform to post about art that you have created, articles that you enjoy, TV and movies that you adore, and discuss and argue on everything from the latest fashion trends to the ontological value of the pineapple in SpongeBob Squarepants.

The point.

Tumblr is only going to continue to evolve to match the blogging needs of its users and with its acquisition into Yahoo you can definitely expect Tumblr to begin to try to engage heavily with brands and marketers. And why not? There are people on Tumblr with opinions that they would love to share!

As more and more people become interested in this platform, I expect Tumblr to become a great resource for marketers and researchers alike. Granted, utilizing Tumblr might be difficult at first but when/if executed well, you can nearly guarantee it will be very effective. The Tumblr audience is looking to interact with strong creative content. I have successful converted three of my friends to Tumblr and must warn you, Tumblr is the abyss that stares back. Go out and try it…I mean you can’t go wrong by following the world’s creators, right?

My friends (and now colleagues) can attest that I can talk about Tumblr for hours, so I hope that was somewhat brief and objective enough to shine light on this platform. If you want more info on my experiences on Tumblr, how I see it influencing human behaviour, or want the nonobjective version of this post, hit me up @asandeena…I may respond in only gifs.

Brands/Companies: Disney, Target, GE, Coke, MKG, Laundry Service, Black Milk

Just because it’s the internet: One Tiny Hand, Bored Gallery Guards, Reasons my Kid is Smiling, Laughing Squid

Photo: SproutSocial.com

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