Why Tumblr?

At work, we’re grappling with some big questions around what experiences we want to focus on in the near-term for Tumblr, what sorts of things we are going to set aside temporarily, and what we won’t work on at all.

Something I keep coming back to (we all are posing this question over and over, in different ways), is “why choose Tumblr over any other platform?” Here’s why I personally would choose Tumblr, today (after spending a bit over a month immersed in the app and not using other social media):

Tumblr is both blog and audience, both me and us. I’m writing this on the blog of my heart, my WordPress.com blog. It will be auto-posted to Tumblr, on my Tumblr blog (zingring.tumblr.com). It will also be auto-posted to Twitter. In other words, it will be broadcast to other audiences, and according to my stats, more than double my monthly audience comes from somewhere other than WordPress. Over the decade-ish that I’ve had my blog here, I’ve built up an ok audience – about 1600 people.

Over on Tumblr, I’ve got a hair more than 80 followers, in about a month. The rate of followers/month on WP.com has been about 13/mo, if, ya know, it worked that way (which it certainly does not).

The reason is because Tumblr is a blog network (by nature, blogs are decentralized – they exist independently, fulfilling the needs of their individual authors), and it also effectively puts each and every individual post that people make into the Great Stream of Content on Tumblr. So posts are centrally shared in a reader (the dashboard), but they also exist in curated fashion on each separate blog. You can read and enjoy someone’s post without ever seeing their blog. Tagging is essential here – the use of tags dictates where your post will show up. No tags at all means your post will show up on your follower’s dashboards — and that might be it; there are nearly 9 1/2 million posts made on Tumblr each day. Judicious use of tags (relevant to your content or theme) will mean that your post will show up to users who are specifically looking for that content.

Tumblr users can slice and dice their feeds, by using filters and following tags to ensure they see posts tagged with A but not with B. They can temporarily filter out a tag they usually see, to avoid spoilers. They can engage with a new tag and topic for a period to try it on and see if they like it. So, tagging is key for showing your content to other users. You’re not convincing them to sign up to follow your blog (though they may); you’re just showing them a post at a time. This simplifies consumption considerably.

You can make posts from the dashboard, instead of always making them on your own blog, and indeed, reblogging is the backbone of sharing on Tumblr. Reblogging happens on the dashboard, not the blog. Blog posts are your own creations, and reblogs are the way to broadcast others’ creations. Reblogging content that shows up on your dashboard puts the content out to your own followers – Liking does not. Liking is a feel good thing, but it doesn’t do much for the original creator. The connection between users on Tumblr is the Tumblr community. You don’t have Tumblr without it. The content on Tumblr is what makes the community. You don’t have Tumblr without it.

Watching Our Flag Means Death posts and gifs coming across my dashboard over the last few weeks convinced me to watch the show. I immediately went back to Tumblr and followed tags and blogs dealing with OFMD, and it’s the first time I’ve experienced a fandom in realtime on Tumblr. It is SO MUCH FUN. It’s an immersive experience, looking at all the fanart, the reblogs, the gifsets, the commentary around single moments in single scenes – it’s the deep dive I never knew I could have. I think people call this geeking out, but to me it feels more like tumblring in. I don’t have any original content around OFMD, but I don’t need to, to participate in the fandom. That’s what’s so cool. I’m not a passive observer – I’m getting so much out of being on the inside of this fandom, and I’m doing my part by reblogging all the things that I particularly like or that are thought-provoking.

This is what I find so special about Tumblr. This is why Tumblr, for me.

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