Should Your Small Business Join Tumblr?

With more than 60 million accounts, it may seem like everyone is blogging via Tumblr. Here are some reasons why.
July 02, 2012

Tumblr has become an Internet darling, with more than 60 million accounts worldwide. Its users are eager to interact with compelling content, so it's no wonder major brands have flocked to the blogging platform. As a small-business owner, those facts might persuade you to switch over, too.

But before you hop on yet another platform, there are a few things to consider—especially if you're already running an established blog elsewhere.

First of all, platform adoption depends on your initial goal: Are you looking for engagement, awareness and advocacy? How heavily will you rely on Tumblr as a business? Is it an integral source of revenue or data, or just a place to communicate and engage?

We've broken down a few of Tumblr's pros and cons from a brand's perspective:

Pro: It's User-Friendly

For anyone new to the blogging world, Tumblr is advantageous because it's quick to learn. All of the features are apparent in the dashboard. You can customize your blog's appearance with very little tweaking. Plus, the sleek mobile app means you can update on the fly.

The default theme on Tumblr has more aesthetic freedom than a lot of other blogging platforms, but there are also plenty of pre-packaged themes to choose from (many look less like a blog and more like your own website). Because most are free, Tumblr is a great platform for anyone who can't afford to hire a designer.

Pro: It's More Social

Tumblr is naturally more social than most platforms. Tumblr regulars will not be shy about interacting with your brand, as long as you provide them with captivating content.

Keep in mind that Tumblr users want to see your brand's personality. This is nice for many companies because it allows them to be more creative, but challenging for others who aren't used to thinking outside of the box. If your company doesn't adhere to the formality of most corporate blogs, then Tumblr is the place for you. In fact, some of the best examples of branded accounts are the ones that break the corporate mold.

For example, Internet Explorer's Tumblr has a nontraditional sense of humor, claiming to be the "browser you loved to hate." Yet, the page is still informational, and it engages the audience by pulling tweets from users who are reluctantly praise the new browser.

Pro: It's Categorized

Tumblr's tag system is categorized into several popular topics: art, tech, fashion and advertising, among others.

Depending on what your company does, there's already a community that's been filtered. This navigates brands to the right audience, saving time and energy when you want to build a following.

So, let's say you run a small advertising firm. There's an "advertising" tag that's curated by community managers, and it's easily accessible and available for you to neatly categorize your blog to target the right audience. Viewers who are interested in advertising will come to you.

The tag system is useful for brands because if used properly, their content has a chance to be showcased. Plus, if you're feeling uninspired, the tag dashboard becomes tailored to your area of interest, so you always have relevant content from which you can pull.

Con: There's a Lack of Analytics

Although you can sync a third-party app like Google Analytics to your Tumblr, there are no features that will reveal Tumblr-specific statistics.

Through referral analytics, brands can know how many people are visiting and sharing the site outside of Tumblr, but a lot of users only interact through their dashboard. As a result, analytics don't accurately reflect the number of people who interact with your content. For example, if a post gets reblogged 200 times, there's no way to tell how many people total saw it on the dashboard the way Facebook's analytics feature can (via "reach").

You can view Tumblr "notes" ("likes" and reblogs) individually, but that requires a lot of time, especially since the two forms of activity aren't separated within each post.

Con: It's Unreliable

If Tumblr's server goes down, it is out of your hands. That can be scary, especially if you rely on the platform for e-commerce or to keep the business running. Once the site is back up, the functionality tends to be a little shaky, and it could remain that way for hours or even days.

Over the years, Tumblr has grown from a small community of users to hosting more than 60 million blogs, and stability has occasionally been an issue. In 2010, the company had a major problem with its database clusters and the site was down for more than 14 hours as a result of this instability.

Thanks to the platform's fast growth, the company has expanded its servers and support team. The site has yet to experience a similar outage, but it's an important consideration for businesses.

Con: There's a Lack of Native Comment Functionality

Tumblr is one of the most social blogging platforms, but there is no native commenting system.

Users can message blogs, send "fan mail" or ask questions, but that is at the brand's discretion to allow, and there's no way to comment on an individual post without a third-party app.

Alternatively, the brand can ask followers questions, but there's a specific post format for that. Another way to get around it is ending a post with a question mark (on the edit page, a box will appear at the right that opens the post for commentary).

So, Now What?

In short, if you're looking for an aesthetically pleasing, user-friendly way to reach out and engage, then Tumblr is a fairly good platform for you.

However, if you rely on a blog for your business to run as a whole, it might be safer to hire a professional or develop your own website. You could then use Tumblr as an additional platform and still interact with its highly engaged audience.

Does your company have a blog on Tumblr? If so, add the link in the comments section.

Image by OPEN Forum