I decided to write this post in addition to creating the free user guide, Tumblr Demystified, because I keep hearing around the internet about how confusing Tumblr is, so I just want to clear it up for those of you who want to know.
What is Tumblr
First let me explain what Tumblr is generally speaking. It is a blogging platform combined with a social network that allows people to share their posts with the Tumblr community and to build their own blogs. I often hear people ask, “should I use Tumblr or WordPress?” and that question shows a lack of fully understanding what Tumblr is. Tumblr can be your primary blog, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, my main site is this one, socialmediakb.com, but I also have a Tumblr blog, socialmediakb.tumblr.com. On my Tumblr blog, I interact with other blogs (I talk with others and answer questions), reblog posts, like posts, follow blogs and blogs follow me. There’s some overlap between this blog and my Tumblr blog because they’re the same topic, but how I use the two blogs is very different. Others use their Tumblr blogs as their personal blog where they post and reblog a variety of things that interest them and there are some who use their blogs to join a fandom. You can make your Tumblr blog about pretty much whatever you want.
Other Differences between Tumblr and a Traditional Blog
With a Tumblr blog, you can create a post that will be seen by your followers as well as some non-followers when you tag your post properly. Additionally, when people reblog your post, their followers will then see your post. Your post can be potentially be seen by thousands with the power of reblogging. Traditional blogs, on the other hand, don’t work that way; you have to do SEO and other practices in order for your posts to be visible to an audience.
What I’m trying to say is that Tumblr is not simply a place to make a blog and folks who treat it that way are going to miss out on some great and fun opportunities. There’s way more to Tumblr than just blogging.
Besides the previously mentioned differences, here’s another one: With a regular blog, you have to make all of your own posts if you don’t want your blog to be completely empty. With Tumblr, however, you don’t even have to create your own posts; you can just go to your dashboard (if you’re following any blogs) or do a Tumblr search for topics that interest you and add the posts you find to your own blog by a process called reblogging. When you reblog a post that was created by someone else, that post will appear on your blog. So, let’s say you want your blog to be about sports; you can do a search on Tumblr of your favorite sport(s) and reblog the posts you like from the sports tag pages. Someone new to Tumblr or someone used to traditional blogging might think that’s strange, but in the Tumblr world, it’s perfectly normal and encouraged even.
Another thing to note about Tumblr posts: the majority of them are going to be images or animated gifs with an occasional caption. This is different from a regular blog where the majority of posts are text with an image or two. If you love animated gifs, Tumblr will be heaven for you. There are so many great gif makers on Tumblr and they love to share.
How to Use Tumblr Effectively
Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
Before creating your Tumblr account, you should take a few minutes to determine what your Tumblr blog is going to be about. Will it focus on one topic? Will it be a variety of topics? This could help you determine what you want your blog URL to be.
Now that you know what you want your blog to be about, it’s time to create your account. When you create your Tumblr account, you also receive a blog, so for example, if your user ID is ilovelampshades, your blog URL will then be ilovelampshades.tumblr.com. Your blog is where all of your posts and reblogged posts will appear. Your account, tumblr.com, is where your Dashboard is, your saved searches, where you can search for stuff that interests you and where a whole host of other things are located. Your posts and reblogged posts will also appear on your tumblr account in addition to your blog.
Your Dashboard – This is where all your posts will appear along with the posts of those you follow will appear. There are also links to your likes, followers, followed blogs, etc on the right sidebar of your Dashboard. To access the dashboard, click the house button on the top of of your screen.
How to Customize Tumblr
If you know a bit of HTML, Tumblr allows you to customize your Tumblr blog theme. You’d go to your blog’s settings, click your blog title, click the customize button and finally click the edit HTML button. You can additionally edit your theme’s CSS in order to change the color, look and feel of your blog.
How to use Tumblr Themes
Another way to customize your Tumblr blog is by picking a theme for it. Your blog will start off with the default theme, but if you want a different look for your blog, Tumblr provides other themes/templates you can choose from in your blog settings/customize section. You could also find a custom theme by searching through the Themes tumblr tag or you can do a internet search for a theme by entering what you’d like for your theme (how many columns, sidebar or not, etc). There are tons out there. Once you find a custom theme you like, there will either be an option to install the theme or the designer will provide the code which you would then add to your edit HTML screen. Always make a backup of your theme before doing this. Here’s a tutorial about installing themes when you just have the code: Link.
Building your blog
How to reblog and like - When you find a post you like on your dashboard or after you’ve done a search, click the reblog button on the bottom of the post. You can also go to someone’s blog and reblog a post from there. When you’re on the blog’s post page, the reblog button will be on the top right. Some themes put the reblog button on the bottom. As mentioned before, reblogged posts will appear on your blog.
Another option is to “like” posts. You do this by clicking the heart button on a post. Liking posts will not be visible on your blog, but they can be found at tumblr.com/likes.
Creating posts - At some point, you may want to create you own posts. Tumblr gives you the option to make seven kinds of posts: Text, Photo, Quote, Link, Chat, Audio, and Video. You can find the post-making tool bar on your dashboard or on any of the tag pages. When you create posts that you want to be found in Tumblr searches, it’s important to add tags (example: #baseball, #dogs, #South America, etc.). Tags are identifiers that when added to posts will allow people to then find those posts when searching for a particular topic.
How to use Tumblr pages
Tumblr allows you to add pages to your Tumblr blog, so for example, if you want to create an “about me” page or a page dedicated to a particular tag or a page that redirects to another blog or website, you can do that in your blog settings. Here is a tutorial I created about creating Tumblr pages.
Tumblr’s Social Network
Following and Followers - Part of the Tumblr experience is following and getting followed by other blogs. Following other blogs isn’t necessary, but if you want to see posts on your dashboard and increase the likelihood that blogs will follow you, following other blogs is a good idea. Generally speaking, you’d find other blogs that have similar interests as yours and follow them; to do that, just click the plus button next to their blog name (if you’re on the dashboard or tag page) or you can click the “follow” button if you’re on their blog. Like I mentioned before, once you follow a blog, you’ll see all their posts and reblogged posts on your dashboard.
Getting followers can take some time but it will happen after a while especially if you’re following other blogs, reblogging/liking posts, and just generally being a part of the Tumblr community. Folks on Tumblr also like interesting posts, so if you create those and tag them properly, your blog is almost guaranteed to get noticed.
communicating with other blogs - On Tumblr, you can chat with other blogs by using their ask box. If their ask box is enabled, there will be a link on their blog to ask them questions. Additionally, you can use the fan mail feature by going to the envelope at the top of your screen and sending a private message. Other ways to communicate with other blogs are to respond to posts of others if they have that option enabled in their settings or you can reblog and add your own comments to a post.
I hope this introduction to how to use Tumblr has been helpful. If you’d like a more detailed step by step lesson on how to use Tumblr effectively, enter your email address below and you’ll receive instant access to the free Tumblr User Guide eBook, Tumblr Demystified: A Step by Step Guide to Understanding Tumblr. It’s over 25 pages packed with easy to follow instructions on how to make the most out of your Tumblr experience. Claim your copy today!