What is Tumblr? A Detailed Guide for Beginners

Tumblr homepage

With so many new blogging platforms and
social networks coming out all the time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But don’t
overlook what’s already out there. Tumblr has been going strong since 2007 and
is still one of the most popular social networks, with over 23 million active
users in the USA and over a billion posts on the platform each month.

If you’re not sure exactly what Tumblr is or if you should be using it, we’ve written this beginner’s guide to help you out. Contrary to online rumors, Tumblr is not dead and still hosts an active community of dedicated users.

Table of Contents:

What is Tumblr?

Tumblr is a website and app where users can
post images, videos, text, audio clips, quotes, and other types of content to
their account. Users can also follow other users’ Tumblrs and share their
content by reblogging it.

Tumblr homepage
Source: tumblr.com

There’s no character limit for Tumblr
posts, but the platform is designed specifically for short-form content and a lot of the posts are visual.

Tumblr popularized the “masonry” style
layout that’s now a popular design choice for blog archive pages and is also
used on Pinterest. This type of layout means you can scroll through a lot of
content quickly and click on the posts that catch your eye for a closer look.

You can view individual users’ Tumblr feeds
or your can browse all the content posted by accounts you follow in your
dashboard feed. You can also search keywords and tags to find content that
interests you.

Is Tumblr a blogging platform or a social network?

Yes and yes!

is both a blogging platform and a social network
Tumblr was created as a microblogging platform (originally known as tumblelogging)
designed to post short-form content.

Tumblr quickly grew in popularity, not just
as a blogging platform, but also as a way to communicate and socialize with
other users.

As it’s pretty effective at spanning the
worlds of blogging and social media, Tumblr is somewhat unique and rather
difficult to explain clearly unless you’ve used it yourself.

While some people just don’t “get” Tumblr,
others will feel instantly at home using it and make it the social network of
their choice.

If you take the microblogging aspect of
Twitter, the social functionality of Facebook, the curation capabilities of
Pinterest and the creativity of Instagram and mash them all together, you’ll
come out with Tumblr.

For bloggers who want to build on a
platform that makes it easy to quickly build a following, Tumblr offers the best of both worlds. It’s also a great option for
those posting mostly creative, visual content and curated content.

How Tumblr works

Tumblr has both a web interface and a
mobile app. You can choose which one you use to post content and browse or use a
mixture of both.

Anyone can sign up for a Tumblr blog and start
posting content right away – it’s free! You can post your own, original
content, and many artists, writers, and other creatives use Tumblr to post
their work.

Tumblr is also popular for curating content. This means posting content created by other people. In fact, Tumblr was a sort of precursor to Pinterest with lots of users using it as a way to save and republish interesting content from across the web.

Tumblr has several main post formats:

  • Text
  • Photo
  • Quote
  • Link
  • Chat
  • Audio
  • Video
  • GIF (available only in mobile
Tumblr post formats

You can also include images and videos in
text posts, just as you would on any other blogging platform. Tumblr has
built-in tools for adding filters and overlays to images and videos.

While you can set up a private Tumblr
account for your own use only, you’ll get the most out of it if you use its
community features. As well as “liking” posts and leaving a “note” (comment),
Tumblr has a messaging function that allows you communicate with other users

Tumblr also has an “Ask” feature that
enables users to answer questions Q&A style and publish them to their blog
if they wish.

Of course, like any other social network,
you can follow other users and they can follow you. While there were no official
groups as such until recently, users could create their own groups of related
content using tags. At the end of 2019, Tumblr introduced group chat
functionality, enabling users to chat with other people who share their

Getting started with Tumblr: A step-by-step guide

Signing up for a Tumblr account is super easy; all you need is an email address. Head to tumblr.com and hit the sign up button.

Tumblr homepage

Click the blue “get started” button and
you’ll be presented with a short form to fill in your email, password, and
username. If you’re not sure what to pick for a username, Tumblr will offer
some suggestions for you.

Tumblr signup form

You’ll then have to enter your age, confirm
you agree to the Tumblr terms of service, and complete a reCAPTCHA to prove
you’re not a bot.

Tumblr will then build your initial feed by
asking you to choose topics you’re interested in. You can skip this step if you

Tumblr topics

You’ll then be taken to your dashboard.
This is the home of your Tumblr account and shows a feed of posts from users
you follow.

The Tumblr dashboard

You can like the posts on your feed by
clicking the heart icon, send a message to the blogger, or reblog them to your
own Tumblr blog without leaving the dashboard. You can also click the X icon to
delete posts you don’t want on your feed. If you like the content, you can
choose to follow the user by clicking the blue “Follow” link next to their

Tumblr dashboard

You’ll also be given a list of recommended
blogs in your sidebar and the Tumblr Radar, which is used to showcase popular

Posting to Tumblr

The dashboard also contains a tool for
posting your own blogs. You can post text, images, video, audio, or a

Tumblr post types

Most of these are pretty self-explanatory
and the Tumblr dashboard will invite you to either upload content or add it
from the web.

You can format your text and add links,
just as you can in any blogging platform. You can also insert GIFs, images, and
videos by clicking the + icon to the left of where you type your post.

Writing a blog post on Tumblr

Don’t forget to add #tags so others can
find your content.

When you’ve finished your post, you can
either post it publicly right away, publish it privately, or add it to a queue
or schedule it to post later. Scheduling allows you to post at a specific date
and time, while adding them to the queue will drip-feed them at a set interval.

You can queue up to 50 posts a day and this
is a useful feature to post a lot of content in bulk without spamming your

Exploring Tumblr

Along the top of your Tumblr dashboard are icons,
which will take you to other parts of the site.

Tumblr navigation

The compass icon will take you to
“Explore”, which shows you a selection of trending content and staff picks.
This can be a good way to discover new blogs. You can also type keywords
directly in the search box to find content on topics you’re interested in. You
can filter content by type to display only videos or only quotes, for example.

Tumblr explore

The other icons in the navigation will take
you to:

  • Your inbox, which displays
    private messages, questions, and fan mail.
  • Messaging, which enables you to
    chat with other users in real time.
  • Activity, which shows your
    likes, reblogs, and new followers.
  • Account where you can see posts
    you’ve liked, your followers, and change the settings and appearance of your blog.

Customizing your Tumblr

You can change the colors and look of your
blog by clicking on your icon on the dashboard and hitting the “Edit appearance
button”. From here you can easily change colors, the title of your blog, your
header image, and your user icon.

Customize tumblr

You can also make more changes to how your
blog looks by editing the html. You can do this by clicking the “Edit theme”
button in your account settings.

There’s also a library of pre-designed
themes you can choose from. Some of these are free, and premium themes are
priced from $9 to $49.

Tumblr themes

As well as changing the visual appearance
of your Tumblr blog, you can add static pages such as an “about” page. You can
do this in the customization options and many themes come with pages already
set up.

What can you do with Tumblr?

Anyone can set up an account on Tumblr and
start blogging right away. All accounts
are free.

After that, it’s up to you exactly what you
do with your Tumblr. You can use it to post any type of content, as frequently
or infrequently as you wish.

You can keep your Tumblr blog private and
use it as an alternative to Pinterest, to save
ideas and inspiration
. Or, you can opt to share your blog with the world
and use to connect with other people who
share your interests
, reach an
audience for your creative work
, or market
your brand

Here are just some ideas of what you can do
with Tumblr:

  • Create a blog of content
    relating to your favorite hobby or fandom obsession (example: Game of Thrones Daily)
  • Showcase your art and design
    work (example: Paper Beats
  • Reach a new audience for your
    music (example: Actually Grimes)
  • Promote your brand and connect
    with customers (example: Vans)
  • Showcase and promote your
    products (example: Urban
  • Find friends – unlike some
    other social media sites, there’s no need to know anyone who already has an
    account and the community is generally open and welcoming.

Who uses Tumblr?

Most Tumblr users fall into the 18-24 age
bracket, and around a third of its traffic is from the US.

Image source: https://www.columnfivemedia.com/work-items/infographic-how-to-spot-a-tumblr-user

Tumblr has more of an indie, “underground”
feel than most other social networks, and is the home of many subcultures that
feel underrepresented or repressed in the real world.

Rather than considering Tumblr users as one
generic user base, it’s better to think of the platform as a collection of different niche communities
and markets.

Some of the people you might come across on
Tumblr include:

  • Artists and designers
  • Photographers
  • Travel bloggers
  • Hobby enthusiasts
  • Dedicated fans (of anything or
  • Curators of interesting
    information and visually appealing images
  • Celebrity followers
  • Comedians
  • Gamers
  • Social commentators
  • Writers

Creativity is a common theme here, and
Tumblr has much more of an unpolished and casual feel than other social
networks. It lacks the gloss and glitz of Instagram (have you ever heard of a
Tumblr influencer?) but makes up for it with a healthy dose of quirkiness and authenticity.

There are also several celebrities who
maintain an active presence on Tumblr, including Zooey Deschanel, Taylor Swift, and Britney Spears.

Zooey Deschanel's Tumblr

Marketing on Tumblr

Tumblr is not just a home for microbloggers
and creatives. There are plenty of brands on there too. However the brands that
have seen success have taken care to use the platform for posting creative content and building brand awareness, rather than
direct promotion.

The key is posting visually engaging content, as well as interacting with the community and reblogging content that’s
relevant to your brand. Tumblr users
will easily spot content that’s created purely for marketing
purposes and
you’re unlikely to attract a following unless you focus on publishing content
that your audience wants to see.

Tumblr also offers specific features for
business, including sponsored posts and videos that will show up in users
dashboards even if they’re not following your account (you can target these by
age, gender, and interests just as you can on other social networks), and an
analytics tool to see how your content and ad campaigns are performing.

While Tumblr is not quite as popular as it
was in its heyday, there are still millions of people using the platform every

After the platform banned NSFW content in
2018, traffic to the Tumblr website dropped dramatically. But this also signals
a new, more advertiser-friendly phase for the platform and the opportunity for
appealing to whole new generation of users.

Could Tumblr be more popular than TikTok by
the end of the year? Only time will tell.

What does the future hold in store for Tumblr?

Tumblr has had its ups and downs but
there’s no sign that it’s dying out any time soon. The platform entered a new
phase when the company was bought out by Automattic in 2019 and we’re expecting
to see some big changes over the next year.

If that name sounds familiar to you, it’s
because Automattic also operates the
popular blogging platform WordPress.com.
The company has hinted that they
may experiment with paid memberships in the future, as well as other features
like ecommerce functionality.

While Tumblr, does have ads, so far it’s
not gone down the same route of focusing on marketing like other platforms such
as Facebook. Under the new ownership this may well change, so Tumblr is definitely a platform for brands
to keep their eye on

Top Tumblr alternatives

Not sure if Tumblr is the right platform
for you? It might be worth exploring some alternatives.

  1. Pinterest is a good option for those who want a tool for saving interesting content and ideas from around the web, or what to browse a virtually unlimited source of inspiration. It’s a bit more commercial than Tumblr, but the format is very much the same.
  2. Instagram is another great source of original art and photography.
  3. WordPress.org is the leading platform for blogging and you can even download Tumblr-style themes to make your blog look more like Tumblr.
  4. WordPress.com is the hosted version of WordPress and might be a better option for you if you don’t want to host your own blog.
  5. Twitter lacks the visual appeal of Tumblr, but the community is very social and it’s a great place for discussions and all things social. Memes are also as popular on Twitter as they ever were on Tumblr.
  6. Pillowfort was one of the networks that many users switched to after the decision to ban adult content on Tumblr. If you’re looking for a totally censorship-free platform, it’s worth checking out.
  7. Mastodon is a decentralized open-source social network that is free to use, allows any kind of content, and cannot be shut down.

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