Tumblr gets a lot of flack from photographers. Like Pinterest, it is seen as the bane of true photographers; a place where images get shared without credit (gasp!). As a social media network, it is one of the most powerful. It boasts over 108 million blogs on every sort of topic imaginable. The reason to be on Tumblr is its highly engaged community. Posts are shared, reblogged, liked and commented on with great frequency.
Unlike other blogging platforms that act primarily on the media side of the phrase “social media,” Tumblr throws focuses on the social. For this reason, Tumblr is a great way to build your web presence quickly. For photographers, using Tumblr can get more eyeballs on your website and show potential clients that you are tech and social media savvy.
To get started on Tumblr, check out this how-to. Once you’re set up, here are seven tips to help you Tumblr like a pro, while growing your photographic brand.
1. Use Photos
Unsurprisingly, Tumblr is a visual medium. Think of it like a Twitterized version of Wordpress. You can share any type of content that you want including text, photos, quotes, links, chat, audio or video. However, the most shared and liked content is photos. According to Dan Zarella at Hubspot, 83 percent of Tumblr posts are photo posts. Are you starting to see why Tumblr is so powerful for photographers? Most users do not create their own content. They share it. And what do they share? Photos. By becoming a content creator and adding your original photographs to the content pool, you are already a leader among Tumblr users. Let’s let Zarella drive this point home. Here are two more findings from his study on Tumblr:
2. Post often, post regularly, and use the Queue
Like all blogging, you need to be consistent. The wonderful thing about Tumblr is that once people “follow” you, your posts are always going to show up in their feed. To build on that momentum, you want to show up regularly in people’s feeds to remind them that you exist and also to give other users more chances to share your content (and get you more followers). The more active you are, the more people are going to follow you.
We know you are busy. You are a photographer, after all, and you are running a business. It’s for that reason that the “Queue” feature in Tumblr is so powerful. The “Queue” allows you to create multiple posts and set them up to publish automatically at specified times. This means that you can create a large store of posts in one sitting, set them up to publish once or twice a day, and not have to worry about whether your blog is active. Here’s how to use it.
3. Allow People to Engage
I’ve written about this in every social media tips article so far but I cannot stress it enough. Engagement is key. It is social media after all. You have to be social. To be social on Tumblr, you are going to have to tweak your settings. Go to the Dashboard and click the gear icon at the top. Scroll down and check the following boxes: Allow replies from people you follow, Allow replies from people following you for more than two weeks, Let people ask questions.
This opens up the social capabilities of Tumblr to some degree but not totally. Tumblr doesn’t naturally allow commenting and there are some quirky things about the “reply” feature. To get around this, get a Disqus account (one of the most popular commenting systems) and follow these instructions for adding it to your blog.
4. Use Tags
Many of your posts are going to be of content that isn’t text. That means photos, videos and GIFs. Because of that, it can be hard for users who don’t follow you to find them, even if they search for exactly what you are posting. To get around this, you want to do two things:
First, add “metadata” to your posts. Now, I’m sure you know all about metadata from using Lightroom but, when it comes to Tumblr, you want to add around five tags to every post. If someone was searching for your post, what would they search for? If it’s an image of Washington D.C. At sunset, you might tag it with sunset, washington d.c., capitol, cityscapes, and photography.
Second, add a small amount of text to every post that you do. If it’s a photo, add a caption that describes what the photo is so that it can be found in the search results. Make sure that you include some of the keywords you tagged your post with in the description
5. Give Readers a look behind the scenes
You want to give readers something they can’t get elsewhere. Because Tumblr is such a photo-heavy community, you know that they are fascinated by photographers. Use this to your advantage and post behind-the-scenes shots at shoots to give them an idea of what goes into the creation of an image. In an interview with the New York Times, Tumblr-founder David Karp cited behind-the-scenes posts as one of his three suggestions for what makes a great Tumblr.
6. Make Sure People Can See the Images
This is easy fix. When you first set up Tumblr, when you post an photo, it only shows a thumbnail in your followers’ feeds by default. To get Tumblr to show full-sized images in feeds, Tumblr users used to do a very complicated work-around that involved uploading a transparent GIF along with every photoset. Thankfully, Tumblr has created their own fix. Just go to your Dashboard, click the gear icon to get to settings and hit Dashboard on the left hand column. Check the box labeled “Show full size photos” and voila, no more thumbnails.
7. Watermark and source your images
This is a must-do for all photographers. The main gripe against Tumblr is that users share photos without crediting their source and Tumblr does nothing to fix this. In fact, if you find someone violating your copyright, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and they will usually take down the image within a few hours. You can avoid that all together by watermarking your images.
Before you upload an image, be sure to add a small watermark that includes either your name or a link to your website. This ensures that when people share your content (which you want them to do), it doesn’t matter whether they are diligent about giving you credit. You have already covered yourself. Whoever sees your image is going to see your watermark and know that you created it.
When you post an image (yours or someone else’s), be sure to include a link to the gallery or website where it is originally hosted in the “content source” box. This will create a click-through link on the image. When someone clicks on the photo, they will be redirected to where it was originally posted. If you set the content source as your professional website, you’ve just created an easy funnel to send people from your social media to your professional site.