Your Tumblr Blog: Why I Hate It

tumblr for businessHave a Tumblr blog? That’s terrific. But for what it’s worth, I think it’s a bad idea to rely exclusively on Tumblr for your blog. And if you’re a business, it’s an even worse idea. Choosing Tumblr for your corporate blog just because you like the Tumblr platform is about like saying that because you prefer sending text messages over emailing that all your customers will just have to deal with it.

And that? That’s a poorly thought out marketing and communications strategy. It’s marketing based on your preferences and not on the preferences of your customers and prospects. And who is it that pays the bills? All the cool cats who love Tumblr or your clients?

Let’s back up. No matter how popular a platform is one day, there’s always a chance it’ll go belly up. Look at Posterous, once the darling of bloggers, including some pretty high profile people who proclaimed it was the latest, greatest and best thing ever. If you’ve been around the blogosphere for awhile, you’re probably nodding and thinking of Edelman’s Steve Rubel as you read that. Rubel was interviewed in 2009 about his bold move to convert his blog to Posterous. His explanation: “I fell in love with the flexibility of the Posterous platform. Specifically, I was enchanted by how well it works from a mobile device, syndicates out to other social networks and handles formats beyond text. It has rekindled my creative side as I dabble with new formats like mindmaps and more.”

And in some respects, Rubel was right. Posterous is cool and some of the functionality they built into the platform was pretty doggone awesome.  It’s easy to use, visually interesting and powerful when it comes to pushing your content out to other platforms. I have a Posterous blog that mostly houses some posts on personal topics and some of my favorite recipes, but for my company, our blog that’s powered by WordPress and integrated into our corporate website is our workhorse. For me, Posterous was a toy and something fun to play around with, but never something upon which to build one of my most precious business assets.

Well, as these things happen, Posterous was acquired by Twitter in March of last year and the writing was pretty much on the wall. And just this February, Posterous announced they were shutting down the service effective April 30, 2013. As you might imagine, there’s all kinds of scrambling around on the part of bloggers everywhere to figure out what the heck to do with their content.

I’m really not a curmudgeon when it comes to experimenting with new things, but I like to experiment in a way that’s as risk-free as possible. And when I do experiment, I tend not to do it in the way of sweeping proclamations and jumping in with both feet. I’m too old and too much of a skeptic to go that route. And most importantly, when I do experiment with new and different platforms, it’s not going to be with our corporate blog, which is our intellectual bread and butter. Our corporate blog is a marketing vehicle. It shows people how we think, what my team and I care about, what we think they should be paying attention to and adopting with regard to their businesses and endeavors and, most importantly, we strive to ensure that our blog delivers resources, information and value that we hope our readers find beneficial.

And that’s where my feelings about Tumblr come in. I love Tumblr. It’s an awesome platform with great content, a fabulous blogging community and is spot on easy to use. It’s surely been the darling of the Internet during the course of the past couple of years as its adoption has increased and traffic has skyrocketed. With some 97.5 million blogs and 44.6 billion posts, clearly a lot of people love—and use—Tumblr.

But here’s the rub. Maybe your clients or prospects are different than ours, but ours are either enterprise-level or mid-sized businesses in both the B2B and the B2C space. And I ask those clients all the time about where they get their information. And you know what? Not a one of them responds that they’re reading Tumblr blogs.

And that’s what really matters. If you’re blogging or experimenting with new online platforms purely for fun and because you love being an early adopter, that’s terrific. But if you’re using a platform for business purposes, it has to be because it makes sense to do so. In the last week, I discovered a local architecture firm that’s doing amazing things in the industry and when I liked what they were doing enough to check out their corporate blog, I was dismayed to find it’s a Tumblr blog. I wonder how many of their clients and prospects who discover their blog are interested enough in what they’re doing to (1) join Tumblr and (2) follow their blog. I could be wrong, but I’d guess that number is low.

Secondly, I discovered Andrew Teman via a job description that he posted, and which was subsequently shared on Facebook by a friend. It might just be the best damn job description I’ve ever seen. I liked Andrew so much that I dug around on his blog (which is on Tumblr) and fell a little in love with his brain and his personality. Please keep that on the DL, will you?

I liked Andrew so much I wanted to subscribe to his blog and get more of his gray matter goodness on a regular basis. But the thing is, when you’ve got a Tumblr blog, you set an instant barrier between you and someone who wants more of you. If your readers are not on Tumblr, they can’t follow your blog. So really, it’s all about the preferences of the writer and not about the preferences of something that’s pretty important—your readers and prospective readers (which is actually interchangeable with the words “prospective clients”).

I have a Tumblr account. I could easily follow both the architecture company’s blog and Andrew Teman’s blog if I wanted to. But the thing is, Tumblr isn’t on my daily radar screen. I don’t have time to hang out there all the time and while I realize I may be missing out, that’s just the way it is. My energies are focused elsewhere, so no matter how bright and shiny the Tumblr platform is, it’s just not on my list of things I can pay a great deal of attention to right now. And I’ll bet that your customers and prospects are not too unlike me—they only have so much bandwidth.

As a consumer, my needs are pretty simple. I need information to come to me in the way I want it delivered, and to the place I want it delivered. For me, that’s my email inbox. There’s no right or wrong answer to this, either. We like what we like and we want what works for us.

What do you think your customers and prospects want? Do you ever ask them? Do you think they’re like me, and have their own individual preferences when it comes to phone calls, text messages, emails and blog subscriptions? I’ll bet so.

And therein lies my problem with your Tumblr blog. I want to read it. I really do. But today, it’s not something I have time for, unless you make it easy for me. When I discover your blog and think you’re interesting enough or that what it is you’re sharing is important enough to what I do on a daily basis to subscribe, it’s a huge compliment. Great content is my brain candy. But if you don’t make it easy for me to feed your content to me the way I want it, I’ll just move on. I’ll be sad, to be sure. But I don’t have time to tailor my preferences to your personal preferences. And really? I shouldn’t have to.

Don’t get me wrong—I think Tumblr is a great platform and can serve many uses, for you and for your business. In fact, I think it’s smart to integrate Tumblr into your overall content marketing strategies (providing that at least some of your audience is there). However, for most businesses, I don’t believe that having Tumblr serve as your main source for corporate blog content is a sound strategy.

So that’s what I think. And this is your chance to tell me I’m smoking the crazy crack pipe and all that. And if you disagree, I would really like to hear about it. But to my way of thinking, if you are creating content that isn’t easily consumable by your clients and prospects, using sites that are easy for them to find, navigate and use, never mind shareable in ways that suit their individual preferences, you are looking at a world of missed opportunities. And perhaps business as well.

Whaddya say?

Image: gruntzooki via Compfight cc

  • Stephanie Smirnov

    I just started my own Tumblr and can see your point, gaining followers is slow-going because of the hoops you have to jump through to join. That said, Tumblrs can be put in your RSS feed, which I imagine makes it easier to follow someone you like without being on the platform itself.

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  • http://homebars.barinacraft.com/ Barina Craft

    All blogging platforms have their pros & cons and certainly agree with some of those you highlighted. Confused about the concern over being able to follow a Tumblr blog without joining though.

    Boils down to the template design chosen in part. Our blog “Home Bars & Humor” can be followed thru Tumblr by joining, as an RSS feed in the reader of your choice or thru an email subscription. Hope that helps to clarify.

  • ShellyKramer

    We have a Tumblr too, SS, and use it. But my greatest point is that if I (or anyone) doesn’t want to follow, or subscribe via RSS, I’m SOL. For those of us who live in the online space, these aren’t big issues, but for the most part, our clients barely know what an RSS feed is, much less how to follow a Tumblr. And in many cases, we write for our clients, no? So that’s what this post is about. I love the platform. I don’t love it for a client-facing corporate blog that’s intended to be part of your integrated marketing (and biz dev) strategy.

  • ShellyKramer

    Thanks for stopping by. I think there’s a lot about design options with Tumblr that people don’t know about (and consequently don’t use). Maybe that’s another blog post! Bottom line – if your design allows people to subscribe to your content any way they want (Tumblr follow, email delivery, RSS), that’s smart. What I’m finding is that most Tumblr blogs don’t afford those options. And thanks for the tip – I’ll definitely check that out :) )

  • http://freetraffictip.com Tinu

    Never liked Posterous. Tried it, hated it, love Steve but started to forget to read his blog when he switched. Love Tumblr, dislike any non-event or non-news organization using Tumblr only, especially if it’s not mapped to a domain.

    Normally not a hater. It wasn’t the environment or utility for me. it’s that any platform that doesn’t give you full control over your company’s intellectual property, be they blog posts or photos, worries me. I continue to have arguments with people over using Squarespace or even hosted Typepad. To me it’s like having my corporate headquarters inside a Target or a Walmart. It subjects me to all the decisions of the person who owns the store, never mind the building.

    And I look like my brand can’t afford to go first class.

    If Target or Walmart suffers a catastrophe that closes them on my best shopping day, you can’t just go get all your merchandise and move, which is what you could do if, say, your store burned down.

    To me, if you own a Real business, you don’t get to disavow logic just because you’re doing web marketing online. The smart move doesn’t change due to the environment.

  • ShellyKramer

    And this? It’s why I love you, Tinu. And it’s not just because your thoughts on this topic mirror my own. It’s because we’re right on this one, dammit.

  • http://freetraffictip.com Tinu

    Yes. We really are. I love you for continuing to write these posts that bring logic and common sense back to the table. The web is not an alternate universe.

  • https://www.facebook.com/DakinAssociates Shaun Dakin

    Great post ! ReSharing ! I was a Posterous guy… love it. But totally agree with you. If you are a biz / org / brand / etc.. and you want to OWN your content you have your OWN blog on your OWN systems (or in the cloud) where you don’t need to rely on Tumblr (fill in the blank next cool thing) going out of business (they all will).

    Shaun

  • brittmichaelian

    Amen. ;)
    I have a Tumblr that I use to post quotes, pics and videos, but my business blog is run on the WordPress platform as well. My kids LOVE Tumblr and think it is the latest and greatest platform but they don’t really know why. Sometimes I think these platforms are like the latest pair of sneakers for kids. What’s cool this week is not the next. The same can be said for all social platforms really. I mean, who’s to say that Facebook isn’t going to go the way of My Space? ;) You never know…

  • http://amyvernon.net/ AmyVernon

    You can subscribe to a Tumblr via RSS (or you can set it up with a Feedblitz or other account for email subscriptions. If someone doesn’t have that set up on their blog, that’s their fault, and not the platform’s.

    That said, I completely agree with the concept of owning your own home, and that the Posterous example is a supreme example of why that’s necessary. Mostly, everything that @Tinu:disqus said. :)

  • Smallbiztrends

    So I have a question; I’ve set up 2 Tumblr accounts, but really don’t have a clue what to use them for. And given all the time we’ve spent learning Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn — I am not sure I have any mindshare left over to figure out a Tumblr strategy, too. What DO you use your Tumblr for, Shelly?

  • ShellyKramer

    Hi Anita,

    We’ve used Tumblr for celebrity clients that have fans who are using Tumblr, we’ve experimented with Tumblr for some of our enterprise level clients with content specific to younger audiences and we’ve experimented a bit with it for V3. But really, I don’t have the bandwidth to dedicate myself to producing a separate stream of content on Tumblr, so I just don’t do it much. I see lots of possibilities, and really do love the ease of use of the platform, but at the end of the day, there’s only so many things that I can pay attention to and be effective using. But most importantly, when I see people using Tumblr or Posterous or any other platform like that as a corporate blog, it seems like a giant misstep for me.

    And you should call me sometime – we should catch up!

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