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Since Yahoo bought Tumblr in 2013 there's been an amount of controversy, or at least change.

Declining web traffic (perhaps explained by increased app usage), advertising, the advent or popularisation of other social networks and websites (Snapchat, BuzzFeed etc.).

Despite all this, I still find Tumblr to be a really interesting platform for its simplicity of design. Brand and publisher websites often follow in the footsteps of social network design, think Pinterest as well as Tumblr.

Aside from design, the idea of earned content, blogs on separate domains, microsites, all these things have allowed brands to subtly develop or experiment with a friendlier perhaps even quirky tone. To that end, I've rounded up some inspiring Tumblrs that I feel can inform brands of various tactics for success on social media.

See what you think.

For each of these examples, click through from the picture to view the Tumblr.

Harper Collins

Harper Collins is a great example of a company mining its assets to best effect on social media. Here, its Tumblr account uses anniversaries to remind people about authors under its wing. Recently the blog has been counting down to Charles Bukowski's birthday with a variety of cheaply produced but very effective photographs featuring Charles and some of his words of wisdom.

This is truly a brand that understands sharing triggers.

harper collins tumblr 


General Electric is such a huge company, how can it not fail to amaze us with content.

GE's Tumblr shows how educational content can be more entertaining than any other, using photos, gifs and videos.

GE also created 6secondscience specifically to showcase short experiments. If you can teach your audience something they didn't know, there's a chance they'll share it.

A clip from 6secondscience.

GE's Tumblr

ge tumblr 

IKEA before 1600 A.D.

This isn't a paticularly prolific Tumblr, nor is each entry as good as the one below, nor is it created by IKEA themselves.

However, for me it's absolutely symptomatic of what it takes for social media success, even if only for short term PR (call it viral if you will). Sympathetically incorporating their brand into social content is a task that many companies can't manage. IKEA's products are fairly aesthetic, but for those companies who don't have particularly interesting products, thinking laterally about points of cultural reference can yield results.

ikea b4 16

MOMA Teens

If your company is in retail, your brand may be incontrovertibly associated with your high street stores, your products and your advertising. However, you may feel there's a market you could serve well, if only you could position the product in the right way to encourage interaction.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York shows us, on Tumblr, how far an organisation can go to reposition itself. MOMA already has tons of content, but is it directed at a teen audience in the right way? Arguably not all the time (white, boring art galleries). Outside of MOMA's content, there are lots of issues in wider New York life that the gallery can effectively take ownership of. This is an approach that any brand can take.

For MOMA this allows its brand to influence teens away or prior to the, for some, stultifying atmosphere of the galleries.

moma teens

guerrilla girls 

Doctor Who

OK, not many brands have the cultural cachet that Doctor Who enjoys. However, looking at this extreme is a good way to realise that your brand, as official arbiter of your fans, is a powerful motivator.

Being reblogged by the Doctor Who Tumblr brings kudos. This applies to all social networks, but on Tumblr the emphasis is on content, rather than opinion. Crowdsourcing content is something that can be experimented with on Tumblr, before making the leap to doing it on your holy website.

doctor who tumblr

Wallpaper* magazine

I have to include this just to show how simply beautiful a Tumblr can be. Social platforms don't have the same variety of functions to perform as your website does. Essentially they drive sharing and traffic to your site. That means you can make them beautiful and show off your product.

Of course, Wallpaper is a publisher and has lots of great imagery to share, but there's barely a business that can't scrape together some decent imagery. Brands such as Maersk show how photography can ramp up social engagement.

wallpaper magazine tumblr

National Geographic - Found

One thing has become clear on Twitter, since images began displaying automatically in stream, in  late 2013, they have dominated the platform.

What I mean by that can be illustrated by some of the most popular accounts and tweets of 2014. History in Pictures (@historyinpics) has 1.81m followers, Earth Pics (@earth_pics) has 1.91m followers, Baby Animal Pics (@babyanimalpics) has 804k followers.

The tweet below was pretty much the most shared ever. That's because social networking is done from smartphones which also has nifty cameras attached. 

The point I'm making is that great images will attract attention. That's something National Geographic completely focuses on here.

national geographic found

Urban Outfitters

This isn't the best Tumblr out there by any means. Some of the categories have been updated infrequently and the whole thing feels a bit scatter gun.

However, I like the categories are done. Each section aspires to that particular style of Urban Outfitters (I would call it College Utopian) and the retailer isn't afraid to broaden the net to capture food, travel, interior design, music and art.

Urban Outfitters does partner with various events in music and beyond so this content curation feels like a nice branch of this patronage. Of course, a lot of the content is linked to the Urban Outfitters' blog.

urban outfitters


As far as National Geographic goes, Lincoln matches them. There's also some comparions between the images on each Tumblr, with a nostalgic theme and focus on heritage.

As much as Lincoln wants to promote new cars, looking to the era of motown is a better way of appealing to a broad audience than simply showing pictures of a new 4x4. This Tumblr links to Lincoln's microsite, now.Lincoln.com, which is visually similar but contains fewer posts with a focus on longer form writing and video lifestyle pieces. This microsite then links to the main Lincoln site.

Lincoln Tumblr

lincoln tumblr

Lincoln Now microsite

Lincoln Now

Delta Airlines

Delta's blog on Tumblr represents change in an industry that has been traditionally slow in updating customer facing I.T.

I think there are improvements that can be made, but posts such as the one below show how Delta is using platforms such as this to bring a little more fun content to its brand.

delta content

Ben Davis

Published 29 August, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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