Devising a social media strategy isn’t easy for small businesses, not least because there are so many different platforms to choose from.

Facebook and Twitter are the obvious choices because that’s where the eyeballs are, but they also require a lot of resource to make sure you are constantly engaging with fans and responding to comments.

So one other option for businesses to consider is Tumblr. The blogging platform currently hosts just over 77m blogs that attract 4.5bn impressions a week and it’s growing rapidly.

Tumblr is already being used by a number of major brands and recently announced its first analytics platform, which makes it a more attractive proposition for business users.

With that in mind, here’s a look at why small businesses should consider setting up a Tumblr and eight tips for getting started…

Why should small businesses be on it?

Obviously it’s not going to work for everyone and there’s no point in using it if you don’t think it will help you to reach your target audience.

The service is most popular with the teen and university-aged user segments, with half of Tumblr’s visitor base being under the age of 25.

The user base is roughly split 50-50 between men and women and 50% of the traffic currently comes from the US, with the remaining percentage being international.

And as with most social networks, certain topics are more popular than others. Tumblr tends to work best for design, fashion and music content, while publishers have also taken to it with some success.

But the most important factor is that Tumblr is designed to be more social than most blog platforms so its audience is highly engaged. So if you already publish a blog on your site then it might just be worth experimenting with Tumblr to see if it gets you better results. 

And here’s some tips for starting out on Tumblr…

1. Get creative with your theme

The beauty of Tumblr is that it gives you total freedom to personalise what your blog looks like. This means you can create something that truly represents your brand – something that can’t be really achieved using a Facebook timeline.

If you have some knowledge of CSS you can spend a bit of time designing your own unique theme, or you can choose from one of thousands of existing free and paid-for themes.

Even the existing themes allow you to change the background and text colours using the Appearance menu.

It’s worth spending a bit of time getting it right before you start sharing content, as it will look sloppy if you’re chopping and changing once people are already following you.

2. Stay niche

While all businesses want to appeal to the widest audience possible, Tumblr’s close-knit community means that it’s better for your brand if you keep your content tightly focused on one specific area.

Otherwise you may just end up diluting your brand image, when in fact the aim should be to create a more defined identity.

Retro fashion site ModCloth is a great example of this – it has a Pinterest-style layout that it uses to post inspirational images of style ideas from other blogs and answer questions from its customers.

3. Share and share alike

As mentioned, social is integral to Tumblr’s setup so you need to be active in the community if you want to truly engage with your customers.

This means seeking out interesting or like-minded people and brands to follow, and actively liking or reblogging post from other users.

As well as raising your profile in the community it will help you find new content for your own Tumblr, as you easily can repost images from other users or from around the web.

4. Be brief

Tumblr is more akin to a social network than a traditional blogging platform, so people won’t bother to read your 500 word musing on the latest fashion trends.

Think about what works and gets shared on Twitter and Facebook – short-form content such as videos, images and quotes. People want engaging content that they can quickly consume and share before getting on with their day.

Tumblr makes this obvious by giving you seven choices in what to post: text, photo, quote, link, chat, audio and video.

Before posting something, ask yourself honestly if you would want to share it with your friends and how many of them would be likely to enjoy it and re-share it.

If your friends would find it boring or longwinded then don’t bother posting it.

5. Try not to be too salesy

The businesses that get the best returns from social media are those that don’t just use it to push out sales messages.

By all means use it to tease new products, highlight a sale or promotion, give a behind-the-scenes look at events or simply tell your story, but don’t just use it as an extension of your e-commerce site.

Tumblr should be used as a tool for defining your brand, so post content that you think fits with your brand values. It might be an inspirational quote from an Olympic athlete, a song that has been playing non-stop in your office or even a funny pet photo.

Vans is particularly good at this – all of its posts are cool photos and videos of snowboarders and skaters, which ties the brand to a particular lifestyle rather than simply selling its product range.

6. Tag posts with relevant topics

Tumblr’s search function finds content based on content tags, so you can’t search for specific users or brands (though you can obviously do this using Google).

Therefore it’s important that every post is tagged up with easily searchable words. Try not to be too obscure, just use tags that are the most literal for your content and that people are likely to search for.

You can also keep an eye on what kind of content is popular within your target community by press the ‘Track’ button on a tag page.

All updates associated with that tag will then appear in your Dashboard, helping you to gradually work out which tags will help you achieve the most exposure.

7. Make use of the scheduling tools

Tumblr allows you to schedule posts to publish at a later date, which is a great tool for small businesses that don’t have time to blog everyday.

Allot an hour or two at the start of the week to create a load of posts then set them to go live at regular intervals. You will then have fresh content going up on a regular basis without having to spend time each day updating your Tumblr.

8. Go mobile

Tumblr has a user-friendly mobile app that allows you to update your blog on-the-go. It’s great for uploading spontaneous content from industry events, around the office or just interesting things you see while going about your daily business.

What’s more, if you’re an Instagram user you can sync it up to your Tumblr so you can update two social networks for the price of one.

This is a really useful tool for uploading original content to help tell your brand story, plus it’s great for ensuring there is a constant stream of content on your blog.