If you’ve read my About Me section, you may have noticed the link to my book tumblr. It originally started as an aid for my thesis project, but it’s grown into much more for me: a way of collecting resources, following book releases and trends, and making connections with people interested in similar topics. Since starting it, I’ve more or less abandoned my personal tumblr in order to devote more of my free-time to one of my favorite hobbies – reading about reading.
Despite what that first paragraph might’ve led you to believe, this post actually isn’t dedicated to shamelessly plugging my tumblr. I’m mostly going to focus on my advice for using Tumblr effectively. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert, but I’ve been using Tumblr for a year and a half now. Hopefully sharing from my personal experience might help get people who’ve been meaning to start tumblrs (but aren’t really sure how) started.
1) Microblogging: Tumblr is a different kind of blog than WordPress or Blogger. It’s often referred to instead as “microblogging.” Tumblr makes it easy to share and comment on other people’s ideas. This creates more of a dialogue than the typical one-directional blog post you’d find on WordPress. Tumblr blogs, also known as “tumblogs,” are a lot more like the comments section from a traditional blog post– more back-and-forth. Try to avoid writing too many long posts. Post those to a separate site and link to them, or hide them behind a “Read More” cut.
2) The Dashboard: The dashboard, often called just “the dash,” is one of Tumblr’s main features. It functions a lot like a Facebook newsfeed, and allows you to endlessly scroll through posts – text, pictures, links, and so on – from the tumblrs you follow. This is another reason why you should keep your tumblr posts relatively short. Imagine if every status update on Facebook was a page long; it would really clog the newsfeed. Ideally, the dashboard allows a user to sort through a lot of material quickly, pausing to click links of interest if they want more in-depth information.
3) Choosing Followers: In order to have an interesting dashboard, it’s important to only follow users who post material of interest to you. Before following any tumblogs, browse its first few pages of posts. Even if their most recent post fascinated you, it’s a good idea to check and make sure that most of their posts are on topics you care about. If you’re creating a blog on a certain topic, only follow blogs that are dedicated to similar ones. This cuts down the time you have to spend sorting through posts for material your followers would be interested in.
Searching the blogs and tags is probably the best way to get started finding blogs to follow. The search box appears in the upper right corner of your dashboard. Type a topic, and you can look through the results for tumblogs with the same interests. Once you’ve found some good tumblogs that way, start looking at where those tumblogs reblog material from. Once you start posting and reblogging, you’ll probably start gaining some followers; sometimes those followers run similar blogs and are worth following back.
4) Creating Posts: As mentioned earlier, Tumblr offers users a chance to create several different kinds of posts, such as text, links, pictures, and quotes. My first piece of advice is to always try to include a source for information, images, video, etc. that aren’t yours. This is especially important if you’re planning on using your tumblr as a professional or semi-professional resource. It helps establish your tumblog as a more trustworthy source. I think it’s also important to give credit where credit is due.
Secondly, tag your posts. Remember back in step four when I suggested looking through tags for people to follow? Other users also use tags as a means of finding interesting posts and tumbloggers. I usually add five or six tags to each of my posts. For instance, for a post about a book I’d just read, I’d probably tag it with the author’s name and the genre, as well as “reading,” “books,” and “book reviews.” This would help my post be found by people who might be looking for book blogs like mine. I know tagging has been a major way I’ve gained followers. As a devout Melina Marchetta fan, for example, many people have found my tumblog through posts I’ve made in the Melina Marchetta tag.
5) Reblogging: By now you’ve probably heard me use the phrase “reblogging” a few times. Reblogging is basically the equivalent of sharing someone else’s post on Facebook. All the posts you see on your dashboard, you can easily “reblog” to your own page and spread them to your followers’ dashboards. Aside from just sharing as is, you can also add your own thoughts to the post. This feature makes Tumblr a great channel for discussion between bloggers, allowing that back-and-forth discourse I mentioned earlier. Just make sure that you are not only reblogging others’ posts, but creating your own as well. It is by bringing in outside resources and adding your own perspective that you distinguish your blog from similar ones.
Hopefully this post helped those trying to “get” what Tumblr’s all about. It might not be directly book-related, but it’s a tool I often use to stay involved and up-to-date with the YA lit community. I thought perhaps this tutorial might be useful to readers who haven’t yet joined the lovely Tumblr bandwagon. If there’s interest, in the future I might write a post highlighting some of my favorite book and library tumblr blogs. If you want to elaborate on or disagree with my suggestions for new Tumblr users, feel free to do so in comments! The more perspectives, the merrier!
Here are a few resources with some of the how-to’s of Tumblr, such as using the “Read More” cut and customizing themes: