The Frogman, Mr. GIF, and Tumblr’s Topherchris, among others, share their secrets for success.
It literally takes seconds to create a Tumblr blog.
A few keystrokes and mouse clicks, and suddenly you’re thrust into a world full of GIFs, memes, and single-serving blogs vying for the Web’s attention. But with 72 million blogs on Tumblr, how do you stand out and develop an audience?
To find out, the Daily Dot turned to a panel of experts who have developed a standard of excellence on Tumblr in regards to original art, GIF animations, Internet culture, and personal branding: Benjamin Grelle (The Frogman), Amanda Brennan (Know Your Meme), Shane Burcaw (Laughing at My Nightmare), Jimmy Repeat and Mark Portillo (Mr. GIF), Christopher Price (Topherchris) and Lee Rubenstein (EatSleepDraw)
1) Master the tag.
This is probably the most underused feature on Tumblr. Tagging your posts will expose them to a population on Tumblr you may have never knew existed.
“Through the tags, a new user can find a community of users that they may have a tough time finding otherwise,” said Amanda Brennan, a writer and researcher for Internet culture encyclopedia Know Your Meme.
“Tags can open doors to single topic blogs on your favorite subject. I always feel like Missing e [a popular browser add-on] doesn’t get enough press. It’s a really nice Tumblr enhancement that adds some features to the site that I’ve been using for ages.”
2) Reblog responsibly.
The ability to feature content from other people on your own Tumblr is the quickest way to build your site. But it’s also the laziest.
Lee Rubenstein of EatSleepDraw, a heavily curated art gallery and one of the longest running Tumblr blogs, said that users should be aware of their ratio of original content to reblogged content, stressing the need for a 60 to 40 split:
“It doesn’t matter how many notes a post has. What matters is if you reblog and add value to it. If you reblog and reblog then you’re not adding anything. You’re just curating. And if you want to go into that, that’s fine. You’re just not going to get a lot of followers.”
3) Be original.
Mr. GIF’s Mark Portillo and Jimmy Repeat have been at the forefront of the resurgence of the GIF, or graphics interchange format. In the last year, the two have created quirky, topical and beautiful animations for the likes of Forbes, Vice magazine, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and chef Anthony Bourdain. The duo stressed that “originality is king.”
“Create, Create, Create. Don’t let yourself become predictable. experiment and fail. Just because one thing is successful doesn’t mean you should become a one trick pony. Borrow interest. Make a pop culture reference and it will more likely be passed around like herpes. the more relatable the more it’ll be passed around. But don’t only do borrow interest, be yourself. There are endless adventure time fan arts, but only one of you.”
4) Take chances.
Shane Burcaw is an aspiring journalist and curator of Laughing at my Nightmare, a personal blog where he shares his story of living with muscular dystrophy. Since June 2011, Burcaw has used a voice dictation program to write more than 200 posts. He has collected more than 15,000 followers and used his Tumblr success to start a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising “money to fund research for a cure for muscular dystrophy diseases by promoting positivity.”
For Burclaw, success boiled down to confidence.
“If you believe in your blog, don’t be afraid to ask strangers to read it. You’re never going to please everyone, don’t let it bother you.”
5) Say no to watermarks
“Watermarks are for people who don’t have confidence in the product they produce,” posited Mr. GIF.
“Your main concern should be sharing your art. People will find you. Have faith in the Tumblr.”
6) “Fake it till you make it.”
Christopher Price is Tumblr staffer and master of the Reblorg, a home for quirky original art. As one of Tumblr’s early adopters, Price’s surreal GIFs average more than 300 likes. To date, he’s created more than 178 Tumblr blogs.
“For all I know, and for all anyone else knows, you are next level.”
7) Don’t stop believin’
Better known as The Frogman, Benjamin Grelle was diagnosed chronic fatigue syndrome with about seven years ago. With the inability to hold down a regular job, he took to Tumblr in 2009 where the traffic from his hilarious GIFs, countless corgi pics, and original photo comics have helped him earn a modest living from his parents’ basement.
“Effort is vital. It is more effective at growing an audience than anything else. If you work hard, people will notice and you will have a much better chance at success. Always be persistent, especially if you are creating original content. Too many people try a couple of times and then give up. I failed hundreds of times before I had a popular post. But I learned from that failure and now I am able to make good things consistently.”
8) Understand your audience
“I have a passion for entertaining and making people smile, so I make jokes and post kittens,” Grelle said.
“If someone is passionate about llamas, they should make a llama Tumblr. There is an audience out there for everything. Your passion for the subject matter will draw them in. Very few people succeed right away. If you are serious about this, you need to be in it for the long haul. It could take a year before you get any traction. This requires a lot of patience.”
Mr. GIF put in this way:
“Be apart of the community. Your Tumblr isn’t a deserted island, we’re all in this together. Start a conversation, learn and teach.”
Photo by 55Laney69/Flickr
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