Don’t Be a Tumbleweed! Use Tumblr for Greatness


To me, Tumblr seems like a cross between WordPress and Instagram: a blogging tool that can really highlight your visual presence while also expanding your social media presence. What organization wouldn’t want that? Well, considering how many options there are, and how little extra time and money public health organizations usually have, it’s easier to write Tumblr off as a less-popular version of several of the major players in mass media communication. My research has shown, however, that using Tumblr can be a great way to do something that others may not be doing, and thus to create a larger presence and expand your share of online travel.

1) Check out Tumblr’s own TUMBLING FOR GOOD tutorial on starting a Tumblr for your nonprofit

a. Also take a minute to look through Tumblr’s main page for Charities & Non-Profits. Imagine the traffic getting featured here would bring to your site!

2) Follow leading examples:

a. Planned Parenthood

I think the Planned Parenthood Tumblr is a great example of how to create a page that is both similar to but also distinct from your other sites. Both their Twitter and Tumblr pages have a colorful condom polka-dot banner. This helps to provide continuity to their social media presence.

My favorite part of this Tumblr is the Ask a Question feature, where viewers can type in a question. Questions and answers are featured on the site, along with images, gifs, information, and more. The mix of content is engaging, like their Twitter and Instagram feeds were combined and grown.

b. Faces of UNICEF and UNICEF

UNICEF has created such a large presence by using these two different Tumblrs to highlight two different aspects, their service area and their employees. The main UNICEF page is a good example of a blog, with a mixture of images, interviews, thoughts, information, and more.

It’s the Faces of UNICEF site that is really unique, and I think, compelling as a social media consumer. It features pictures of employees along with short quotations on why they love their jobs, as well as some longer interviews. It is incredibly inspiring to read about why all of these different people love working their, and is hugely influential to potential supporters. As consumers of causes, people want to know their support, time, money, donations, etc. are going to people who are passionate. People who are actually trying to change the world for good.

The take-away for starting a Tumblr is to make it seem natural and effortless, which of course is something most people have to work at to achieve. My recommendation is to cater to younger supporters, who make up a large portion of Tumblr users (50% are in the 18-34 range, according to Tumblr’s research). Make sure to keep the content fresh by including different types of posts, such as volunteer interviews, employee profiles, questions and answers, videos, infographics, illustrations, pictures… Planned Parenthood has some fabulous illustrations re-blogged from small print operations. You could pair up with a local Etsy seller and do a fundraising event through social media, for example.


4 thoughts on “Don’t Be a Tumbleweed! Use Tumblr for Greatness

  1. Hi Renn,
    I really liked this post. I (ahhmm) have never looked at tumblr before this and spent quite a bit of time poking around from the links you included. My initial impressions are that this site seems “friendlier” to me than some of the other social media platforms. I think this is because of the appeal of the images without an overwhelming amount of text. I found all the hashtages and usernames very distracting on twitter, so I found tumblr a cleaner format. I looked at all the social media links from Planned Parenthood and was most drawn to the tumbler and Instagram.

    Likewise, your blog post was also well-played. I like having a couple good examples, like those you provided, without being inundated with links to check out. You referred to tumblr as a sort-of child of WordPress and Instagram, which helped me get an initial sense of what could be advantageous about it (or not, if I were an organization looking to do something different), but I think a few of your thoughts on what makes different, or more suited to certain messages/posts could be helpful. Thanks for information; I learned a lot!

  2. To be honest I had never heard of Tumbler until this class. Your post was informative and helpful in drawing me in and making me wonder if I should indeed be on Tumbler. Your examples were great to show how a site with good following does so across social media. I think that is very important, very little social media is stand alone and you might as well use similar logos or heading across platforms so that your followers recognize you. Wondering what you think about this for small organizations? Do you think that this is for organizations that already have a heavy presence on other social media sites?

    • Ashley, I’m not sure it’s really necessary to expand to a Tumblr if you are already posting on other sites. For a large organization, or for a small one trying to reach young people, it’s probably a good idea. Also, like you mention, if you’re using the same things, it kind of seems like why not? Adding posts theoretically shouldn’t take too much longer than updating other sites. It would depend on the kind of community engagement (comments, interaction, etc) you expected to get, I think.

  3. Tumblr is a great suggestion! It’s really so underutilized and people just think of it as another picture posting site, but it really facilitates a visual style of blogging which is unique — definitely more so than WordPress or Blogger. I liked your examples as well: very prominent groups folks will recognize, and making the most of the unique opportunities Tumblr affords in media. I don’t think it can be overemphasized, though, that (as you point out) Tumblr is a lot of work to keep current and relevant, probably more than most sites, and that probably merits a larger warning because small agencies or health departments might want to look elsewhere if they don’t have a dedicated media relations office. But I’m glad you brought this up! It’s high time there was more public health content on Tumblr.

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