That’s the social media dream, right? To set it and forget it, and gain thousands of followers without even trying or thinking about it?
To be honest, getting 8k followers on Tumblr in 5 months without ever logging in was never my intention.
Tumblr was distracting me from my “real work” so I thought I needed to take a break. I actually forgot about my account. Then months later thought I’d check up on it. Imagine my surprise when I saw how much it had grown.
The last time I was on I only had 500 followers. I spent that entire day studying analytics, reblogging cool pictures, and optimizing my Tumblr page to drive traffic back to my website.
Though it seems like my Tumblr blew up on its own, there was actually a very important seed that I planted, and several strategies that I implemented, that made it’s growth possible.
Let me show you how I did it. I’ve broken it down into 7 easy steps.
Oh and here are some pictures so you know I’m not just blowing steam.
This is my account back in early 2016 with only 300 followers.
And here’s my account in Oct 2016 with just over 8,000 followers.
And just since rediscovering my Tumblr and writing this article I’ve gained another 500.
Editorial Note: This article is a case study based on Eli’s personal experience. Tumblr’s interface has changed since this article was written but a lot of the steps involved will still apply today.
Steps to grow your Tumblr account
Choose your niche
The very first step to growing your Tumblr blog is to narrow your niche. Blogs that have specific topics tend to do better and attract more attention.
Colorful Gradients and Ghost Photographs are both examples of a super narrow niche.
But you also want to make sure to choose a niche that you’re passionate about — I mean that’s kinda the whole point in the first place.
Your niche determines what sort of content you will be posting.
Also, you don’t necessarily have to use the same exact niche as your main blog or website (if you have one). For example, my main blog Launch Your Dream is about following your dreams and it’s mostly focused on how to start a successful blog.
My Tumblr blog, Eli Seekins, is also about following your dreams but is more focused on travel, adventure and lifestyle.
The trick is to find something narrow that you enjoy.
Know your brand
Your Tumblr is an extension of your brand, whether you are just starting one or already have one.
You want your brand to have a clear message. You need an edge — something that other brands don’t have. You need to know your values, what you stand for, and your mission.
That way you will always know what sort of content to post. Your brand will be clear and thorough, and people will get it.
When people get it, they have a better chance of connecting. And when they connect, they have a better chance of engaging and even sharing.
Knowing your brand also means knowing your audience. Who are you trying to reach? What sort of content do they like most?
(My brand is about following your dreams, travel, adventure, and lifestyle. I’m reaching out to young people who want to do something big with their lives. I value things like working hard, taking risks, and making a difference in the world.)
Here are 3 brands that are crushing it on Tumblr:
All three of these brands know who they are and who their audience is, and they do a great job of translating that over to their Tumblr.
Follow popular accounts in your niche
A great way to find good content to repost, and to find out what people in your niche are responding to, is to check out the popular blogs in your niche.
It’s pretty easy to find them. Just look for the blogs who are posting a lot every day, who get lots of notes, and have a large following.
To get started just search for different keywords.
And check out the different accounts.
I’d follow anywhere from 50 – 100 blogs right away.
Reblog quality content 1 – 3 times a day (by using your queue)
One of the greatest tools in Tumblr is your queue.
You can fill it with up to 300 posts, and set a certain amount of those posts to automatically publish throughout different times of the day.
In my opinion, your queue is perfect for filling up with loads of content to reblog (reblog means to repost someone else’s content on your Tumblr blog). And I just schedule my original stuff. That way I’m always sharing content, and I can schedule my content to post whenever I want and at peak times.
I often experiment with reblogging anywhere from 1 – 50 posts a day.
For those 5 months that I didn’t log into my account, when I gained 8,000 followers, I had about 200 reblogs in my queue set to share 1 photo a day at 9pm. And I wasn’t even sharing any original content.
Typically the bigger your audience grows the more content you can post. I don’t recommend sharing more than 3-5 posts a day until you get your first 1,000 followers.
You can find good content to reblog on the popular blogs that you’ve followed, by searching keywords in the search bar, or just by checking out your dashboard feed.
Then all you have to do is hit the queue button.
You can change your queue settings over in the menu on the right.
Include relevant hashtags
Hashtags in Tumblr are the keywords that make your posts searchable. They’re very important for getting your content seen.
You can find popular hashtags by doing a search and seeing what people are looking for.
And by typing in different tags in a post to see what people are using.
Make sure that you use tags that are popular and relevant to your niche AND relevant to the content you are tagging. Just so you know only the first 20 tags that you use are actually searchable (source).
Use a call to action
I was surprised by how few people were using call to actions when I first started implementing these strategies. Since then, it seems like some popular accounts in my niche have caught on though.
That’s because call to actions are powerful. It’s how this post has gotten almost 15,000,000 notes, by simply saying “pass it on”.
It’s great if your posts get a lot of attention, but if your viewers aren’t doing anything after they see your content what’s the point? Don’t you want them to take action?
All of your posts should include some sort of call to action, whether it’s to bring viewers to your Tumblr blog, to your main site, or somewhere different — or even to just get likes and reblogs.
At first, I felt kinda weird putting call to actions on other people’s content that I was reposting, but it’s ok to do if you do it right. And it can make a big difference. Just make sure to be genuine. For example, don’t repost someone’s original photo and use it to promote your ebook or video course. That’s kinda sleezy. But leaving a call to action on reblogs to like, reblog, or check out more of your posts is totally ok and can increase your engagement and get you more followers.
Important Note: Always ensure that the creator of images you share retain credit. It can sometimes be difficult to to figure out who originally shared something on Tumblr – reblog’s usually link to the person who you reblogged it from. But we highly recommend trying to credit the original author because its the right thing to do. And whatever you do, never remove a credit link. And try to share original content when you can – you’ll get more traction if you do.
Extra Tumblr tips
Don’t try to sell
At Least not at first when you are trying to grow. You can’t focus both on selling and getting followers at the same time. And honestly it’s pointless to sell when you don’t have an audience yet.
Plus people get on Tumblr to be entertained. People choose Tumblr over places like Facebook and Linkedin because it’s hip — it’s cool and artistic — it’s where the trend setters and young people go.
And they’re very good at detecting and filtering the content that they want to see. If they see your post, and get any sort of sleazy vibe, they’ll scroll past it without thinking twice.
Use Tumblr as a creative place to experiment and try new things — and especially as a place to post original content.
If your goal is still to sell, think of Tumblr as the top of your funnel, where you create awareness and grow relationships, not where you make your pitch.
Get a custom theme and domain name
Tumblr has a big creative vibe. Creativity and good design is important to a lot of its users. Design is usually one of those things that influences people’s first impressions when they land on a site. That can impact whether they stick around or not.
A study done by Elizabeth Sillence that found 94% of the participants who distrusted a website distrusted it because of its design.
That’s why getting a good looking and practical theme is important.
Just do a quick Google search, or click here to check out some different themes.
Using a custom domain name isn’t necessary. It’s more of a personal and brand choice. And it’s definitely not going to make a big difference when you first get started. But if you want to stand out a little more, go for it. I didn’t start using my personal domain name until my blog caught on and started gaining momentum.
Create original content
Tumblr is a great place for content curators. But anyone can reblog other people’s posts. If you really want to stand out, post original content specifically for your audience on Tumblr that aligns with your brand. It’s also a good place to share your content from other platforms.
For example, I take photos of all my hiking and travel adventures. I pick out individual photos, write small 100 – 500 word micro blogs to go with them, and post one daily on Tumblr.
And I don’t post them anywhere else. I also post daily original quotes that align with my brand.
And I also share all my YouTube videos on my Tumblr blog, as well as all the articles that I write.
Oh and make sure to add a source url of your blog or website whenever you post original stuff, that way you’ll get credit for it. And it will help drive a little bit of traffic for you. Plus getting your links shared on social media will help build your SEO.
So Tumblr is great for 3 things: reblogging quality content, posting original content, and sharing your content from other platforms.
Like I said though, creating original content specifically for Tumblr, is what makes certain bloggers stand out from the rest.
And posting content that’s visual — like photos, videos and GIFs — is a must.
If you’re afraid to post original content because you don’t think it’s good enough, don’t be. Everybody has to start somewhere. You’ll get better the more you create and the more you post. If you look at the original content I first posted on Tumblr, it looks horrible compared to what I’m posting now. Every great blogger and content creator started out bad — seriously. They just practiced and increased their skill as they went along.
So get to work.
I’m still learning the ropes when it comes to using Tumblr to bring traffic to your main blog or website. But since revamping my Tumblr, linking back to my site, and writing this article, Tumblr has brought 56 visitors to Launch Your Dream, which is more than Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest brought for me during that same time.
One thing to note is that I’m focused on growing my Tumblr following right now, rather than driving traffic to my website. So only something like 1 out of every 50 of my Tumblr posts link to Launch Your Dream. Almost all the rest link back to my Tumblr blog. How much traffic do you think I’d get if I linked to my main site more?
Maybe we’ll find out later.
Only time will tell how effective my new Tumblr will be at driving traffic to my website. But I’m excited to grow this new following, and to see how it impacts my main blog in the future.
Over to you
Now, you know how to get more traction on Tumblr.
It takes time and persistence but it can yield some solid results for your blog.