Tumblr: The Best Social Network You Don’t Use

Today, WordPress dominates the blogging world while Twitter has a firm grip on microblogging. Meanwhile, Facebook and Google+ are battling for the massive social networking market.

But alongside these major players, there is one platform that uniquely combines all three different domains. I’m talking about Tumblr, a service that deserves more attention than it gets.

Tumblr allows users to post just about any type of content to their “tumblelog,” ranging from a quick, Twitter-like update to a longer, carefully crafted blog post. Ease of use is a major advantage, as it is very simple to post text, images, videos, links, quotes and audio. Tumblr also supports mobile updates, so you can do all of this on the go using your mobile phone.

In addition, Tumbr has a following system that makes it easy to amass a large network of connections as you would on Twitter or Facebook. These social networking aspects are a feature unique to Tumblr, and form a strong part of its uniqueness. Re-sharing content is also a breeze for your followers, so your Tumblr posts can quickly reach a wide audience.

Many templates are available to customize your Tumblr blog’s presentation, and those with HTML/CSS familiarity can design their own. Developers can even take advantage of the Tumblr API to create their own applications.

And for those who enjoy following celebrities on Twitter, many big names, including John Mayer, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Deadmau5, and even Barack Obama, use Tumblr.

Despite all of these impressive features, there are a few disadvantages of using Tumblr as a full-fledged blogging platform. It is more difficult to optimize your Tumblr blog for search engines, as there is no comparison to the robust SEO plugins available for WordPress. And although the service is ideal for informal personal blogs and collaborative projects, it is difficult to build a professional-looking stand-alone website.

In addition, since it is so easy to follow another Tumblr user at the click of a button, those followers are not as valuable and there is no guarantee they will continue to interact with you. Followers aren’t nearly as coveted as email list subscribers, and there is no guarantee they will continue to see your updates.

But these minor detriments have not held Tumblr back; it has made impressive strides in the tech world since its founding in 2007. Growth has been especially impressive in the past couple of years. Tumblr enjoyed a 218% increase in monthly unique visitors from July 2010 to July 2011, reaching 13.4 million. (source)

While some consider the lack of plugins and widgets as a negative, others argue that Tumblr’s simplicity makes its users focus on what really matters: content. This emphasis helps create a better blogosphere, since Tumblr bloggers do not get overly concerned with optimizing for Google or adding snazzy gadgets in their sidebars. Whatever your opinion, Tumblr is definitely worth a closer look.

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Andrew Walsh

I'm Andrew Walsh, a web entrepreneur, author and academic librarian. Check out my book Savvy for the Social Web, or learn more about me my personal homepage. If you're interested, please follow me on Twitter and Google+
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