Brands

Will Sponsored Trending Blogs Help Brands #Win On Tumblr?

A few years ago, Tumblr founder David Karp said the idea of ads on Tumblr “really turns our stomachs.” These days, his stomach must look like a pretzel, because Tumblr is introducing new ad types at a rapid rate.

In April, Tumblr brought Sponsored Stories — Tumblr’s equivalent of Facebook’s Newsfeed Ads or Twitter’s Promoted Tweets — to mobile feeds. And now, the platform is rolling out Sponsored Trending Blogs, a product similar to Twitter’s Sponsored Trends that aims to help brands spread their content far and wide.

Trending blogs are found under Tumblr’s “Discovery” tab as a way for users to discover popular blogs at any given moment, and they feature prominently in the Tumblr app. Now, with Sponsored Trending Blogs, brands will be able to purchase prominent placement as a Trending Blog. Check it out:

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Why Sponsored Trending Blogs?

Right now, brands are looking for the best ways to get eyeballs on their content, and social platforms are battling to offer content distribution solutions that will attract those brand dollars.

Sponsored Trending Blogs is Tumblr’s latest effort towards this end, and ideally, it’ll be a superior version of Twitter’s Trending Topics. While Twitter’s Trending Topics only promote a brand-associated hashtag, Tumblr’s Sponsored Trending Blogs take users directly to a brand’s Tumblr blog content. And unlike Facebook’s first native-ad effort, Sponsored Stories, Tumblr’s product should not set off fears of privacy abuse, which got Facebook in trouble. Tumblr has clearly learned a lot from the experiences of fellow social networks.

Is Tumblr Right for You?

This is Tumblr’s fifth ad unit and their second for mobile (the others can be seen here). But marketers still seem unimpressed.

In a critical take on the new ads, Digiday provided a point-by-point demolition of the offering. A Director at Ogilvy lamented the lack of targeting available to advertisers: “Right now, you’re buying a highway billboard.”

Digiday went on to point out that brands that create great content for Tumblr and really understand the platform can still reach a wide audience, whether they pay for promotion or not. That makes sense. Plenty of people use Tumblr, and it’s a medium built for sharing (or “hearting”). In the same way that brands are building their own news and content sites, they also can build out content destinations on Tumblr — so long as they respect the platform and create content native to the platform.

What Content Succeeds on Tumblr?

Many studies in the last year have tried to figure out which social networks or apps people use the most to share content. Tumblr inevitably comes up in those conversations, often as the Facebook alternative for younger demographics.

A Pew study of social networks contained this memorable quote about why Teens are heading to Tumblr, which spread quickly through the media world:

I like Tumblr because I don’t have to present a specific or false image of myself and I don’t have to interact with people I don’t necessarily want to talk to.”

In today’s privacy-sparse world, it’s a sentiment that resonates strongly. CEO David Karp likes to remind people that visitors to Tumblr spend almost twice as much time per visit as they do on Facebook (a fact he says he “made sure” Mark Zuckerberg knew).

It appears as Tumblr’s momentum is sustaining, though it may be topping off. Comscore has Tumblr climbing from 41st to 29th to 28th in its MediaMatrix rankings this year (latest figures: July). But new data from ShareThis, a platform for social sharing and content that provides data to publishers, found Tumblr engagement dropped in Q4. Those looking for more stats should read this roundup or talk to DataSift, which has a firehose to the platform.

So Tumblr is clearly worth any strategist’s time. But how?

Brands will want to think about their consumer’s needs. Starbucks, for example, gets social traffic at different times than Absolut. But for broader trends, DataSift, which has a partnership deal to analyze Tumblr’s data, has provided several best-in-class analyses of what wins on Tumblr, which can be seen below:

On the topics of content that shares:

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On what content types popular Tumblr brands are sharing:

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DataSift also has a guide to Tumblr based on their data, such as the best time to share and the best ways to tailor content to a specific Tumblr blog design.

Tumblr clearly has a ways to go to making marketers happy. Its sharing is very native-first (what happens on Tumblr tends to stay on Tumblr). And its ads are good but not the best.

In an ecosystem with so many players, Tumblr is a good place to reach millennials, but the platform still has a long way to go to compete with Facebook and Twitter for brand dollars.

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