Lots of people have toyed with blogging, whether for professional or personal reasons. One thing you may have heard from more serious bloggers is that if you really want people to read what you write, you have to post consistently. The problem for many of us is that some of the blogging programs out there are cumbersome, and we often don't really have that much to say. In fact, we often just want to jot down a few quick notes, post a photo or leave an inspirational quote. Enter Tumblr.
Tumblr, founded in 2007, is much simpler than other blogging systems, and is aimed at those of us who prefer the quick, concise post -- although you can certainly jot down entries of any length. This ease of use may be the reason that Tumblr is now home to 69.1 million blogs. Millions of posts are made daily in 12 languages, and monthly page views top 16 billion [source: Tumblr].
When you first sign up for Tumblr, it will assign your blog a URL based on the user name you entered to create the account. But you'll probably want to customize the name so that it's related to what you'll be blogging about, or so that it's a bit snazzy. No problem. To create a new name, go to your Dashboard, then click on the title you gave your blog. Next, click Blog Settings (in the sidebar on the right) and enter the URL you'd prefer in the URL box. You can also add your photo here; square photos that are 128 by 128 pixels or larger are best. Click Save (bottom left) and you're done.
Now for the visual elements. Scroll to the bottom of the page, where you'll see the Tumblr copyright and a line of small, white words. Click on Themes to pull up a page full of themes, both plain and fancy, free and for purchase. Select Free themes on the left (or whichever type you want), then click on one you find appealing. You can hit a button to preview the design, then install it if you wish, or browse around some more. You can change themes after you've installed one, but you won't be able to preview it beforehand.
Tumblr users like to copy lots of funny and interesting things they find elsewhere online onto their blogs: photos, inspirational quotes, videos, chat sessions and audio clips. You likely will, too. To make this process simple, you'll need to add the Tumblr bookmarklet to your toolbar. Click on the name of your blog, then look at the bottom of the page. There's a string of white words starting with the Tumblr copyright. Click on Apps to bring up the Bookmarklet page. All you do is click and drag the Share on Tumblr oval up to your bookmarks bar and you're set [source: Cutline Communications].
Now that your page is set, you'll want to scope out other blogs that you find interesting or that are pertinent to yours. The easiest way to do so is through Tumblr's Spotlight feature. From the Dashboard, click on Find blogs (in the right-hand column). The page that opens will have three tabs at the top; the left-hand tab will be open, and that's the Spotlight page. The page has a column on the right with a list of subjects, such as Actors, Education, Funny and Travel. Click on any that are of interest, and a set of blogs will be shown -- spotlighted -- that you can explore if you'd like. The middle tab is titled People you know, and if you select this tab, you'll be able to find the Tumblr blogs of folks you're connected with through Facebook, Twitter and Gmail. The final tab shows the blogs of everyone you're following.
Most people who tumble want others to visit their blog, read it and post comments and questions. Getting lively discussions going is part of the fun of tumbling. But other members can't automatically comment on your blog -- you have to enable your account to let them [source: Houston]. From the Dashboard, click on the name of your blog, then Blog Settings (right-hand column). You have four communications choices here; check any or all of the following boxes:
- Allow replies from people you follow
- Allow replies from people following you for more than two weeks
- Let people ask questions
- Let people submit posts
No surprise here -- the Tumblr technology has some built-in shortcuts to make your tumbling as seamless as possible. Here are four shortcuts you can use while operating from your Dashboard [source: Tumblr].
- J: Tapping thiskey advances you to the next post.
- K: Hitting the K moves you back to the previous post.
- Heart: Clicking on the little heart in the upper-right corner of a posting lets you "like" it.
- Up Arrow: An arrow pointing up with a bar, or dash, over it will appear once you begin scrolling through posts. If you click on this, it takes you back to the top of the page.
Sometimes, you may want to do a lot of posting at once. Maybe you have a lot to say, or maybe you went through the news and found a half-dozen interesting things you'd like to share with others. But if you do post a lot of things at once, it can overwhelm (and annoy) other readers. Better to use Tumblr's Queue function, which lets you schedule future posts over the next several hours or days [source: Houston]. From your Dashboard, click on your blog name, then Queue in the right-hand column. When the page opens, you'll be able to create your posts, then select how many times a day, and between what hours, you'd like your queued posts to be published. So if you create 15 posts, you can tell Tumblr to publish three per day between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., which means your 15 posts will be dispensed over a five-day period. This feature is also great to use if you'll be offline for a while (on vacation, for example), but want to keep your blog active so it has a more consistent online presence.
Nowadays, a lot of people like to be able to update their blogs (or Facebook sites, Twitter accounts) on their smartphones. Ditto for reading and browsing these sites. Tumblr has apps for iPhones, iPads and Android phones that let you do so quite easily [source: Houston]. It's a tad tricky to find them, though. Log into your account, click on your blog name and look for the Tumblr copyright at the bottom. There's an Apps link a few words down from the copyright. If you click on it, you'll be taken to the page that contains the Bookmarklet and Mobile info. Select your mobile device's link, and you'll find yourself on the appropriate site for the free app. Or download it directly onto your phone from the iTunes Store or Google Play.
Ah, the delights of online hovering. Many times, you can hover your mouse over a word or phrase or spot on a page and hidden information will be revealed. The trick is knowing what the info is, and where it's hidden. With Tumblr, you can hover your mouse over the upper right-hand corner of a post, which will cause it to flap over into a little dog-ear. A box will also appear with the words View post and the time it was published [source: Tumblr]. Click on the dog-ear to read the original entry.
Tumblr really wants to make it easy for users to regularly update their blogs. So you can even update yours via an e-mail from your computer or smartphone. This is perfect if you're just hopping online quickly to check e-mail, but don't want to open your browser and go to the site -- which is often the case when you're traveling. To post a message, photo, audio or video clip, all you need to do is e-mail it to a secret address created especially for you by Tumblr. To find it, click on your blog name from the Dashboard, then Blog Settings in the right-hand column. The e-mail address is listed in the Post by E-mail line. While you can leave the Subject line of your e-mail empty, you can also use it as the headline for a text entry, or as the caption for a photo, video or audio clip [source: Tumblr].
How fun is this? You can create audio posts for your Tumblr blog using nothing other than your phone (and your voice, of course). Write out what you're going to say, sing, play on the bongos -- whatever you have in mind. Then, call 1-866-584-6757 and leave your message. Your Tumblr followers will hear you -- yes, hear you -- in just seconds. Even in this technological day and age, that's pretty darn cool. Before you reach for your phone, though, you first need to go to the Tips section on Tumblr. From the Dashboard, look at the bottom-right of the page and click on About, and then on Tips in the right-hand box. Scroll down the Tips page until you see Phone in an Audio post, and the sentence that says Configure call in audio for your tumblelog. That opens up a box that guides you in configuring your phone for audio posts [source: Tumblr].
I hadn't even looked at Tumblr, let alone used it, before researching this article. I quickly realized the only way I could find good, reliable tips for you was to create my own Tumblelog and learn through my errors. So now I have one -- Via de la Plata -- and am starting to tumble. I have to say, the page was fun to create, and I'm looking forward to embellishing it whenever I have a chance. So what the heck is Via de la Plata? You'll have to read it to find out.
- Cutline Communications. "Tips for a Tumblr-ing Newbie." Oct. 26, 2011. (Aug. 18, 2012) http://cutline.com/2011/10/tips-for-a-tumblr-ing-newbie/
- Hameed, Bilal. "10 Useful Tips For Beginners To Get Started With Tumblr." TecHow. Dec. 9, 2011. (Aug. 18, 2012) http://techow.net/2011/12/09/10-useful-tips-for-beginners-to-get-started-with-tumblr/
- Houston, Thomas. "Tumblr Guide 101: Tips And Tricks For Building Your Site, Posting And More." The Huffington Post. July 6, 2011. (Aug. 18, 2012) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/06/tumblr-guide-tips-and-tricks_n_858724.html#s275319&title=Basics_The_Dashboard
- "Tips!" Tumblr. (Aug. 18, 2012) http://www.tumblr.com/tips
- Tumblr. (Aug. 18, 2012) http://www.tumblr.com/about
- Tumblr. "How can we help?" (Aug. 19, 2012) http://www.tumblr.com/help
- Tumblr. "Mobile + Email Publishing. (Aug. 20, 2012) http://www.tumblr.com/docs/en/email_publishing
- Tumblr Academy. "Change your url Tumblr." (Aug. 18, 2012) http://academyoftumblr.tumblr.com/post/4776931306/change-your-url-tumblr
- Webmonkey. "Get Started With Tumblr." Feb. 15, 2010. (Aug. 18, 2012) http://www.webmonkey.com/2010/02/get_started_with_tumblr/