So You Think You Can Tumbl?
by KARA VANDERBIJL
There is sufficient scientific evidence to suggest that having a presence on Tumblr will one day count for as much as a primordial cave drawing or an ancient love letter found floating inside a champagne bottle. Admittedly, the platform’s popularity makes it intimidating to many people; if we could get a quarter for every time somebody asked us how to become Tumblr-famous, we would be neighbors with David Karp in Williamsburg. But we are nothing if not generous, so instead of hoarding all the soft-focus pictures of cats and beautiful women for our own reblogging purposes, here are a few tips on how to win followers and get your fifteen seconds of fame.
You will need:
- A Tumblr account
- Basic grammar and spelling skills
- A slight sense of desperation
- The ability to use/recognize irony
- A photogenic face
1. First, write what you know. It’s a cliche, we know, but it is easier to come across as genuine when you are writing what you really care about. Of course, what you care about should fall into a category that everybody else cares about, otherwise nobody will visit your tumblr. As you are thinking about what content you want to post, keep this acronym in mind: EWBP. The only things that really matter on Tumblr are what can be Eaten, Worn, Bought, Photographed. Truly viral posts generally combine one or more of them. Ideally, your blog should focus on these four foundational principles, so spend a lot of time thinking about what you consume. When in doubt, consider writing about one of these topics:
- How hungover you are
- Walking around the city
- Your cat
- How unappreciative your parents are of your lifestyle choices
- How unfair it all is
- A glossed-over account of your shitty job
- How the patriarchy has ruined the world forever
- Your take on a current event, especially if it involves a celebrity
- How you came out of the womb liking something that happens to be very trendy at the moment
- How you just want to get away from it all
2. Find a clever byline. Your byline is what differentiates you from everyone else. Try to be perky and positive in a self-deprecating and ironic way. This is an easy way to promote yourself but also seem like you’d be really approachable and funny at a party which is important if you plan on attending Tumblr meetups. For example, instead of writing, “Rachel Jones is a writer living in Los Angeles”, you should probably say, “Rachel Jones is a tea-guzzling, Warby Parker-wearing, Tina Fey-admiring nerd” because that will make you sound cool and edgy but also like everyone else.
3. Write in the second person. On Tumblr, “you” is another word for “I”. Even though your therapist keeps telling you that you really ought to start owning your failures, narrating your life story in the second person is the surest way to elicit empathy from your readers. Not only does this allow you to distance yourself from the reality that you ate an entire pizza and watched Netflix for fifteen hours straight on a pile of dirty laundry, but you will be able to trap your readers into thinking that they have done the same. Now you’ll be able to enumerate the details of your interminable brunches without guilt, because obviously everybody has a weakness for reading about other people eating giant pancakes!
4. Have a cat or a mysterious love interest. It can be hard to discern how much you want to share about your love life on Tumblr. If you’re the sort of person who wants to bare all, we suggest you get a cat. You’ll be able to feel genuine affection for this animal, exploit it as necessary for photographs, and talk about it without worrying that it will feel upset about how much of your relationship has been publicly discussed. (See also: small children). If you must discuss your human companion, stick to talking about being in bed together or visiting popular, preferably urban destinations. Happy couples on Tumblr generally don’t own cats. If you are in a happy relationship, you should consider getting a dog, but if you do, you shouldn’t blog about it. People prefer to read about unhappy relationships.
5. Learn the language. Visiting a foreign country can be difficult when you can’t find anyone who speaks English. So imagine how challenging your followers will find it if you don’t incorporate Tumblr’s most basic language into your posts! All users eventually come to embrace the lingo, both as a way of feeling included and as a way of adding what they feel is their own personal spin on viral expressions or memes. What follows is a basic glossary of common Tumblr terms and how to use them:
- This. Placed carefully under a picture of an aesthetic apartment, outfit, celebrity, or well-worded rant, this term indicates your approval of what you are reblogging and communicates that if you had more time, motivation, money or intelligence, you would buy it, photograph it, or — you guessed it — eat it.
- GPOY. Floating somewhere above this phrase is a picture of a blogger, posted gratuitously, although he or she is generally not familiar with both meanings of the term “gratuitous”. Use this tag or phrase as a caption for selfies you take, generally on or around your bed, wearing headphones.
- #Feelings. Often posted as a tag, this term hints at the overall embarrassment, yet secret pleasure, the blogger might feel for having written a long-winded, emotional post about very personal things. Try to reserve this tag for posts that deal with death, complicated relationships with parents, your love for your city, etc.
- “All the...” True to the spirit of the age, Tumblr-ites are rabid consumers. In posts where you reference how much of something you’d like or would not like, try to use the phrase “all the” to express the intensity of your desire. For example, instead of posting, “I would like donuts”, you should write, “I would like all the donuts”, implying that your need for all the donuts outweighs your consideration that all the other people might also want donuts, that if you were given the opportunity you would clean out all the donut houses in all the world for your hungry little tummy.
- #NYFW. Even if you are not or have never been interested in visiting New York City, you should consider posting something about New York Fashion Week. It is an intensely popular, discussed, and overrated event that takes place in NYC two times a year, so it is virtually impossible to escape blogger coverage of it. Consider tagging any fashion posts with this term so that you’ll get more hits, even if it’s only your outfit of the day that comes directly from H&M or Target.
- Le. Le sigh. Le pout. Le frozen pizza. French is truly a fetishized language on Tumblr, and nobody cares if you’re actually using the word correctly or not. Tack it in front of a noun and you’ll immediately sound more sophisticated or cutesy. Boys who look and act like Mr. Darcy will write you long-winded emails about your sharp mind and your incomparable looks and fall at your feet drooling in spasms of glee. At least, you can imagine that this is actually what’s happening behind the enigmatic “[username] liked your post”.
6. Date another Tumblr user. Although its inhabitants tend to keep this under wraps, Tumblrville is prime real estate for snagging a hottie. If you spark a blogger romance with someone, keep the details on the DL (see #4), but remember that having a long distance relationship, especially one that originated on the Internet, is perfect fodder for #feelings posts. Weave a virtual love story worthy of any tabloid! When you have kids, don’t forget to include pictures of them almost as soon as they emerge from the womb. It is crucial that their internet presence begin from day one; this will contribute to their popularity later on and they will be so thankful for your help.
7. Make the most of your ask-box. The questions and comments you receive in your ask box will be either your refuge or the bane of your existence, depending on how many vocal internet trolls follow your blog. Make sure to be as volatile as possible in your answers to both praise and criticism, since everybody on Tumblr loves drama. For example, instead of ignoring hate mail from an Anonymous asker, you could answer with inflammatory criticism of your own. Include plenty of references to Satan, the patriarchy, complaints about how you can never just be left alone, and veiled references to how much ice cream you will have to eat to make up for this in your answer. If you receive a genuine compliment, assume a humble stance and make a joke about how self-promoting your blog is becoming.
8. Invest in your persona. When you wake up in the morning, one of your first thoughts should be: how can my life contribute to my blog today? Spend a few minutes planning out your day in “bloggable” increments. Ask yourself whether or not the outings, people, or items you have on your calendar will look good on your blog. Sure, you may want a hamburger for lunch, but sushi is more photogenic. Do you really want to wear those sweatpants? Okay, but take care when applying your makeup so that your selfie will look good. The more you spend time cultivating your persona, the more content you will generate, and the more followers you will acquire. You should be posting 3-4 times an hour, if not more. For lulls, keep a few photos of cats, outfits, quotes, songs, or rants stashed in your queue. You can always schedule them to post regularly while you’re on vacay.
9. Post when you can’t sleep. Forget counting sheep. If you’re having trouble catching the Sandman, log in to Tumblr and share your deep late night thoughts. “I couldn’t sleep,” you should begin, “so I was just thinking...” Talk about your deepest fears. Practice letting it all go. Post it privately if you don’t feel comfortable sharing it with others. Better yet, forget editing it at all and put it up for all to see in the morning. Everyone will admire your emotional courage; they’ll know that the grammatical faux pas and the spelling errors are evidence of your turmoil. If you are a perfect speller even when you’re tired, throw in a few “it’s” when they should be “its”. Tumblr users love that.
10. Reblog. Reblog. Reblog. You should be reblogging people a lot, especially if the content falls into one of the EWBP categories. It is always best to reblog a post that somebody spent a lot of time writing and give your opinion on what they said, especially if it is a negative opinion. We would highly advise against calling somebody a name but you should logically, grammatically, and aesthetically pwn the other person. This is a great way to fire up some healthy rivalry and gain new followers. Plus, fights on the Internet always turn out better because they never resort to actual blows and you can keep all of your resentment inside of your soul or in anonymous ask box comments.
11. Become a “hate read”. If all else fails, strive to become an object of unaffected scorn.