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I Tumblr for you: the journo’s guide to Tumblr | Medill | Washington
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I Tumblr for you: the journo’s guide to Tumblr

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You know that feeling you get when you find an article online, or see a great YouTube video, and you think — I have to show this to someone?It’s like a spark in your brain. That little gasp! or that “oh, this is genius” moment?

That, my friends, is the essence of Tumblr.

Tumblr is a micro-blogging site that started more than four years ago out of a small office in New York City. Since then, the site has become host to 33 million (and growing) blogs.  More than 10 million people, on average, use the site daily.

The reason Tumblr succeeds is because it filled a niche–it’s a mix of social media and it gives users the means to express their own voice in a way unlike anything else available.

As the great Mindy McAdams, a professor at the University Florida, puts it in her assessment of the site, “Tumblr is not a replacement for a traditional blog, and it’s not a substitute for Twitter. Tumblr is something else — part bookmarking tool, part FriendFeed, part scrapbook, part serendipitous newsfeed….Tumblr is thus more socially oriented than a traditional blogging platform.”

But where does this fit for journalists? Is this just another social media tool we should tack onto our resume sites and forget about?

Definitely not.

Tumblr has provided a medium for journalists to add more voice and creativity in sharing their stories, while still being objective. It’s a way to show interests, connect with others through links, etc. but in a way that showcases the journalist’s personality –something that becomes more and more important with the prevalence of “branding.” It’s also helping journalists connect with other newsrooms or outlets via reblogging posts.

Here are some tips for how journalists can best utilize tumblr:

1. Post multimedia or info graphics: Tumblr is a great place to showcase your finest multimedia work. The interface is so aesthetically pleasing–it’s simple, clean design makes a great backdrop for your most intricate info graphics.  Not only will your graphic look great, Tumblr makes it easy for others to “reblog” your posts. It’s like retweeting on Twitter, only with full posts. It’s a great way to garner support from other media outlets or bloggers, as well as increase the number of people who see your work. Check out The Atlantic – they do a really great job with this.

2. Use tags: Want to increase your chances of  someone reblogging that photo you posted? Want to add some extra snark to your sharing? Tags are your jam. It’s the same concept as the Twitter hashtag, only you can add as many as you’d like. They show up neatly and discreetly under your post, and make your content more searchable. If you use some of the most popular tags, more people will view your post, giving you another way to increase your audience.

3. Put your personality to good use: Tumblr isn’t a place for you to paste your clips and leave. That’s what Facebook is for. Use your own voice to tell your millions of fans what about the story makes you tick. You can show your interest in the topic, while still being objective. There are a lot of media outlets that do this effectively: NewsweekNPR, and Life. You can also post clips, articles or photos that excite you — show your followers who you are through

4. Consider your audience: Think of Tumblr as a space for constant sharing. Your followers are your audience. You can really take your posting to the next level if you think about who is looking at your content. It’s similar to considering the audience when you’re writing articles or making broadcast packages. For example –that post of Al Gore and Bill Clinton in the 90s wearing too-short track shorts? If you’re Medill DC, and you’ve got mostly politicos and journo-nerd followers, you’ll want to post that at lunchtime.

So, in short, Tumblr can actually be quite the useful tool for us journos. It’s not just about posting, it’s about giving your brand a bit more personality. It’s about connecting with your followers. And maybe it’s about having a little fun with the Internet.

So resist the temptation to Gchat that article link to your friends, or to post that GIF of Ryan Gosling giving George Clooney a wet willy (over, and over, and over again) on your Facebook.

Those gems were made for Tumblr.

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