Today’s revolutionary social tools are largely based on a few, clear, well-executed ideas. I discuss why Tumblr’s ‘reblogging’ list is such an idea, and why the blogging service’s rapid growth is just the start.
To get a primer, check out my thoughts about Tumblr vs Twitter from a few months ago. Tumblr’s got more than just reblogging in its corner, and their regular innovation demonstrates their ability to grow. I expect to see more great ideas from Tumblr.
That said, reblogging itself is a great idea that is designed with its power users in mind, and this feature has helped power the growth of Tumblr. For those new to Tumblr, reblogging is essentially a button that’s beside any content that a person puts on Tumblr. When another Tumblrer presses it, they essentially reblog the post itself, taking the content itself to their own page. It’s very similar to a retweet, but the key difference is that for any reblogged post, every user can see it’s entire history. I can look at where a post was first created, who has “liked” it, who has reblogged it and more. In this article, I am suggesting that this feature is key, and look at 3 reasons that reblogging is driving growth below.
1. Attributed Fame
A reblog makes it clear who started the post. If my uploaded Arctic Monkeys cover video gets reblogged 10,000 times (as my videos tend to do… /sarcasm), everyone that looks at the reblog list will be able to see just what path it took to get there. Some Tumblr themes place an extreme emphasis on the reblog list, and there’s no better validation of a post you’re looking at then seeing all the shares, reblogs and comments in a sidebar as you watch. It feels very social for the user, even if they’re just watching the video. This is part of what helps Tumblr suck you into their ‘social’ features.
2. Ease of Sharing Actual Content
I’m not going to lie, I don’t know whether ‘reblogging’ would exist if ‘retweeting’ didn’t exist. That said, there’s always room on the shoulders of giants. That’s what Tumblr has done here. It’s easy for me to retweet awesome links, but when I reblog a friend’s video, it gets incorporated into my Tumblr, within the format of my blog. It becomes my content, and my Tumblr blog will forever show that. So this idea of people’s Tumblr’s representing a stream, but also a list of a person’s favorite ‘things’, separates it a bit from Twitter, which is more about communicating my latest ideas.
For that reason, people work really hard to only reblog and share that which works for their own blog. I find that people are less likely to reblog something in Tumblr unless it has a certain unique characteristic, which means it’s a great place for finding fresh content.
3. Measure of Popularity
When I jump over to someone’s post and realize it’s a Tumblr rather than a WordPress or a static web page, I often look for the reblog list. As I said before, popular Tumblr-ers (is this right?) proudly display their reblog list, so I can immediately tell just how popular this page and post are. That plays a bit of a role in quantifying the attention I’m paying to the site, and can be useful for some viewers. Of course, popularity shouldn’t dictate how worthy we deem the content, but popularity can often help you quickly confirm your hypotheses about the quality of some content. If a video seems bad, and the only person who liked it is the blogger himself, you can quickly get out of there. If a video seems iffy, but 2000 people have reblogged it, you may want to stick around until the end.
For some more insights about Tumblr, check out Megan’s humorous post.