How TV can leverage Tumblr for social buzz and analysis

By Natan Edelsburg Comment

In September we asked if it’s time for TV companies to take Tumblr seriously. The overwhelming answer from nearly a year ago was yes, and it’s even more so the case now. The platform recently reached 20 billion blog posts and 50 billion blogs, and signed an exclusive deal with social data company Gnip to allow companies to leverage their firehose of content.

Tumblr’s genius founder, 25-year-old David Karp also loves TV. In an interview he gave Inc. just a year ago he described his viewing preferences and favorite shows:

I spend a lot of time with people who work at Tumblr, but I make a very poor effort to hang out with other people in my life. I’m trying to do a better job of that. But, honestly, I love quiet nights at home. My girlfriend is a spectacular chef. She usually cooks dinner for us two or three nights out of the week. And then we wind down by watching TV. We use Apple TV to watch television shows from iTunes. We both love Futurama. I recently got her into Top Gear, a car show on the BBC.

We spoke with Rachel Webber, Tumblr’s Director of Partnership Development who joined the NYC-based company in November after working at Fox Television Studios. She gave Lost Remote an extremely detailed interview and inside look on how Tumblr fits into the social TV ecosystem, networks doing a great job on Tumblr and best practices for launching and succeeding on the platform.

Lost Remote: How does Tumblr partner with TV networks?

Rachel Webber: In all of our partnerships people in creative industries, including those in media, fashion, art, design and storytellers of all kinds, we are always focused on empowering their full expression and supporting their participation in the robust Tumblr community.

We work closely with TV networks (and others in the TV industry – producers, studios, writers, directors, talent) on how they can best express themselves through the theme they choose or design, the style of content they share, their approach to interacting with their fans and diving into the conversation going on in the Tumblr community. Basically, we just want to help them translate the really great things they do every day and the stories they want to tell to a form that resonates with the Tumblr audience.

For networks and shows that want to amplify what their blog is doing and bring it to a wider Tumblr audience, our new paid Tumblr Sponsors program enables brands on Tumblr to highlight their great work to the entire Tumblr network.

LR: What are some examples of TV network Tumblrs that have been successful?

Webber: Well, it’s not TV, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t start by talking about what Lionsgate recently created on Tumblr for The Hunger Games. CapitolCouture.PN is immersive storytelling at its best — a fashion magazine from the Capitol of Panem, the fictional nation of The Hunger Games Trilogy. The Lionsgate team mixed first-look imagery of the characters and fashions from the film (in photos and GIFs), real-world interviews with the costume designers and “District Style Challenges” for fans to participate. Capitol Couture launched in the lead-up to the first film, and outperformed the studio’s wildest expectations. The site will remain a hub of fan engagement throughout the film franchise.

A very different — yet also enormously successful — use of Tumblr is BBC America’s Doctor Who blog. The blog uses Tumblr’s simple, yet immensely powerful, “Reblog” button to celebrate the show’s fans. The team at BBC America mines the Tumblr-verse for amazing creations from the show’s fans and honors that work by reposting it, which spreads it throughout Tumblr’s massive community and adds a seal of approval directly from the show itself. And of course they mix up the reblogging with some special original content and other fun features.

Both of these examples demonstrate why Tumblr is the perfect platform for both content creators and the fans. There’s so much love going both ways – the content owners fueling the fanbase with new original work and honoring the audience, and the fans playing a big role in spreading the network’s content and showcasing their love for the shows through creations and conversations of their own.

Others worth noting are HBO’s Game of Thrones blog which is 100% dedicated to fan art. Anyone can submit a GOT-inspired creation and the network publishes a handful a day. A few brilliant examples of networks embracing the culture on Tumblr are the Paul Scheer-created (but network and studio backed) project for Breaking Bad – Breaking GIFs, Nickelodeon’s 90s Are All That, Hulu and IFC‘s blogs speaking in the community’s language, and MTV’s blog fully embracing “Fuck Yeah” fandom.

I also love the Degrassi writers room blog which gives its fans an opportunity to interact directly with the writing staff. And the team at Comedy Central does a really great job with their network’s official Tumblr that shares new content, hosts Q&As with stand-up talent and reblogs hilarious fan material from the community. Comedy Central also has some great show-specific blogs, such as The Daily Show’s Election Center blog and Workaholics, that allow for a deeper interaction with that content and talent.

LR: How should TV networks be using Tumblr?

Webber: I think the beauty of Tumblr is that there’s no one right answer to that. One of our mottos is “share anything, customize everything;” I think that speaks to the endless possibilities on the platform, especially for television networks.

That being said, here are some general rules to live by…

1) This is not your typical ‘blog’
The Tumblr platform is super flexible on purpose… Think about the stories you want to tell and then think about what would be the absolute coolest way to tell them — then design that world on Tumblr! You can introduce stories of your characters, explore new narrative styles, show off the aesthetic of the world you are creating, pay homage to what inspires you, and of course, build your brand and drive awareness to your work.

2) Be conversational
The Tumblr platform is also super social on purpose… In addition to being an excellent blogging platform, Tumblr is a vibrant social network. You will build up a community of engaged followers here; the best way to relate to them is to interact. Reblog their work and add some commentary, “like “your fans’ posts, respond to questions and submissions. And most importantly develop a voice. The community responds best to personal, peer-to-peer connections; embrace that, but do it in a way that is consistent with your unique brand and voice.

3) Dive into the culture
Explore what your fans are creating and how they are expressing themselves. Check out the topics in our Explore section, and the blogs we showcase in Spotlight. Also, search for anything in the “search tags” field on the right side of your Dashboard. Remember Tumblr is a visual and design-driven medium, so look for compelling imagery to tell your story.

4) Be smart about getting noticed
Sharing great content is the first step to getting noticed, as inspiring or beautiful or amusing things have the best chance of getting spread across the network. Make sure to tag every post with relevant words like “television” or “funny” or your name or an actor’s name. These tags will help you get seen by people who aren’t already following you.

Showcase your blog on any other online or offline spaces you can. We’ve recently made it even easier to share every Tumblr post to Facebook and Twitter; use that to tie your Tumblr blog into those networks. And following other blogs, and reblogging and liking posts, will send messages to the community that you’re there.

5) Start as early as you can
Fans love “behind the scenes” stories. Whether it’s shots from the set, notes on a script or just an inspiring song, the more you showcase your full creative process, the more the community will respond.

6) Make your life easier
Use the Tumblr Queue to schedule posts so that you can prepare a bunch of content beforehand. Also, download our mobile app for posting and browsing your Dashboard from wherever you are. For curation, use our Bookmarklet (find it at our Goodies page) to easily excerpt content from other Websites into your Tumblr.

7) Integrate Tumblr content into your other Web hubs
One last thing I want to recommend here is to integrate your Tumblr content on your other distribution platforms. The Daily Show is a good example of a site incorporating their Tumblr content into their main web hub – see the Election Center section. And check out, where her Tumblr is embedded at All the information you need on our API and share tools is available here.

LR: How is Tumblr making TV more social?

Webber: As I mentioned earlier, Tumblr is a hub of immense and intense fandom – “fuckyeah” is our battlecry. I think that’s become of the actual product functionality – Tumblr provides an amazing set of tools to express what you care about and to connect with others that share your passions. So I think Tumblr is definitely propelling fandom culture forward by making it so easy for fans to express their obsessions — by creating whole blogs dedicated to their favorite characters, mashing up visuals, writing fan-fic, creating role-play games and more. And then also making fandom culture more social by allowing those fans to connect to each other, share each others’ work, riff off each others’ work and meet up in real life. (As a side note, we see more than 300 Tumblr meetups organized every month, and many of them have a entertainment-focused theme.)

I highly recommend taking a peek into fan culture on Tumblr by searching for tag words related to any television show (type any word in the search box on the right-hand side of the Dashboard), checking out the community-curated “Television” tag and also by checking out the blogs we showcase in the Television Spotlight section.

LR: How will Tumblr work with TV brands in the future?

Webber: We’re really excited to continue working closely with people in the TV industry to help them find and grow their fan bases in the Tumblr community, to help them use the Tumblr platform in insanely innovative ways to showcase and to enable the community to be able to really connect with their favorite shows and talent. We have a lot of fun stuff in the works so stay tuned!!

How are the social TV data companies approaching Tumblr:

To understand the importance of Tumblr even further, we spoke with the backbone of the social TV industry, the leading data companies who all described that they’re definitely considering plugging into Tumblr if they’re not already listening to the unique subculture of TV engagement that has emerged on Tumblr. We asked each if they use Tumblr as a data source and if they think Tumblr is important to social TV. Here are there answers.

Mark Ghuneim of Trendrr:

Yes. We have long wanted the Tumblr firehose and now that it is available and real-time it should fit nicely in the social tv landscape. It is specifically valuable because it is a creative platform at its core. Blog data has been around a long time but it was not a natural fit with the way we view social tv. It was for longer form expressions which has huge value but in a different way than real-time expressions that are in sync with the air. Where as I like more thoughtful blog pieces for understanding engagement and annotating future plays after initial air

Sean Reckwerdt of Networked Insights:

We do include Tumblr as part of our data feed and include it because we believe in the individual value every social channel offers in the process of informing a client’s media spend. While not all the content that is published on Tumblr is appropriately tagged or easy to activate, it is however as essential to SocialTV as any of the other niche/fringe communities like the Slash Fic ones, the DevianArt ones, or even the Miso slideshares because they are channels in which fans are expressing themselves. An individual’s Tumblr feed also informs us of the other brands, shows, musicians, etc. that they’re interested and those insights help our clients better engage with those individuals. With display ads coming soon to Tumblr we’re going to see more big brand attention on tumblr now that they’ve got an easier way to reach that audience, and how that influences TV fans and what they’re producing we’ll just have to wait and see.

Tom Thai of Bluefin Labs:

We currently don’t use Tumblr — their API just recently became available. But of course we’re always evaluating all major social media data sources as they: (a) reach meaningful scale, and (b) make their data available via an API.

Sean Casey of SocialGuide:

We are continually evaluating other data sources based on a few factors: volume of comments, quality of comments, accessibility to the data, and the ability for the comments to be actionable for our clients. We’re evaluating Tumblr and other potential social tv data sources on these factors.

Serge Billiouw of StatsForce.TV:

At the moment Tumblr is not included in our analysis. As measuring social TV is all about measuring Live Comments/Interactions, the best medium for this is still Twitter. Facebook is coming in as a very close second because of people posting live comments on the wall of the show, but all other blogs are more individual opinions about the shows, after they have aired. It is interesting to include them in the future, but then more as a reference to be able to link other subjects/brands to the show and create correlations between the two.

NM Incite confirmed that they do look at Tumblr, but no one was available to comment.