Is Tumblr a social network?

Sharing without a strategy. Blogging without a plan. Connecting without an angle. Maybe that’s how Tumblr shines?

What the heck is Tumblr, anyway? I’ve never done a particularly deep dive into the platform, though it is recently relevant for my line of work.

I created a Tumblr back when WordPress was debating post formats — before they died. I also did a small client project on Tumblr — which ended up being a tedious experiment of much custom HTML and CSS inside a customizer-like interface.

I never stopped to think what kind of platform Tumblr is. Is it a blog platform? A site builder? A social network?

Of those three particular options, I would’ve leaned on blog platform with a dose of light-CMS for tiny site building. I probably would’ve mostly dismissed a notion that it’s a social network. But perhaps that’s where it can be best.

When I visit Tumblr, I see tons of different content formats, mostly short-form and ephemeral — whether a meme, funny pic, quote, or news link. None of the gamified restrictions on the type of content exist on Tumblr, as is so well known on Instagram. It is a fairly simple feed based on the content posted or engaged with by the people you follow.

Tumblr feels like the whimsical side of blogging. Too often, when I blog, I feel like it better mean something. So usually I tweet, or I do something else that feels less permanent. This is a sad outcome, as I loved blogging in the weblog sense — before the arrival of “big-thought” blogs finely tuned to the desires of Google algos, carefully crafted with just the right CTAs, sub-heads, and content plans, all within a well-defined site structure.

All that serious businessy stuff is great, I guess. It makes sense. The “investment” in our content “strategies” — these words are making my old-school web self puke — are totally reasonable. For our businesses, personal brands, stores, and whatnot, we want a good ROI on our blogging. We have strategies.

What is fun about the Tumblr vibe is that it feels strategy-less. It feels social.

I’m gonna try to Tumbl for a while, see how it feels, how it works, and what happens. Am I worried about my brand, my audience development, my influence, my monetization strategy? Nah. I can do that on this site, or web-Twitter, or YouTube, or Instagram. I just want to have fun.

Maybe that’s where Tumblr can shine.