Tumblr.com is the traditional art world’s social scene. Seems like lately that everyone who’s anyone has a Tumblr account. Should you be on Tumblr, and if so, what’s the most effective way to promote your art there?
What is Tumblr?
Tumblr.com is a blogging platform that is like a cross between Twitter and Blogger.com. Brevity is valued on Tumblr, with a heavy emphasis on images – gifs, memes, cartoons, fashion, fine art…and pornography.
There are over 100 Million blogs on Tumblr. If you’re surprised you’ve never heard of it or spent any time there, you should understand that Tumblr’s audience skews young. 67% of Tumblr users are under 35 years old. It’s a young person’s social network. A great deal of Tumblr is teenagers and college kids seeking ways to express themselves and find their identity.
Should I Be On Tumblr?
Despite the fact that 65% of Tumblr’s user base having an income under $50,000, Tumblr has tremendous potential for artists for a few reasons:
- In May of 2013, Tumblr announced that it had agreed to be acquired by Yahoo! – this alone means that a huge internet company recognizes that Tumblr’s still has a tremendous upside potential
- the professional fine art and fashion worlds LOVE tumblr – so much that big official events use Tumblr as one of their primary communication platforms
- some art magazines look at Tumblr as a source for what’s new, interesting, and newsworthy
That second point is worth a little more discussion. Tumblr has a strong enough relationship with designers that they secured partnerships with 18 major designers for Fashion Week, and the results of these blogging projects were displayed at art galleries across NYC. Rebecca Minkoff even asked artists and models to submit their Tumblogs (as they’re called) to her for a Fashion Week project. Every major designer and fashion news organization has a Tumblr.
Since the fashion and fine art worlds are so closely intertwined, the Tumblr effect has bled over to the fine art world. There are thousands of Tumblogs that feature the work of artists from all around the globe, but especially from New York City.
Does my art match the art on Tumblr?
And this is the real question about whether my art should be on Tumblr. It’s pretty apparent after spending just a few days looking at Tumblr art blogs that the most popular ones (indeed, the ones that get featured on Hyperallergic and other art news sites) all seem to be following an art world trend.
At the time of this writing, there’s a heavy emphasis on collage, mixed media, found objects and impermanent art (which I find incredibly interesting).
So the question you might want to ask yourself before diving into Tumblr: is my art of sufficient technical skill to stand out among these artists, and does my style associate or speak to the style of what’s happening in these online conversations?
The Fine Art Blogs on Tumblr DO NOT represent the art world as a whole – they represent what’s trendy right now among art students, newly graduated artists, and whatever the galleries want to sell at the moment. If your work doesn’t fit in those trends, I’d recommend look at other ways of selling art online, like Facebook and Pinterest (which has a wealthier demographic anyway).
How to Sell Art on Tumblr
There aren’t any proven business models for selling art on Tumblr – yet. Since the fine art world has such a heavy emphasis on Tumblr, I can pretty much guarantee that Tumblr-based commerce is going to become possible. There are some interesting companies making a go of it, like BlkDot, which uses Stripe to create a Tumblr-based shopping cart.
That said, I don’t think selling directly on Tumblr is the most powerful way to sell your art. Just like in our course on Facebook marketing, I think that Tumblr is an excellent way to grab attention and drive traffic back to your mailing list or your own online store. That said, here is a run-down of some of the best ways to effectively promote yourself on Tumblr.
Best Practices. The Best Practices for Artists Tumblog is a GREAT place to start if you’re new to Tumblr. That page has a great guide on how to create your Tumblog, pick a quality theme, and points you to some of great artists on Tumblr.
Make a Pitch. Effective marketing means you tell a good story, and you also ask people to do something specific. Whether it’s buy a small study now, or sign up for your mailing list so they can learn about future projects, always have a call to action in your stories.
Consider a Tag Page. People spend most of their time on their Tumblr Dashboard so things move by pretty quickly. Think about creating a tag page and including a link on your Theme so visitors can easily see all the pieces you have for sale.
Watch for Submission Calls.
My Favorite Tumblogs
What would this post be without a list? In no particular order, here’s a list of my favorite artists on Tumblr, as well as a few other treats.
The Butter Bulletin. Comic artist. Shares hilarious and insightful stuff.
Standing at a Distance. Traditional fine art and photography.
TackyShack. Really unique light painting. This is the kind of impermanent art I was mentioning.
Tactical Shoyu. Another very popular fine art Tumblr.
My personal Tumblr. Yup. Just me goofing around on Tumblr.
Also, if you live in Portland, Oregon or like baked goods, you can follow my silly little Tumblr, SweetPDX.tumblr.com. Now you all know that sugar is my weakness.
What’s your favorite Tumblr? Do you have any great Tumblr success stories?