Do you tumble?
Tumblr is a micro-blogging platform with over 233 million blogs that is growing into its own on the social media scene and has attracting the attention of many different businesses (Denny’s Tumblr, anyone?.) Adult shops in particular have found that Tumblr’s sex-positive atmosphere is really helpful for advertising their businesses but seem to be getting mixed results. Some people discover too late that Tumblr is not like WordPress, not like Twitter, and then become confused as to how to use it to their best advantage. I’ve personally been using Tumblr since 2010 and have seen many business blogs come and go, very few seem to be able to properly grasp how to use Tumblr to their best advantage and stick around. In this post I will be offering some advice on how to best use Tumblr to advertise your adult business.
This guide will be focusing more specifically on stores that sell but don’t manufacture their goods. Independent sex toy creators who use Tumblr generally have a bit more leeway because Tumblr loves artisans and being more personable with them. If you own a store that just sells sex toys / adult products, this guide should be of some help!
If you are already using Tumblr for a personal blog, sign up for a separate account with your company e-mail. Do not make your company blog just a side blog of your personal one, that will make it much harder to connect to your intended audience.
When you sign up, find the closest username you can for your store. My dummy store is named Blue Rose Erotics, so I chose the username BlueRoseErotics.tumblr.com. If you find that your shop name is already taken, add “shop” “inc” “store” or something similar to the end of the url.
If you’re brand new to the website, Tumblr has a decent tutorial that starts when you first sign up to show you a tour of your dashboard and how to view other people’s content. I recommend following it to get a better idea of how Tumblr works on the most basic level, I don’t have the space for it here.
Now, head on over to your settings. You need to check the box that states you are an Adult-Oriented blog. While you’re there, check the boxes that allow messages and anonymous messages.
Icon and Blog Preview
Your icon is the face of your blog and when you sign up for Tumblr it will be one of these little geometric shapes. You’ll need to change that as soon as you can. It is a 64 X 64 pixel space, so don’t upload something really complicated and hard to see. Your logo is good if it doesn’t have too much tiny type on it.
That little window appears when someone hovers over your icon, it will show your banner and three of your most recent posts as a sample of your content.
I can’t emphasize enough how important this little window is, it’s the first impression Tumblr users have of your store. Make sure it’s all set up, otherwise people will likely dismiss you as spam.
When you sign up your theme will be standardized to this theme which isn’t very user friendly. Tumblr has a huge index of themes you can search for based on different criteria. Some of these themes are free, some cost money, or there is an option to insert HTML if you have a web designer who is up for making Tumblr themes. It’s entirely up to you if you want to spend for a specific theme. Here are some aspects to look for:
- Searching for highly-customizable themes means you can change the colors or fonts to reflect your store front.
- That being said, exercise some restraint and stick to simpler themes when possible. Lots of clashing colors, animations, and hard to read fonts will not encourage people to stick around.
- Infinite Scroll themes are the bane of my existence, eventually they take forever to load and are prone to crashing. Please avoid.
- Choose themes that show the text below the image. This is where you’re going to be putting your links so that people know where to purchase your products, make sure it shows!
- Many Tumblr users access Tumblr on their phones and tablets, it’s worth checking out what your blog looks like on multiple screens to see if it’s still easy on the eyes.
Here I’ve set up Blue Rose Erotics with four different good themes:
When you’ve chosen your theme it is time to type up your bio which will likely be either at the top or the sidebar of your page. What you write is up to you, you may have a stock bio to use. Just be clear that your Tumblr is the blog of your shop and keep it short and sweet.
The bio is meant to be short and sweet but you can also add an About page by editing your theme and clicking “add page.” On this about page feel free to write a longer explanation of your business, including your store’s contact information and address (if you have a store front.) In addition to having an About page, you might want to consider having an FAQ page, a Most Popular Products page, links to your other social media sites, etc.
Tumblr has the option to post a number of different post types: text, pictures, quotes, videos, audio, links, and chats. It covers all the bases but with that being said, I would recommend that you keep most of your posts as images. These are the most eye-catching posts that people pay attention to.
For example, say you wanted to advertise some pasties.
This is a link:
This is boring, it’s not eye-catching. What are you even selling? Let’s be frank, a lot of users are lazy, they’re not going to click-through to see what it is, they’ll just skip past your post.
So, instead, upload photos:
Tumblr’s image posts are 540pixels wide which really should be the minimum width of images that you use. Everything bigger will scale down to that size for the dashboard. For heaven’s sake, don’t upload thumbnails or other tiny images. Which looks more eye-catching?
(The correct answer is the second one.)
If you want a better break-down of the Tumblr pixel sizes for different types of posts, click here.
Alongside product images, you may also want to post other kinds of photos. Behind the scenes at your shop? Fabulous. Banners advertising your new sale? Groovy. Promotional material for your shop? Yes. In-progress shots of a new display or art piece? Yup! Selfies of your staff doing silly things like balancing dildos on your foreheads? Great! As long as you’re reasonably professional while doing this and don’t spam this kind of post, these will do a lot to build consumer trust and community with your followers.
So, what about the other post types?
- Audio posts – These are mostly used for music on Tumblr, there isn’t a lot of reason for you to want to post these.
- Links – As discussed, these aren’t as eye-catching as photos and since you can put links in the text boxes of your photo posts you shouldn’t use these a lot, either.
- Videos – Behind the scenes? Tour of your storefront? Safe for Work toy demos? All wonderful ideas! Video posts don’t generally get as many views as others, but they can be great ways to get your personality across.
- Chats – Want to post a little bit of office banter? This is the way to do it.
- Quotes – Another way to do that. Quotes show up in a larger font size than text posts but do not abuse this to get attention to something anymore than you would send an e-mail in all-caps.
Lastly, text posts.
If you want to post text posts, keep them short. Tumblr is a micro-blogging platform so get the notion that you need to write very long sex toy guides to build a following out of your head. You can post them, but do so sparingly. As I said before, Tumblr loves pictures.
Posting Etiquette and Voice
Many adult stores make the mistake of trying to be too overtly sexual in their copy. People tend not to want to follow blogs that constantly use innuendos and winky faces, there really isn’t any reason to do this. We all know why someone is buying a sex toy but if you’re too overbearing and sexual it comes across as extremely creepy and people will shy away. Be personable but professional instead.
Similarly, just because your business is adult-oriented doesn’t mean you need to be explicitly erotic and, in fact, I would recommend against that. Just because people want to buy sex toys doesn’t mean that they want to see your taste in porn.
And another thing: your blog is meant to advertise your business. While Tumblr enjoys getting to know the people behind the toys, you must only do this in a professional way. This means not making explicit personal posts on your business blog. You can make your own personal blog for that. ((This is one of the cases where artisinal sex toy makers have more leeway.))
Tumblr has a reblog function to put other people’s posts on your blog but because your blog is all about your shop I would use this function minimally. Your blog should be your own content, where possible. Tagging reblogged posts as “reblog” or something similar will keep your blog organized and help people weed out things that aren’t relevant to your shop.
If you do choose to reblog someone’s post, it is considered bad etiquette to advertise yourself on their content, and don’t hi-jack someone else’s post to talk about your products.
This is something I see a lot on Twitter as well, but really you shouldn’t post “sex facts” and click-bait articles. It’s unnecessary. Did you know that the clitoris has 8,000 nerve endings? Yes, because literally every single account that posts Sex Facts has posted that and it’s boring and now I’m ignoring your content because it’s the same as everyone elses. Stick to advertising yourself, not Buzzfeed’s latest posts or the Penis wikipedia page.
Speaking of Twitter, I would also urge you not to sync your social media accounts together and automate posts (i.e., no tweets to announce that you’ve posted new content on Tumblr, no automatic Tumblr posts from your WordPress account.) It’s especially annoying if you do this and then post the same content on your other social media account anyway, so you get this bizarre scenario where someone’s Twitter has 1. a “I just added new content to my shop” tweet, 2. a “I just posted something new on Tumblr” tweet, and 3. a “I just posted something new on Pinterest” tweet in a row, all advertising the same content! This comes across as just lazy, which is a put-off if you’re trying to build followers on a site like Tumblr.
Tags are Tumblr’s way of organizing posts. People track tags that they’re interested in searching regularly and then use tags on their own blogs to sort their content in an easy-to-follow manner.
First things first, track your own URL. When people respond to you or have questions about your website they will generally tag your username so tracking your username will help you keep track of what people are saying about you!
When you are tagging posts on Tumblr only the first five tags will be indexed with your post. That means if you post a sex toy and tag it, for example, Tantus; Dildo; Sex Toy; Silicone; Adult Product; Adult Novelty; Blue; Sexy; Erotic, etc. then that post will only show up in the Tantus, Dildo, Sex Toy, Silicone, and Adult Product tags. The rest of the tags (up to 30) will still be searchable on your blog, just not on the Tumblr engine.
For your marketing strategy, this means that you’re going to want to add the most general tags that people are going to be searching for first. People who want to look for “Sex Toys” will search that tag and find you, which is good, but don’t stick something like “Blue” in the first five tags because, chances are, people who are searching for “Blue” are not looking for sex toys and you’ll be ignored. Some general tags to use include: Sex Toy, Sex Toys, Adult Toys, etc. and then what type of product it is, i.e. Dildo, Vibrator, etc. or the brand it is, i.e. Tantus, Pipedream, etc. Don’t fall into the trap of having hyper-specific tags, i.e. Blue Silicone Vibrator, etc. because no one is searching those tags. Keeping them general means casting a wider net.
Do not fall into the trap of tagging all of your posts the same thing. It makes your blog difficult to navigate.
Do not fall into the trap of just tagging your product unrelated tags just because you think they’ll find a bigger audience. People search the tags to find specific things and tend to block blogs that spam unrelated tags, which means keeping your Dildos out of the Porn tag.
Do not fall into the trap of adding commentary in the first five tags of your post. This is fine for personal blogs, but make the most of the first five tags and use them for marketing.
Building a Following
By looking at your activity you’ll be able to see your most popular posts and the people who interact with your blog at a glance. Since Blue Rose Erotics is just a dummy store and I can’t build a following with it, here’s a glance at my activity on one of my other Tumblrs.
Tumblr followers build exponentially. While some people will find you via the tags or searching, most of your following is going to come from people seeing that other people have reblogged from your blog and going to check you out. So, the more people that reblog you, the more people see you and then you get more followers. It can be slow going at first, especially for adult blogs, so don’t be worried if you spend a week or so with very little activity on your feed. You’ll get there.
Note: Tumblr has a problem with spam blogs all the time so not every follower is a flesh-and-blood person who will buy from your shop. Some people will follow your blog but not want to interact with it by liking or reblogging, which is fine. By the same token, some people will check your blog out regularly and like or reblog your content but not follow you because they don’t necessarily want your content on their dashboard (usually because they don’t want NSFW stuff cropping up expectantly.) Use your followers as a general guideline (and an excuse to run sales and such to boost your visibility) but don’t be too concerned.
Some things you can do to boost your followers faster:
- Interact with people’s blogs. Check out the adult tags and like people’s posts or respond to their questions (the ‘Sex Toys’ tag is always full of people asking for toy recommendations.)
- Follow more people. People tend to check out the blogs of people that follow them so it can be effective advertising.
- Find out who is popular. Check the tags you think are most relevant to your store. Who posts there frequently? Keep an eye out on people answering asks a lot, if other people seek out their opinions frequently you should take note of them.
- Offer exclusive discounts to your Tumblr followers.
- Host giveaways (more on that below.)
- Send people asks requesting that they check out your blog, it’s tacky.
- Request promotions from popular bloggers, ditto.
- Send every single person who follows you a copy-pasted thank-you-for-following message.
Using Giveaways Effectively
You can also use giveaways to build your blog. Tumblr giveaways are different from other blog giveaways because they don’t use things like Rafflecopter or Gleam to enter. A Tumblr giveaway is announced on a post which people reblog and then at the end of the giveaway you use a randomizer to pick the URL who wins the prize. There are no multiple-ways-to-enter, no +1 entry if you Tweet this post. So, choose a prize and post a picture with the Giveaway conditions in the text underneath. Some general guidelines:
- People must be 18+ to enter Tumblr giveaways, no exception.
- They must be following you (This is where you get new followers from.)
- 1 Reblog = 1 Entry, Likes Do Not Count (Some giveaways only allow one entry but the more entries you allow the more times the post is reblogged and the more people have a chance of seeing it, extending your visibility. Since people’s likes aren’t visible to others, a like doesn’t help you reach new people, so don’t reward people for it.)
- No give-away blogs (Blogs that only reblog giveaways have limited reach and don’t help you build your brand.)
- Caption must remain with the post (Some people who reblog delete captions so that others don’t know it’s a giveaway and won’t enter, which is bad for your store–don’t give them an excuse to do this!)
- Decide where you’re willing to ship (It’s okay to only have a giveaway open to your country but if you open it world-wide more people can enter and will be likely to follow you.)
- Give a clear end-date to the giveaway including the date, time, and time zone (I.e. Don’t say that the giveaway ends “a week from today” but rather May 7th at 11:59pm EST. There are Tumblr users all over the world, time zones are confusing.)
- Ask box must be open (You need a way to contact that person to ask for their delivery information. If their ask box isn’t open, just re-do the randomizer. Their loss.)
Make sure you announce the end of the giveaway on your blog, a simple “The Giveaway has ended and the winner has been contacted!” will do. People are suspicious of stores that hold giveaways but don’t announce the end of it because it’s easy to assume that the person holding the giveaway just did it to gain followers without actually having a prize to send out.
A Word About “”Tumblr Culture”” and Social Justice
Tumblr has a reputation in social media circles for certain types of behavior, I see a lot of people who have very obviously never been on Tumblr generalizing about how everyone on Tumblr cries about being triggered by bowls of cereal or offended by people wearing yellow on a Tuesday. I think this stereotyping of Tumblr is childish, irritating, and harmful because it draws attention away from actual complaints that Tumblr bloggers are making about legitimate concerns that affect them on a day to day basis. It’s not amusing.
Yes, there are communities of people on Tumblr dedicated to social justice, to LGBT+ supportiveness, to dismantling patriarchy or racial hierarchy, but as I said before, Tumblr has 233 million blogs. There is no “Tumblr says X,” no “Everyone on Tumblr thinks Y.” Tumblr is not a hivemind.
A person’s experience of Tumblr is entirely dependent on the blogs that they choose to follow. Don’t want to see pictures of cats? Don’t follow cat blogs. Not interested in social justice? Stay away from those circles. However, Tumblr has fostered a community for certain groups of people to be passionate about their interests. If their interests include active social justice, they will call-out people that they believe to be problematic.
If you’ve followed some of my instructions (especially about being personable and professional) you can hopefully avoid any kind of incident, but it may happen. For example, recently on Tumblr a shop posted links to one of their lines of toys that was covered in racial stereotypes. Yes, people are going to call you out on that because it’s fucking abhorrent and you shouldn’t sell them, but you made your choice so let’s roll with it. I should not have to urge business people to be respectful in this circumstance, don’t chase off your potential customers by being an ass. If you have done something to upset your customer base, try to understand what you did wrong and correct it. Faux apologies like “I’m sorry YOU were offended” will not be accepted. Analyze your behavior, then take the appropriate action (like not stocking that line, for crying out loud) and move on with grace. This isn’t about defending yourself against mean Social Justice Warriors being up in arms and wanting to be offended by nothing, this is about good business practice.
If you go into Tumblr being defensive against “SJWs” when you haven’t done anything wrong, you’re being silly. No one is going to leap out of the bushes to scold you if you haven’t actually done anything. Most importantly, don’t do what a recent shop I saw did and pick fights with Social Justice folk for no reason and goad them about finding something problematic with your shop. That’s just setting yourself up for failure. Why why why why why.
If you’ve stuck through to the end of this obscenely long post, congratulations! I hope you’ve found the information I’ve written here helpful. As with anything, the more you Tumble the easier it gets, so don’t be worried if it takes you a while to get into the swing of things. If you’ve Tumbled long enough to break one of the rules here? Fabulous! Good for you. This is meant as a general guide, I look forward to seeing shops come out the other side with their own well-informed ideas.
If you have any more questions or need more personal assistance and consultation for setting up or running a Tumblr blog for your adult business, contact me at email@example.com and I can send you my rates.