10 tips for blogging art on tumblr

Hi tumblr – 1,000’s of posts later, and perhaps 10,000’s of views of art of all sort, I would like to point out a few practices I maintain on my tumblr blog. In other words: tips and tricks for blogging /re-blogging/finding contemporary art on social media.

10. No accreditation = no re-blog | Don’t do the artist / designer a disservice if there is no name or source attached. And trust me, nine times out of ten there is none to be found even if you perform a forensic link trace to find a name. I now move on – even if I really, really like the image.

9. Link up to a twitter account and auto-tweet your tumblr posts | The advantages of this should be obvious if you are interested enough in social media to be reading this post. Linking up with Twitter is an option is right there in the preferences section of each tumblr blog. *Tip – make sure you manually verify the content of each tweet from your tumblr posts, as sometimes this option will only show a shortened url with no description. However, the “Share on Tumblr” bookmarklet does a good job inserting the title into the tweet.

BTW – a tumblr / twitter combination for galleries and artists is a terrifically powerful, agile and simple communications tool. I highly recommend it, and you can embed both into a wordpress blog later on if you want to expand even more.

8. Cut and paste tumblr sources for reblogs into the bottom | I do this to make the information of the post more coherent when my content is shared on twitter, facebook and RSS. Having it at the top, while gallant and fair, confuses people (myself included) as to the title and artist name, etc, and can lead viewers away from your blog.

7. Ignore tumblr’s submissions email function and get a gmail account | If you are thinking of having a cool submissions based site like eat sleep draw, art PR wire or illustrativo, then beware the email that tumblr gives you for submissions. The /submit function straight of the tumblr blog works great but I found most emails to me never arrived in my submissions queue, and those that did most were truncated severely. Get a gmail account, and get submissions email there and then send that to the auto-post email that tumblr gives you in the goodies section for administrators to publish with.

6. Use the queue function to drip out content | Silly me – when I first started I published posts right away. The result was a massive block of immediate postings with long periods of inactivity in between. People are on and off tumblr at various parts of the day and if they are anything like me then most tumblrs will most likely view your post if it happens to appear in the stream in the dashboard. Right now, I have mine set to post one at a time every three hours between 8 am and 9pm – when most people are on the computer, period, and maintains a reasonable presence throughout each day.

5. Vimeo rocks, but Youtube is King | I appreciate Vimeo greatly when I have a video that is over ten minutes to post. Also, when I see a posting with a video on the Vimeo platform I tend to initially take it more seriously than Youtube.  However, what Vimeo has in quality it lacks in sheer traffic quantity and thus you should also be posting on Youtube. Also, facebook video is surprisingly robust and embeddable but does not have the sheer “find-ability” that uploading to videos on Youtube has, of course.

Did you know that the second most popular search engine in the world is Youtube?

4. Post about popular exhibits are less popular than posts about less popular exhibits | Confused? I’ll give you an example – I post about exhibits in Toronto all the time, and when I post about big exhibits at the Art Gallery of Ontario there is some interest and traffic with it. However, when I post about an exhibit at a small gallery with an emerging artist my traffic and reblogs spike. Why? Because the news about big shows with big ad budgets is everywhere, including with reviews by the somewhat lazy mass media art critics out there. But by posting unique, niche content such as smaller, more avant-garde artists and galleries is more valuable and rare comparatively and generates more interest – not to mention your tumblr blog URL being sent to everyone on that artist and gallery’s list.

3. Don’t follow everyone – follow the best sources | One mistaken approach to tumblr is to treat it as a social network – it is more of an exchange of postcards than a conversation. I followed lots of people at first, but got visually bogged down rather quickly with all the non-art postings. Now I am very strict about who I follow – generally people who go find, document and post interesting art from their areas or do some valuable research and writing about culture I will follow. You have to keep an eye on some people’s posts – often they blog a lot of art then slip into more personal posts. Keep your numbers manageable.

2. Permission-based blogging is actually flatter marketing | I have never had a problem with permission for posting people’s work. I always ask, or reblog with what I must assume has been permitted to be on the web. Artists work very hard on shows, and when somebody with a blog comes around and wants to post about it (like me) then almost always the artist is thrilled. Even though I am not a huge art media mogul (yet) it makes me feel good to validate such work and talent – sometimes some artists who are control freaks and do not understand the value of social media marketing will say no. That’s fine, because there are a thousand brilliant artists lined up behind them who desperately want their work and names to be shared.

For art listings professional, I post a lot of historical works and artists such as Picasso, Dali, O’Keefe, etc. When you post a review of a local artist’s exhibit in between names like those, then you add a bit of context for that artist and they usually are pretty happy to have such company.

I also work hard to not just post but “curate” the experience for the blog visitor. Posts, per block, are related to each other either formally or thematically and this seems to a be one of the keys to building a relationship with a larger and more serious online art community.

1. Post original content | If you reblog, then comment and add a some unique value to the post and reward those who come to your blog instead of where ever else that post is up at. More importantly, add original photos, videos and listings of art shows around your area and your tumblr blog will be picked up far more often in local searches. Those following you will greatly appreciate it and you will be re-blogged far more often as well. If you simply reblog, then your arts-based tumblr blog will never get noticed by very many people. Plus, you are more likely to be forming connections with people and being linked to is the foundation for high rankings on google searches.

Being ground zero for original content is the golden rule in the age of re blogging.

Let me know if you have more suggestions!

8 comments

  1. Mishi · February 9, 2013

    I’m just getting started on tumblr myself and this really helps. Thanks.
    If you or anyone else has more ideas on how to make my tumblr a little better let me know. http://mishi-sketch.tumblr.com/

  2. maugryph · March 6, 2013

    Thanks for the pointers. I been trying to figure out tumblr for weeks. It is still somewhat a mystery to me

  3. KC · July 8, 2013

    Totally agree with #1. Posting too much reblogging in a blog that’s meant to be yours run into a problem of ‘stealing’. I do reblogging too, but almost all of the time I comment on the person or add something to it. Otherwise if I see something in my feed that I like I ❤ them. I have a separate section that contains favourites, but the content doesn't account for the main blog.
    Unless you intend your site to be like Pinterest where you turn your blog into a bulletin board.

  4. Skin and Bones · September 8, 2013

    Thank you so much for your great advice… We are an art collaboration (and life partners) who are putting our best efforts into establishing ourselves locally as well as online. We really hoped Tumblr could give us a bit of leverage in exposure… but… as mentioned in previous comment, this really has been somewhat of a mystery.
    Curious about the “submissions” aspect of Tumblr you mentioned.
    Any further pointers are ALWAYS welcome and appreciated.
    🙂

  5. Jeanette Margaret Cleaver · February 5, 2014

    Hi Thanks for the informative pointers. I’m hoping to use Tumblr to promote my upcoming exhibition and I’m new to the social networking way of self promotion.Any advice you can offer would be great.I’ve gained a lot of ideas from this blog. I am wondering about how much of my work I should show on my Tumblr page prior to the exhibition. Could showing the content publicly before it’s exhibited be a problem?

    • artlistpro · February 5, 2014

      Hi Jeannette – there is very little correlation between attendance due to social media. There is, however, good things that happen when you include images that are very re-sharable. And of course, ultimately, more people will see your work if it is online.

  6. MI · October 2

    I know I’m commenting on this long after it’s been posted, but that comment in #2 just seems unnecessary and rude. Just because someone would rather you not post about their stuff doesn’t make them a control freak or ignorant, and there’s no need to be disrespectful just because someone told you no.

    • artlistpro · October 2

      when do you let go of your image? when does it live unfettered in the public ecosystem you released it into? If never, then it is not about the image or the public sphere. It’s about you.

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