Over the past few years, there have been more ‘next big things’ in the area of social networking than I could possibly remember. Their number is legion: there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to engage with them all. At various times, I have dipped my toe in the water with quite a few of these – and equally rapidly withdrawn my foot again. With my work hat on, I use both LinkedIn and Yammer to varying degrees. Socially, my current core set of social networking sites consists of my ‘magic triangle’ of Facebook, WordPress and Twitter.
For quite a while, that’s all I have needed. But now I’ve discovered Tumblr, I think my magic triangle may be about to become a magic square.
As the blurb on its front page tells you, Tumblr is all about “millions of people sharing the things they do, find, love, hate, think, or create.” At the time of writing, that equates to about 5.3m users (or ‘publishers’, as Tumblr refers to them) worldwide, posting in excess of 3m items daily, with around 40m page views every day. And the average user creates 14 original posts each month, with about half of these being photos – so in terms of usage it sits somewhere between the average Twitter (high frequency) and blog (lower frequency) account.
As a self-publishing tool, the fun of Tumblr is that it is all about combining simplicity with the ability to post a variety of multimedia content: text, photos, quotes, links, audio, even videos. There is no need to mess about with HTML, CSS or a million different widgets and plug-ins – you just sign up and within minutes you’re publishing. There’s no need to worrying about setting up friends or finding people to ‘follow’ – you just search and go. And its simple interface is particularly good for posting things while mobile. Random thought while sitting on the train? A quick text piece. Snap a funny photo or video on your phone while you’re out and about? Post it. Find someone else’s post funny and fancy sharing it? Reblog it.
Where does it fit in alongside my established magic triangle? Well, I use Facebook primarily for keeping in contact with existing friends. Twitter is my main medium for airing quick snippets about what I’m doing, watching or thinking, and for sharing news and links that might be of interest to my followers, a combination of ‘real’ friends and online ones with whom I share common interests (primarily sports). And WordPress is what I use for long-form publishing on sports, fatherhood and life in general, and for reading fellow bloggers who write about topics I’m interested in. Tumblr nestles neatly in the gap in the middle of all of these, and serves as a unifying bridge between them. I can use it to express my thoughts 100 (rather than 1,000) words at a time, put up photos, capture favourite quotes, and all sorts of random minutiae that express who I am and what I like – and then easily find and follow other Tumblr users who like similar things.
Will Tumblr establish itself as a regular part of my online social interaction? Only time will tell. It may just be a fad, or it may carve out a genuine niche. Whatever, I’m currently hooked – you can find me here if you’re interested.