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The Undiscovered Country: Getting To Grips With Tumblr Etiquette

Joel Lee 17-12-2013

There are a lot of Tumblr blogs out there that throw etiquette out the window and write and post whatever they want — and they’re allowed to do that. But if you want your Tumblr blog to be read by a growing audience, there are some etiquette guidelines you’ll want to follow.


Etiquette is more than simply being kind and polite. It’s about learning the internal, unspoken rules of a community — in this case, Tumblr — and abiding by those rules. Doing so will keep other Tumblr users happy and maximize everyone’s enjoyment of the service. Breaking etiquette, on the other hand, might alienate your readers.

Here are a few Tumblr guidelines to keep in mind. Think of them as an extension to the general etiquette for technology To The Manner Born: Essential Technology Etiquette Tips For Our Digital Age Technology etiquette could easily fall under the topic of “common sense” yet there are many who remain ignorant -- and that’s not a judgment against those who don’t know any better. For a long while,... Read More these days.

Tumblr Is A Community


The moment you start using Tumblr, you’re plugging yourself into the greater community of all Tumblr users (unless you only write private entries and never comment on other Tumblr posts). Therefore, the most important rule is to participate.

The most obvious way to participate is to follow other people. In the grand scheme of things, the number of followers that somebody has is meaningless. It’s just a number. However, on a personal scale, it can mean a lot. By following someone, you’re saying that you like what they post and it encourages them to continue. Also, don’t forget to like posts.


Another way to participate is to submit your own content. It could be text posts, photo snaps, funny GIFs, or artsy composite images. Whatever it is, there’s a good chance someone out in Tumblr land likes it and wants to see more. Tumblr would be dead without content submitters.

For Tumblr blogs that have enabled comments and the “Ask Me” feature, participate there. It’s a great way to interact with people and get to know them better.

Reblog, Reblog, Reblog


Do also take advantage of Tumblr’s reblogging feature. This is probably Tumblr’s most fundamental way to interact with others, and all users are encouraged to reblog, reblog, and reblog. Sharing content from someone’s Tumblr to your followers is one of the best ways to participate in the community.


However, when you reblog, don’t alter or edit the contents or the source of whatever you’re reblogging. That’s just common sense and common courtesy. As a general rule in life, if you find something cool that someone else created, proper attribution is always the right thing to do. In the worst case scenario, you could even be breaking copyright laws Understanding Copyright: 5 Myths Debunked! There's a lot of misunderstanding around Copyright law, especially when it's online. You could be breaching Copyright and not even know it. Read More .

In addition, don’t tamper with image watermarks. Just because you manage to crop a watermark out of an image doesn’t mean the rules of attribution no longer apply. Similarly, if someone asks you to take down their content from one of your posts, do the right thing and appease their request.

Reblogging is Tumblr’s lifeblood. Do it liberally and often.

Post Relevant Tags



Like Twitter, Tumblr utilizes tags as a way to label and categorize posts for improved search results. Unlike Twitter, Tumblr does not use hashtags. Don’t start using hashtags in your posts unless you want to look silly.

Tags are one of the main ways to browse content on Tumblr. Sure, users can always follow certain posters and keep up with what they post, but searching through tags is the primary method for finding new material. Therefore, tagging your posts helps the community by seeding new content for users to browse.

But like proper Twitter hashtags #RandomDoesntCutIt: How To Choose The Right Hashtag For Your Tweet Hashtags have become something of an integral element in today's social media but so many people misuse, abuse them, or simply don't know how to choose the right one. Read More , you should refrain from going overboard. Pick and choose relevant tags so that people searching for said tags aren’t bombarded with irrelevant posts.

Don’t Be A Jerk



I’ve read too many blogs where posters were condescending, bigoted, hateful, aggressive, and just plain rude to others both directly and indirectly. Nasty comments are not a phenomenon isolated to Tumblr, but they do exist and they’re hurtful. If you have something critical or negative to say, at least have some tact in your delivery.

General Internet etiquette applies here. Don’t flame people, which means don’t make inflammatory personal attacks against others. Don’t troll people in the original sense, meaning that you don’t instigate simply to get a reaction out of someone. Don’t bully people — hopefully that one is self-explanatory.

If you amass a lot of followers, remember that they’re still people. You are not entitled to boss them around or demand anything from them, nor are you entitled to berate or mock them in any way. If you want to write a post that attacks someone else, take a moment to consider the potential consequences on both a social and emotional level.

Long story short — respect people. With every interaction, you have the power to influence Tumblr in a negative or positive way. The saying holds true here: you’re allowed to write whatever you want, but should you?

No Flashing Graphics, No Background Music


The last bit of Tumblr etiquette is related to how you present your blog to the world. Remember the days of MySpace where 99% of the pages were some mix of bright neon and dark background? Remember how some pages had falling snowflakes or fiery trails behind the mouse cursor? And who could forget the auto-playing music?

Avoid all of that on your Tumblr page.

Don’t get me wrong. By all means, customize the look of your blog as much as you want and personalize it to the best of your ability. All I’m saying is that you should take your audience into consideration. Make the font legible. Use a color palette that’s aesthetically pleasing. No music and no insane graphical effects that can lag or freeze the browser.

Keep all of the above in mind and you’ll be well on your way towards a fun Tumblr experience. For you Tumblr addicts, what other etiquette tips would you have for new Tumblr users? Share with us in the comments!

Image Credit: Dieting Via Shutterstock, Community Via Shutterstock, Reblog Via jordanponcev, Tags Via Shutterstock, Laptop Bully Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Online Etiquette, Tumblr.

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