Tumbling and Pinning

Here’s a summary of “Tumbling and Pinning,” another marketing slate program at the October ILA Conference at Navy Pier, “Tumbling and Pinning.”

Kate Tkacik, Bank of Montreal, and author of the LifeguardTumblarian blog, and Kevin Toomey of the Skokie Public Library shared their experiences using Tumblr.

Why Tumblr?

Tumblr is important because it has 141 million users, it’s the 14th most visited website today, and it’s a way to reach a trendy, self-selected group of folks aged 18-30.  Only a few librarians, and fewer libraries, have embraced it so far.  The larger reason to use Tumblr or any social media platform is that it’s important to be where your users are, and to show a “human” side of the library that’s more engaging.

Other libraries that are “tumbling” are the New York Public Library, the Darien, CT, public library, the Chicago Public Library and the University of Iowa library.

If you already have a long-form blog where staff members review books and movies, Tumblr is a great place to reach new readers by reblogging it on your Tumblr blog.

How does Tumblr work?

Tumblr is a front-facing blog; you operate your blog, or page, from a “dashboard,” like that used in WordPress, Blogger or Twitter.  Here you can search for blogs (“find blogs”) and decide to follow blogs of friends, librarians, or others who share the interests of your patrons.

Pay attention to the live feed coming through the dashboard.  The feed shows all the posts of all the blogs your blog is following.  Especially when something newsworthy or extremely popular is “trending,” you may want to reblog some of those incoming posts for your followers.  Be aware that reusing content without keeping it in its original context may constitute a copyright violation; simply reposting avoids that problem.

Deciding to follow other blogs will help you to get a following, as some of those whose blogs you follow will choose to follow you.

It’s possible to customize the appearance of your blog, but it’s not necessary.

Use tags to help your users find you

Using tags is a great way to get attention online.  Tags provide a useful way to group related posts together and to quickly tell readers what a post is about. For instance, on the day that Divergent (the movie based on the Veronica Roth novel) comes out, or even before, posting photos and text related to the book and movie with the tag #Divergent will help folks who are specifically searching for references to Divergent to find you.  Using major tags helps users to find you, and one important tag for the books community is #Lit.

An example of a great book-related post that went viral and was picked up by Buzzfeed, among others, was the “blind date with a book” post. To search for photos of “blind date with a book” displays, just type “#blind date with a book” in the search box and several different blogs with photos of that kind of display will appear.

Tumblr is visual and the same rules of social media apply

Although Tumblr is a “mini-blog” it is overwhelmingly visual.  Many posts are photos, some without any text or description.  Tumblr is popular among artists, photographers and writers.

Tumblr works well for teen services and youth services content, and for book reviews, whether from library staff or reblogged from other blogs.  Skokie and the University of Iowa use it to showcase historic photographs from library collections which is a great way to share the photos and garner interest.

There’s all kinds of content that you can post on Tumblr:  links, photos, text, video, and, of course, reblogging items from other blogs.

Generally, the strategy for reaching your users is to offer content that interests them, a mix of content.  Examples could be  photos of library programs, photos from archives, photos of winning sports teams, cute cats, cartoons and local events.

Author’s note:  This program’s speaker on Pinterest was unable to attend.  However, some libraries that have interesting Pinterest pages that may be instructive include:  Clearwater Public Library, Oak Lawn Public Library, Des Plaines Public Library, St. Charles Public Library, and some other “boards” that may be of interest are “Displays and Boards,” “Public Library Ideas” and “Display Ideas”.  A quick look at Pinterest shows that it offers recipes, craft and decorating ideas, fashion, beauty and health tips, much like a women’s magazine, and it’s a good place to find busy moms.

Elizabeth Neill is a current member and former co-chair of the ILA Marketing Committee. She is extremely active in advocating for Illinois libraries and loves to talk with people to determine how libraries can serve their communities better.

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3 Responses to Tumbling and Pinning

  1. Suzi W. says:

    I tried to ask that question back when the Women of Library History tumblr was beginning, but never got an answer. Have since moved to a different library organization where tumblrs are not filtered on staff computers.

  2. elizabethsneill says:

    Thanks for sharing that problem: I was unaware of it. Is it possible to ask the IT department to alter the filter to permit Tumblr? Or does that create new problems?

  3. Suzi W. says:

    One problem that I find with Tumblr is this: due to the fact that a lot of Tumblrs are “iffy,” as in, slightly or not so slightly pornographic in nature, a lot of library filters block the site completely, whether or not the particular Tumblr is benign. This is problematic both for patrons and staff. If you have to either type in a password every time you want to read or post (librarian) or ask a librarian every time you want to read a post (patron), you can see why it may not have taken off in the library world.

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