I get a lot of questions from Tumblr artists about this, so here we go:
1.) Bookmark your most popular posts. Spend an hour each morning opening up your bookmarks and message everyone who is a new ‘note’ on your post. 99% of the time they had no idea you’re the actual artist. Everyone is so used to re-uploads, infringement, parodies, reblogs, etc. that they assume the original post is not the one who actually made the art. As I’ve said, this is the #1 issue with Tumblr, so until that’s fixed then you have to reach out and introduce yourself. If you don’t have any popular posts then just start anywhere - a new post of your work with only 3 notes is still 3 people who enjoyed your work, don’t know you’re the creator, and would likely love to hear from you.
2.) Study the Notes. Let’s look at this post of mine with 46,000 notes:
Above Picture: if your song is getting more notes than you can handle, then select a few people to connect with. How do you decide? Well, here’s what I do:
- ‘Commenting’, to me, implies the highest fan investment on Tumblr notes. Reaching out to people who comment are usually always thrilled to say hi, and are a blast to message with back and forth. Also, comments can usually only be done on reblogs anyway, so it’s sort of like the ultimate fan.
- ‘Reblogs’ are the next tier of investment. 20 years ago you would never call 40 of your closest friends about a painting or a CD. But today, that’s exactly what happens - it’s word-of-mouth on steroids. So when someone reblogs you to their entire community, that’s intense praise. You need to message them immediately so they know you’re the artist, and because they care about your work.
- ‘Likes’ are important, but if a post has 10,000 notes and growing then I would concentrate more on invested fans. Remember, I always say “it’s not about creating the biggest community, it’s about creating the best one.” I consider Facebook and Tumblr ‘likes’ to be sort of passive. People who comment and reblog your art usually are more vocal and passionate of your work.
So what if a post has all ‘likes’ and no ‘comments’? Then find out who everyone is reblogging from. In the above picture, ‘sheasmagicemporium’ and ‘waltdisneyismyhero’ show up as a reblog source (the right side) quite often. So based on the above example, if I could only choose 3 people to message then it would be ‘emkatmcbride’ + ‘sheasmagicemporium’ + ‘waltdisneyismyhero’ (in that order).
3.) When messaging them send it as a ‘Submission’ instead of an ‘Ask’. This is because you can only send 10 Asks per hour, but dozens (hundreds?) of Submissions per hour. You’ll reach more possible fans in a shorter time frame.
4.) The cream rises to the top. The reality is that some Tumblr’s post 60 times per day, and some people follow 1,000 Tumblrs. Do that math - so how do you cut through all that noise? In a waterfall dashboard, you can’t. So concentrate on quality rather than quantity. When I release a new song I make sure it burns (more on that at the bottom) so that it gets passed around. If it’s great art, then your community will pass your work around.
5.) Create original content. Aside from your actual product (which I would assume is an original piece), consider making most of your blog posts original content, too. Sometimes it will stick and other times it will not. But the times when it sticks, prepare for some awesome people to find out about you. If you want to make a “reblog Tumblr” about a certain topic, then by all means do that and become the linchpin curator for said tags. I constantly reblog other’s work, but find a balance between spreading other’s work and your own.
6.) When posting pictures, link to your blog. As shown directly below, there are actually 2 places for trackback links: the source, and the picture link. Use both because 1 of those will probably be edited by someone in the future. 2 is just for insurance.
7.) Submit your links. Shamelessly send your work to Tumblr Tag editors, fandoms, and more. If you’re sending it to someone who reblogged you then include a message like “I saw you liked my painting, here’s another one I did. Come follow for more.”
8.) When tagging, think global. Picture of a dog? Don’t tag #dog. Instead consider #doge #ruffruff #lookatthoseeyes. I notice I get more followers when my tags are more specific and not competing with generic terms.
9.) Twitter search. A lot of people, myself including, have their Tumblr posts get automatically tweeted. So use Twitter Search to track your posts. But don’t search the full URL “http://fororchestra.com/post/70260794081” instead, use just your Tumblr username, in this case “fororchestra”. The former begets almost no results, but the latter gets everything. Twitter search is the most effective thing for Tumblr.
10.) Album art matters. I want this post to pertain to all Tumblr artists trying to make a living. But as for musicians: album art matters - a lot. Let’s take Soundcloud’s new player:
The yellow arrows show what is taken up in the update. So now CD covers can’t quickly be read in someone’s dashboard at a glance. So the remedy is that now I have to make the album art take place mainly in the center. This is useful for Youtube thumbnails too:
The left you’ll see my old album art got clipped. My new versions do not. This is also the case with Deviant Art, Etsy, etc. So pay attention and constantly browse your website every few weeks as if you’re a new visitor - take notes!
11.) Do not copy + paste messages to your prospective fans. If you’re not going to take 3 seconds to care about them and personalize the message then don’t waste anyone’s time.
12.) Schedule posts. The reason I schedule posts every few hours is so that I can remain active in your dashboard (without clogging it all up at once!) even while I’m sleeping. Momentum is incredibly important. It also allows me to reach new audiences - because when I post at 4am I’m chatting with my Australian audience - hi!
13.) The Tipping Point. There’s a point when everything falls in line after a few months or so and things start rolling on auto-pilot: press, community, reblogs, purchases, understanding how the internet works, and all types of stuff. If it seems daunting, then it’s not. Just start and end with one rule: find and keep in touch with those who care about your work. You’ll get there!
14.) Concentrate on 3 new fans a day. Within a year you’ll have 1,000 diehard people fighting for you. That’s incredible - think about that. Don’t say “Buy Buy Buy or GTFO”.
15.) Good work dies, great work spreads. All these tips do nothing if your work isn’t great. The reason I don’t have a marketing budget is because I worry more about making great art, then the rest is on auto-pilot. I sweat the details - from my web layout, mobile layout, color scheme, blog posts, and more. Love is the difference between good and great. You have to love your work and everything surrounding it.
In closing, I’ve never been a big fan of promotions or follow backs or anything like that. When building a community, I imagine it as providing a service to people who care about you. So I follow who I need to so I can stay up-to-date on which songs to consider. I always felt promos were a spam tactic, but maybe I’m wrong. It just always made more sense to spend my time keeping in touch with people.
Make sure your work burns. Keep improving on every aspect you do - from your art, community, web design, networking, and more. And most importantly don’t just love your work, but also the ones who support it.