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Should Your Business Buy Tumblr Ads?

If you’ve witnessed the birth of an Internet meme in the past two years, there’s a good chance you’ve visited Tumblr.

With a clean cut user interface, the microblogging service is a darling of hipsters, fashion labels, designers and businesses of varying shapes and sizes. To date, Tumblr boasts 50 million users creating 70 million posts each day, the company has raised $85 million in investor money.

Now it’s time to cash in. Last week, Tumblr announced it would open its door to advertisers – albeit on its own terms and at a steep price point. The open question is, Will anyone buy Tumblr ads?

“Tumblr has built a huge audience very quickly and has high engagement,” said Chris Selland, Chief Marketing Officer at Terametric. “But since Tumblr ads are new, it's quite unproven and hard to say with any certainty that it's a 'good investment'.”

While Tumblr has amassed a huge audience of content creators – not to mention some scrapers – it faces stiff competition from a crowd of social media giants when it comes to wooing marketers.

“From a strategic standpoint, it was a wise move by Tumblr to expand the ways they are monetizing their audience,” said Brian Rice, Senior Manager of Global Social Media Marketing at SAP. “However, for most companies the site is not on their radar or a lower priority after Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.”

Tumblr claims its ad suite can deliver millions of impressions and potentially thousands of new followers. It’s Tumblr Radar pushes dynamic ads to users dashboards. The Tumblr Spotlight offer prominently features advertisers’ blogs above the top blogs it handpicks each week.

But the uniqueness of Tumblr’s ad program is its limitations. The ads are intended to be unobtrusive. They’re designed to drive viewers to engage with a brand on Tumblr by liking, re-posting or following that brand’s own Tumblr content. In other words, the ads don’t lead people to a website, landing page or other outside site.

For this reason, many marketers may take a pass, not seeing a direct return from the ad program.

“Tumblr's advertising program is designed to promote what you are already doing on Tumblr,” Eric Wittlake, Media Director at Babcock & Jenkins. “If you are seeing success on Tumblr today and want more of it, look into the advertising program. If you’re just considering Tumblr now because of their advertising program, wait this round out.”

If the insular nature of Tumblr ads doesn’t keep marketers from biting, the price tag might. The minimum purchase commitment of $25,000 means you’ll likely need a big marketing budget to buy in.

Tumblr’s advertising will most likely appeal to consumer brands, partly because that’s what currently dominates Tumblr – though companies like IBM have a presence – and because they often pursue more visual ads.

“There are some B2B blogs, particularly some VC/investor blogs on Tumblr, but the vast majority - at least from my vantage point - appear to be consumer-oriented,” Selland noted.

Rice agreed, arguing that visual industries like automotive and fashion “will have the most success as engagement on Tumblr is driven not by text but rather by imagery.”

It’s important to note that Tumblr is a content-sharing platform, which has become the bread and butter of B2C and B2B marketing. If you’re seeing meaningful engagement from those whole follow your Tumblr, than these ads could provide a means to substantially grow your reach.

But if the limitations and price point freak you out, then sit this one out…for now.

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