12 Tips for Running Your University Tumblr

A reader recently asked the following question:

Hey! So, questions about a running a college Tumblr. I’m only one person so it can be really difficult sometimes. I’m just trying to figure out ways to make it easier on me and to also have content that students and potential students will enjoy. So got any advice?

Some ideas:

1) Be obsessive about tagging: This is the single most important bit of advice I can give you. Here’s a list of the most popular tags on Tumblr - use them liberally (where appropriate). I try to have about 3 - 8 tags per post. It’s no fun if you’re posting stuff that isn’t getting any notes. Tags will get your content seen, liked and reblogged.

One more time: only 10% of Tumblr users tag, so tagging smartly multiplies the likelihood of your content being found and shared.

2) Raid your University digital archives: All of them. There’s gold in there, which the Vintage tag will love. Additionally, archival material is a great way to tell the story of the history of your institution.

3) Establish a relationship with other communications teams around the University: Most universities have independent schools, departments and cultural institutions that have their own communications team. Befriend these people. Seriously. Take them out to coffee, remember their birthdays, heck - agree to take care of their kids! Why? Because chances are that amazing things come across their desk all day, and you want to create a culture of sharing, so that they often pass on interesting content.

4) Have a student on your team: It’s worth hiring a student photographer, videographer or researcher. Not only do they help with content creation, they have an ear on the ground and a finger on the pulse of the institution. Additionally, since many of them live on campus, they’re available to document some of the great shows/events/performances that happen in the evenings - i.e. during a time when the university photographer might already be home with his/her family.

5) Create an email address where members of the community can send in photos and tips about things happening across campus: Make frequent announcements encouraging people to send in stuff. You’ll be stunned by the quality of stuff that can come in. You want to create a culture where anytime something cool is happening, people know to ping you.

6) Showcase student work: Does your school have a publicly searchable portfolio of student work? If so, take a page from the School of Visual Arts Tumblr and mine that collection to highlight student work on your blog (SVA shares content from the SVA Behance page). Is there a calendar of student performances? Have someone on your team go down and take pictures of your kids in action. Let everyone know how amazing they are.

7) Timing can be important: As this graphic shows, activity is up on Tumblr during the evenings (note that the times are in Central Time Zone).

8) Post topical content: Keep an eye on the news and post content that relates with an issue happening out in the world.

9) Set a posting schedule: But don’t be too brutal on yourself. I shoot for 2-5 posts at about the same time each a day, depending on how much content I have available. Sometimes, I’ll skip posting for a few days in order to work on creating something.

10) Use tag search to search for the name of your university and track it. That stream might offer up ideas for content, and provide relevant posts for you to reblog, which counts towards your post quota! ;)

11) Repurpose content: remix it as a video, a quote, an infographic or even an infocomic.

12) Be human: Keep your tone light, kind, and familiar. Don’t be afraid to show that there’s a human being behind the account!

In summary, love your fandom. Once more, with feeling: love your followers, and the people who bother to tag, reblog and like your stuff. Obsess over ways to delight them, and treat them with respect, and good humour.

Have any more ideas to add to this list? Kindly share them with me at emmanuel[dot]quartey[at]yale[dot]edu. Thank you!