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Previously on: Tumblr as a Coffee Shop AU: the shape of tumblr community; Tumblr 101: Setting Up Your Blog, Tumblr 101: Content

You've got a tumblr, you're following some people and looking at things. How do you talk to other people?

Q1) How can I communicate through tumblr?

A chart might help! The forms of communication that are available through tumblr, when to use them, and what they do:



And the illustrated footnote:


Depending on the content, and on your/your recipient's comfort level, you can of course also move communication off of tumblr - lj friending, twitter, email, texting, group chats, whatever works for the type of relationship you both/all want to cultivate. And since you can only privately message one person at a time on tumblr and can't send attachments, there are some things that you'd have to send outside of tumblr.


Q2) How does this tagging thing work exactly?

First, quick logistical notes:

  • Tags can be (depending on who you ask) up to 120-160 characters each

  • Only the first 20 tags are searchable across tumblr

  • Tags beyond the first 20 are searchable across your blog, but are not indexed to tumblr

  • Using xkit's option to wrap tags can make them easier to read. On mobile, use your finger to drag them across the screen.

  • To read more about how they work, visit tumblr's page here


Tags have two many purposes: to organize your tumblr (and help your users organize theirs), and as a way to communicate with your followers.

First, organizational tags. Use them to:

  • Tag posts so that other people can find them and find your blog (ex: tagging a post "drarry" so that other H/D fans can find them)

  • Tag original posts so that you can find them (ex: "username says" "my posts")

  • Tag original posts so that you can create a webpage that links to them (ex: all of my tumblr H/D quotes are tagged "drarry qoutes" and my drarry quotes page links to http://dictacontrion.tumblr.com/tagged/drarry-quotes. Any post tagged with "drarry quotes" is automatically added to that page, creating an automatically updating archive)

  • Tag posts to keep track of certain types of posts (ex: tagging a post "drarry" so that I can later see all H/D content on my blog)

  • Tag posts to let users block content they don't want to see (ex: tagging a post "drugs" or "drugs cw"/"drugs tw" (content warning/trigger warning) so that followers who don't want to see posts about drugs can blacklist those posts.)

  • Track posts about your work by following/tracking searches for your username


Second, communicative tags. Use them to:

  • Communicate something to your followers that you don't necessarily want reblogged (ex: "needed to take three cold showers and hit the bunk after this fic!" "having the worst day omg but this is helping" "mostly agree but what abut the yule ball?") Be aware that your tags are visible to anyone who visits your blog directly, and that people may reblog your tags by copy-pasting them into the body of a reblog, so they aren't necessarily private. Having your tags copy-pasted unusual and generally considered a compliment, that someone thinks your commentary is worth sharing more widely, and convention dictates that if you tags are copy-pasted the person who wrote them should be tagged, both to give them credit and so that they're aware.

  • Communicate something to the OP. xkit is so popular, especially among content creators, that the OP may well check their tags for commentary

  • Keep tumblr visually clean. The addition of many tiny comments to a post can make it lengthy and visually cluttered, and people may be less willing to reblog it (or may go back to the OP and reblog it directly from them). Instead of adding something to the post that will travel with it, putting brief commentary in the tags lets your followers and the OP see it without making posts lengthy and messy. (ex: "second this rec!" "this is so pretty!" "nicely done!")

Tags are also great for learning about the people you follow, and they're linguistically interesting. And often the place to find some of the most interesting and funniest commentary.

Q3) What norms should I be aware of when communicating?

There isn't a great way to organize these so going for a list. I'm sure that other people will have slightly different takes on this, because norms are always a little subjective. Comments and alternate interpretations are welcome!

  • Many people do not scroll all the way down to where they left off. You are not expected to be responsible for everything that comes across your dash.

  • Your followers may not see everything you post or reblog. If it's something you especially want people to see (original content, a link to new fic on AO3, etc.,) you may want to post it once in the evening and once in the morning.

  • Reciprocity is not a hard and fast expectation. If you follow someone they may not follow you back, nor are you expected to follow/talk to/check out the blogs of everyone who follows you.

  • It's can be a bit impolite to flood your follower's dashes with many posts in a row. If you want, you can space them out by scheduling or using a queue. It's also worth knowing that xkit gives people the ability to hide more than a certain (user-selected) number of posts in a row from a certain blog, so if you post something important in the middle of a long spree, people may not see it.

  • Unless there is some very special event or circumstance, it is best to avoid hitting or coming close to the post limit (250 posts/day).

  • Tumblr tags (like lj tags) don't always work, so if you tag someone and they don't seem to notice, it may be that they haven't seen it.

  • Saying hello to people, sending them asks, messaging them, sending posts you think they'll like is generally very welcome.

  • It's definitely okay to say hello to people you follow who do not follow you back. People follow blogs based on how busy their dash already is and whether they feel like they can keep up, whether they're already seeing similar content, whether they share your ships/want to see your posts, etc. It could be that your blog is for multishipping and one of your OTPs is their NOTP, or that you you have an empty blog or post very infrequently and they don't see a reason to follow for content, or that you post things from all over and they really only want to see one sort of thing - but none of that means that you don't share interests, and none of that precludes a good conversation.

  • Seeing that someone has posted something does not necessarily mean they're online, or online in a way that makes it easy for them to respond to things. It could be that they've queue'd or scheduled that post, or that they're using tumblr mobile and can't easily type or use some tumblr functions until they get back to a desktop.

  • Posting political content is more common on tumblr than it is on LJ, and isn't frowned upon. Tumblr is also generally sensitive to social issues and mental health issues. That shows up in a lot of different ways, which are unfortunately a bit difficult to describe. This does not need to feel silencing, though. It's not at all that you can't say whatever you want to say, but that you should be prepared to stand behind whatever it is you say.

  • The general norm is to not take things personally if you can help it, because there's a good chance they're not personal. If someone doesn't follow you back, it's more likely to be because their dash is as full as they want it to be than because they dislike you. If someone doesn't reblog or like your posts, it's very possibly that they didn't see them or had already liked/reblog the same post when someone else posted it hours/days/months ago or because they already have it queued or in drafts. If someone takes a while to respond to you, it's more likely that they're busy or on mobile or thinking about how to reply than that they're ignoring you or don't want to talk to you. Which goes back to the coffee shop vs dinner party model - in the tumblr coffee shop, if someone doesn't stop in to say hello and grab their morning coffee it's best to assume that it's got to do with their routine rather than your company.



Next on: one last post! Tumblr 102: answers to more specific questions, and an updated list of blogs to check out.

Please comment below if you have more questions about tumblr, and please let me know if you have a tumblr (or tumblrs) you'd like people to know about!
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