How to use Tumblr

There’s a lot of different ways to get started blogging – the choices available to you are actually quite mindboggling. But if you’re looking for an extremely simple way to start a blog, or if you’re just interested in consolidating the content you post from other sources, Tumblr is an easy to use platform to handle it. In this tutorial, I’ll be going through the basics of setting up a Tumblr blog.

Signing up

The first thing you’ll need to do is sign up for an account. The most important decision you’ll make here is deciding what your URL is going to be. There’s no pressure, because if you change your mind later on, you can easily change it in the Customize screen.

Once you’ve signed in, Tumblr will drop you into your Dashboard, which is the main interface you’ll be using in Tumblr. You can close out the little tutorial boxes, but you’ll definitely want to fill out the next box, which allows you to set the name of your blog, and upload a profile pic. Clicking on Show All Appearance Options will take you to the Customize screen, but I’ll go over that later.

Posting

At the top of the Dashboard, you’ve got the option of posting in 7 different types of media. This is actually really nice, because Tumblr will automatically format the post correctly based on what type of media you’re featuring. It’s fairly flexible as well, so you can add a text caption to a photo post or a photo to a text post. For this example, I’m just going to create a text post. Write the title in the title field, and place your content in the post field. You’ve also got basic formatting features like bold and italicize. As I said, you can insert photos into text posts as well – if you’re linking to a photo from another site, pressing the picture box in the formatting toolbar will bring up the dialog box where you can type the URL. If you’re uploading a photo, you’ll need to click the Upload Photo link that’s off to the right. This will bring up a file browser where you can select your photo.

One final thing you’ll want to do is to tag your post. Tags are words that help your visitors easily find related content, and makes your site easier to search. You can use as few or as many tags as you want, just type it in and press enter or insert a comma in between tags.

When you’re finished, click Create Post. Back in the Dashboard, you’ll see that the post will show up in your feed. By going to your URL, you can see how it’ll look to visitors of your site. The tags you’ve set are here at the bottom. Clicking a tag will send you to a page with all the posts with that tag.

I won’t go through every single post type, since they’re fairly self-explanatory, but I do want to just quickly how Tumblr handles embedded videos. If you want to post a video from Youtube or Vimeo, you can just post the URL from it in the URL box, and Tumblr will automatically format it correctly. For videos from other sites, you’ll have to get the embed code.

Customizing

To change many of the settings of your Tumblr blog, you’ll have to go into the Customize screen, which you can access from the links on the right of your Dashboard. This will bring up a dummy blog, with examples of each type of post. All of the options you can change are accessed by the menubar at the top. When you make a change in one of these menus, the dummy blog will adjust to reflect the change you made, giving you a preview of how your blog will look. This way, you can play around with your blog’s layout, and none of the changes will take effect until you press Save.

The one thing that will most affect the look of your blog will be your theme. By clicking on the Theme button on the menubar, you can access a fairly large selection of themes. If you’re not interested in paying for one, just scroll down to the free ones. If you select one, you can preview how it looks in the dummy blog.

You can also make more specific changes by going into the Appearance menu. Here I’ll change the accent color to blue.

The types of changes you can make in the Appearance menu will vary based on what theme you have installed. If I go back to the default Redux theme, notice that there is no accent color option, but I can make changes to the background color and fonts.

Adding pages

Let’s say that in addition to your posts, you want a static page that visitors to your site will have easy access to. You can do that by going to Pages in the menubar, and selecting Add a page. This will bring up a dialog box where you can create the page. Give it the appropriate URL and Title, and post your content in the Body box. Now, you’ll probably want a link for this page to appear in your blog, so check the box at the bottom that says Show a link to this page. If you don’t check this box, there’ll be no way for your visitors to access it unless you give them the URL to the page.

Once you save it, notice that there’s now a link to it in your blog’s sidebar. Where that link appears and how it will look will depend on the theme that you have installed.

Adding feeds

UPDATE (6/11/11): As of June 2011, the importing feeds function is no longer supported by Tumblr, so you will not see the Services menu in your customize screen.

One of the nicest features of Tumblr is the capability to easily add Feeds from other sources into your blog. I’ve got several Twitter accounts, two blogs, and Youtube site, and I can consolidate all of that content into one Tumblr blog.

You can do this by going into the Services menu. Here at the top there are options that allow you to send your Tumblr posts to Facebook and Twitter. Here at the bottom, however, is the option to bring feeds into Tumblr. There’s a variety of different services you can pull from, but in this example I’ll just import my Twitter account. All you need to do is input your Twitter username and press Start to begin importing this feed.

Unfortunately, Tumblr doesn’t pull updates from feeds in real time, so it may take some time before your posts appear. I’ve found that it takes around 12 hours for my posts in Twitter to make it over to my Tumblr blog. When it does finally appear, Tumblr will format the tweet as a text post with no title.

Social tools

Just like Twitter, you can also follow blogs in Tumblr, which will bring updates from other Tumblr blogs into your Dashboard. If there’s one that you find interesting, just click the Follow button at the top of the page. If you go back to the Dashboard, posts from that blog now show up there.

If you really like one of these posts, you can reblog that post, which will place that post into your own blog. All you have to do is click reblog, which will bring up the post editor. When you click ReBlog Post, it’ll appear in your own blog.

Adding Google Analytics

One feature that Tumblr lacks is any real statistics on visitors to your blog. Thankfully, though, it’s incredibly simple to add Google Analytics to your Tumblr blog. Google Analytics provides you with a great deal of information on how many people visit, when they’re visiting, what browser they’re using, and a host of other useful data. Sign up by visiting analytics.google.com and sign up for a Google account if you haven’t already. Setup Analytics by inputting the URL for your Tumblr blog. Once you’ve finished the setup process, you’ll get a final screen with a bunch of javascript code. You don’t need to know anything about javascript, just select all the contents of this box and copy it.

Back in the Tumblr Customize screen, you need to go to the Info menu and paste that code into the Description box. Once you’ve saved this, you can go back to Analytics access visitor data for your Tumblr blog. Analytics runs 24 hours behind, so you won’t get any data until the next day.

Other resources

33 Tumblrs to Follow – This article by Adam Clark Estes and Craig Kanalley of the Huffington Post gives newcomers to Tumblr a quick run through of some of the best bloggers on Tumblr. More than anything, it demonstrates the quality of content that this being produced by the Tumblr community.

Tumblr vs. Posterous – This article by Chris Foresman of Ars Technica provides a thorough comparison of Tumblr and its foremost competitor in the simple blogging platform space. For a tutorial on how to use Posterous, you can have a look at my Posterous tutorial video that I put out last month.

Get Started With Tumblr – This guide by Webmonkey has advice on slightly more advanced features, like adding comments and using your own domain.

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4 Comments

  1. CA
    Posted October 20, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Is it possible to change your theme after you have been blogging on tumblr? If so, will you lose any content? Thanks

  2. Posted October 8, 2012 at 3:31 am | Permalink

    Hi I was just wonder when I go to PDF something I go see what it looks like it doesn’t show the whole post just the title why
    ????

  3. Posted October 8, 2012 at 3:32 am | Permalink

    Hi I was just wonder when I go to Post something I go see what it looks like it doesn’t show the whole post just the title why
    ????

  4. agija
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    why cant i see my posts in the tag i tagged then i used my secondary blog can you even tag in your secondary blogs or is ut usseless

3 Trackbacks

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