The VPM Blog

A University's Guide to Using Tumblr: Yale Edition

Posted by Piper.vpm on Jul 24, 2013 3:54:00 AM

Tumblr is back from the dead and can be very beneficial to Universities if used properly. The social site opens a door to an audience of prospective students and life-long learners, a combination you can’t quite find on other social channels.

And Yale’s Tumblr serves as evidence.

Meet Emmanuel Quartey, the man responsible for Yale’s beautifully constructed Tumblr page and one of the driving forces behind Tumblr’s return from the grave.

Quartey describes Tumblr users as “particularly eager to learn something new,” which is why content often has a further reach on Tumblr compared to other social media platforms. However, producing content is a balancing act as it must strike user curiosity while also serving as “a window into the many facets of life” at your University with a playful twist, as Quartey explains it.

So, what’s Quartey’s secret to creating posts that keep Yale’s Tumblr so successful? And how can it be translated to your University?

After looking at Yale’s Tumblr, reading Measured Voice’s interview with Quartey and researching Tumblr for Higher Ed, these are a few tips I’ve gathered from the Yale Tumblr expert:

Create Conversation

Tumblr is a community, which means interaction is a necessity. Quartey believes that blogs who use Tumblr as “a one-directional broadcast medium will be ignored” because users crave interaction. A good way to create conversation is to reblog other user’s posts and respond to their comments.

Yale example: Yale reblogged a user’s photo of the Yale Art Gallery and commented with encouraging the user to come visit the gallery.

Yale Create Conversation Example

Make it Personal

Similar to creating conversation, it is important to make each post seem relatable. Quartey always aims to “show that there is a real person behind the blog who genuinely cares” when posting content. One way he does this is by writing the captions as if he’s “sharing something fascinating with an intelligent friend” to put himself in a personal frame of mind. He also suggests occasionally using 'I' in place of 'we' to show there is an actual person behind the posts.

Yale Example: Yale reblogged someone’s comment, personally thanked them for their kind words and asked for their individual input with a personalized infographic.

Yale Make it Personal Example

Link it Back to the University

Use the Tumblr traffic to your advantage by linking your posts back to University sites. To Quartey, one way to measure the success of a post is how well it helps “link people back to other content from Yale.” There are countless ways to do this, such as posting about interesting events, a photo from a study abroad trip or cool facts about university research. Whatever the post, incorporate a link in the caption for more information, thus taking the user back to a university site. Bonus: Yale has links to their Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, main site, and admissions page all on Tumblr.

Yale Example: Yale created an interesting infographic with a link to Yale News which expands on the post and also brings Tumblr users to Yale’s news site.

Yale Link to University Example

Content is Everywhere

Okay, I know this isn’t exactly a piece of advice, but it’s something to remember. If you run dry on content ideas, know that they can be found everywhere. Create posts about past graduates, interesting ‘did you knows’ or features on students -- the options are endless, just look around your University. Quartey explains that the “community itself has proven to be an excellent source of content” and he constantly encourages students, staff and interested individuals to submit material. There’s even a ‘submit’ tab on Yale’s Tumblr page.

Yale Example: Yale reblogged a student photo from 1942. It is not tied to any specific event or occasion, but is interesting and relevant which makes it rich content.

Yale Content is Everywhere Example

Stay Organized

Universities are busy places, so keeping track of what to post and when can easily become overwhelming. To avoid this, Quartey keeps an internal calendar of happenings which allows him “to create and curate content.” With this, he can see all important events and holidays (another great way to create content) and schedule photos, videos or infographics accordingly. He also meets with communications officers who report important events in different fields -- such as science, arts, etc. -- which Quartey can then enter into the calendar. Bottom line: an editorial calendar is a necessity.

Yale Example: Here, a calendar holiday is turned into relevant Yale content. (Bonus: it also shows Yale’s playful side)

Yale Stay Organized Example

Emmanuel Quartey may be the man behind the scenes, but he ultimately runs the show and knows what he’s talking about. Take this advice from the Higher-Ed-Tumblr-expert and start posting -- who knows, your University’s Tumblr could become so effective that Yale will be taking your advice.


Author: Piper Donnelly is our Summer Editor, Word-Smith and Communications Connoisseur here at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a mobile + social world with custom software, iOS and Android mobile apps.

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Topics: higher education, Social Media

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