The Investigator’s Guide to Social Media introduces popular social media platforms and how information shared on these platforms can benefit investigators. In this installment, we’ll be discussing why one should be investigating Tumblr.
What is Tumblr?
Founded in 2007, Tumblr is a microblogging and social networking website. The platform allows users to share text, images, quotes, links, video, audio, and chats. As a microblogging site, Tumblr allows users to be creative and build independent content on a personalized page with little effort.
How does Tumblr work?
A large part of Tumblr’s appeal to its users is its versatility. Registering for Tumblr requires only a valid email address. After creating a username & password, users are provided a URL for their blog which is associated with “. tumblr.com.” Depending on how the user wishes to utilize Tumblr, they are now able to follow other users and post original content to their tumblelog.
Interactions on Tumblr often overlap despite varying widely from one another. Tumblr users fall into one of two categories:
- Social Networking – Users who concentrate on curating content. These users interact with others through sharing their own content and commenting on the content of other users.
- Self-Publishing – Users who leverage Tumblr’s low barrier for microblogging to create and publish content on their personal pages.
Both categories of Tumblr users share potentially valuable information on Tumblr. However, investigators should be aware of how these two groups of users differ and set their expectations based on which group their subject belongs to.
Despite its simplicity, Tumblr has its own unique terminology, memes, and phrases. However, investigators only need to understand a few simple terms to research Tumblr profiles for the information they need.
- Tumblelog – A microblogging format which favors short-form content and mixed media.
- Mentions – Similar to Twitter, users can tag one another in a post by typing @ and their username.
- Replies – Direct responses to an author’s posts – or a to comments to posts made by other users.
- Photo Reply – Replies to posts with images versus text.
- Reblog – Users sharing another user’s posts on their own blogs. Reblog has a dropdown menu of actions
- Post now
- Add to queue
- Schedule for future posting
- Save as draft
- Post privately
- Preview on blog to see how the reblog will appear before posting
- Like – Similar to Facebook or Twitter, users can like other users’ posts. These do not appear on the user’s blog but will be displayed on their “Likes Page.”
- Follow/Unfollow – Similar to other social media platforms – following a user adds their blog to your feed, unfollowing removes it
- Tag – Adding keywords to a blog or reblog to facilitate SEO searches
- Notes – Displays the entire history of a given post, including likes, comments and reblogs. This is an especially useful feature for investigators.
Who uses Tumblr?
As of 2020, Tumblr had more than 496 million blog accounts. While its demographic tends to run younger than platforms like Facebook, it is not as young as a platform like Snapchat. Many older users utilize Tumblr for its microblogging features rather than social networking.
Distribution of Tumblr Users by Age
What information do users share on Tumblr?
Content discovered on Tumblr can include photos, videos, and personal comments shared on the user’s blog. Tumblr is also potentially a rich source for information regarding the subject’s interests and lifestyle. For instance, one might find content shared that alludes to drug or alcohol use or other lifestyle insights. This type of information could be especially valuable for conducting a pre-employment background check, jury screening, witness impeachment, due diligence, or character reference.
How does one search Tumblr?
Tumblr accounts are rarely tied to the subject’s given name. However, it may be possible to locate a user’s profile by email address or usernames used on other social media platforms. However, if users have disabled the ability for other users to find them by email address, investigators are limited to searching for the subject’s username. Some users integrate their Tumblr pages with their Twitter or Facebook accounts, which results in material from those platforms being included on their Tumblr feeds. This can help investigators confirm whether a Tumblr profile actually belongs to a search subject.
Should you be investigating Tumblr?
Tumblr users share content which could provide valuable insight into the subject’s lifestyle. However, Tumblr searches should be left to the professionals. Due to the difficulties associated with searches, Tumblr should take a lower priority for investigators with limited resources.