Investigator’s Guide to Tumblr

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Investigator's Guide to Tumblr - Tumblr logo under magnifying glass.

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, which was acquired by Yahoo in 2013, allows users to share text, images, quotes, links, video, audio, and chats. Tumblr’s appeal is that it 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 the simplicity and ubiquity of the features it offers. In fact, they claim on their website that “Tumblr is so easy to use that it’s hard to explain.” Despite that statement, we will give it a try anyway.

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.

Social interactions between users may vary widely. While there is certainly overlap, most Tumblr users fall into one of two categories:

  1. Social Networking – These users are primarily interested in using Tumblr to curate content. Their usage is concentrated on interacting with other users and the content they’ve shared – commenting and connecting.
  2. Self-Publishing – These users value Tumblr’s low barrier to entry for microblogging. Their activities typically focus on publishing content to their personal pages.

Both categories of user share potentially valuable information on Tumblr. Investigators should be aware of the differences and temper their expectations based on which grouping their subject aligns themselves.

Tumblr Terminology

  • Tumblelog – A tumbleblog is a variation of a blog which favors short-form content and mixed media.
  • Mentions – Similar to Twitter, user’s can tag one another in a post by typing @ and their username.
  • Replies – Users can reply to another user’s post. Replies can be directed to the author of the post or in response to other comments.
  • Reblog – Users can share another user’s post directly on their blog.
  • 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.”

Who uses Tumblr?

Tumblr has more than 332 million blog accounts. While, like many social media networks, its base tends to be younger; the decline among older users isn’t as sharp as other platforms. This could be attributed to older users utilizing the platform for its microblogging features.

Distribution of Tumblr Users by Age

Demographic information courtesy of Business Insider.

What information do users share on Tumblr?

Content discovered on Tumblr can include photos, videos, and personal comments shared on the user’s blog. More broadly, an investigator is able to use Tumblr to locate information regarding the subject’s interests and lifestyle.

For instance, one might find content shared which alludes to drug or alcohol use or other lifestyle insights. This information could be sited during 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 but can be located by searching for their frequently used usernames or, in some cases, the email address which is tethered to the account. Users have the option to enable other users to find them via their email address. If this is feature is disabled, an investigator would be limited to searching for the subject’s username.

Depending on the theme, some Tumblr pages will integrate with the user’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. In these cases, content from those platforms will be shared on the user’s Tumblr page. While this content might not aid investigators in locating the subject’s profile, it can help identify a profile’s owner once it has been discovered.

Should you be investigating Tumblr?

While its users share content which could provide valuable insight into the subject’s lifestyle, Tumblr is difficult to search. While Tumblr is one of the platforms our analysts search during an investigation, we don’t recommend that investigators with less resources at their disposal prioritize investigating Tumblr. We recommend you rely on a professional or certified social media expert.

Let us know how you investigate microblogging services like Tumblr in the comments section below. Want more information about SMI’s social media investigation or preservation products? Please contact us or call (888) 299-9921 and one of our representatives will gladly assist you.