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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Reblog (Guest Post by Gabriel Gadfly)

Please welcome Gabriel Gadfly to the Poetic Asides blog. Since 2009, he has self-published his poetry on his website, His poetry has also appeared in Four & Twenty, Borderline, and Anatomy & Etymology. His first poetry collection, Bone Fragments, will be released by 1889 Labs later this summer.

***** is a microblogging website with 3 million users, most of them under the age of 35. Much like Twitter, Tumblr allows users to follow accounts they like and in turn be followed, but unlike Twitter, users of Tumblr aren't limited to just 140 characters of text. Tumblr allows users to easily share text, photos, videos, and audio, and by virtue of its unique reblog feature, allows that content to be spread very quickly.

What does all that have to do with poetry? Tumblr is home to a thriving poetry community--posts tagged "poetry" are one of the most popular forms of content on the site, and the poetry tag consecutively appears on the page where Tumblr tracks the 20-30 most popular tags on the site. A new post tagged "poetry" appears on the site almost every minute: Some of those posts are people sharing the works of classic poets like W.H. Auden, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and others. Many more are the original works of contemporary poets--both professional and amateur.

The Reblog: Tumblr's Answer to the Retweet
In much the same way that Twitter allows you to retweet posts that you think are worth sharing, Tumblr allows its users to instantly reblog any other post on the site. It works a little like this: If I post one of my poems on my Tumblr account, all of my followers see it in their feed. If Brittni, one of my followers, reblogs that post, it instantly becomes a post on her own blog and now all of her followers see the post as well. Those followers in turn can reblog the post from Brittni, and the effect snowballs from there. A handy set of notes at the bottom of the post keep track of the reblogs and provide a digital trail back to the original poster.

One of my poems was reblogged more than a hundred times within 24 hours of my initial post, and because I included a link to my website at the bottom of that poem, I ended up with a flood of new traffic.

Stop the Presses! What About my Copyright?
When I tell people that I allow readers to repost my poems on their own blogs, they usually respond with a few worried questions. What if they don't attribute the work to me? Worse, what if someone tries to claim the work is theirs? Here's a few points to keep in mind:

  • If your work appears anywhere on the Internet and is like-able enough that someone wants to share it, it is very likely the work has already been copied and posted somewhere without your knowledge or consent. This is because the prevailing culture of the Internet is that information is free and that awesome things should be shared.
  • You can attempt to fight against that culture, or you can embrace it. The former tactic will exhaust you, because you will spend countless hours trying to track down reposters and demand that they pull down your works, tossing along a full contingent of legalese and DMCA statements. Some will acquiesce, many will ignore you, but none of that will stop someone else from reposting your work later on. On the other hand, by embracing it, you allow your work to be shared by your readers, seen by thousands of new eyes, and probably earn a ton of backlinks to your website and a big boost in traffic which you can use to sell more books.
  • In two years of sharing my poetry online--over 300 poems--my poems have been reposted on literally hundreds of Wordpress, Blogspot, and Tumblr accounts. 95% of the people who have ever reposted one of my poems included a proper attribution. The remaining 5% usually just forgot, and a quick polite message is all it takes to get them to edit their post and correct the oversight. In two years, I've had only 2 actual instances of copyright theft, both of which I was able to take care on my own.

For the sake of brevity, I'd like to get back to the topic of Tumblr itself, but I've written another article about poetry, reposting, and copyright that goes into a little more depth about the subject.

The Share On Tumblr Button
Earlier this year, Tumblr released a "Share on Tumblr" button that you can place on your website. Whenever a user clicks on that button, it allows them to log into their Tumblr account and quickly repost the content of your page to their Tumblr account. You don't even need to have a Tumblr account of your own to take advantage of this feature.

So why would you want to enable this button? Before the Share on Tumblr button, people were already reposting my poems on their Tumblr accounts by copying and pasting them. Unfortunately, not everyone copy-and-pasted the same things. Some people would leave off my copyright statement at the bottom of each poem, or wouldn't include a link to my site. When the Share on Tumblr button came out, I was able to--with the help of a friend with some Javascript knowledge--configure it so that poems reposted through the use of the button would be formatted with a clear mention of my name after the title of the poem, and a copyright statement at the bottom of the poem, and a link to my website.

In the two months since I enabled the button, I've seen repostings of my poems increase by about a third, each of them with a link to my site. The end result was a 40% increase in traffic to my site, and due to reader cross-pollination, about 200 new likes on my Facebook page and a slew of new followers on Twitter. Nearly all of the reposts of my poems these days are formated and linked correctly.

Using Tags: Find New Readers and Track Reposts
Every piece of content on Tumblr can be tagged with keywords, much in the same way that posts on Twitter can include hashtags. Obviously, "poetry" is one of the more popular tags, but "spilled ink" is another popular tag, created by some poets as an alternative to the clutter of the "poetry" tag. Most importantly, many of the people who post one of my poems or post something about me will include the tag "gabriel gadfly." This helps me keep track of reposts and ensure that users are attributing my work correctly, but it also gives me an opportunity to connect with readers and form a more direct relationship with them.

When someone tags one of my poems with "gabriel gadfly," I usually try to follow their Tumblr account. I've found that readers are usually surprised and excited when they find out that a poet they admire is following them, and it gives me the opportunity to open up a dialogue with them. I've met some truly fantastic people this way, and in exchange, that direct relationship makes it more likely that they'll share and promote my work.

Finally, when I post a poem on Tumblr, I try to tag it with contextual tags related to the subject matter--a recent poem about anorexia, for example, I tagged with "anorexia," "eating disorders," and "body image." This brought readers who might not have been looking for poetry, exactly, but were looking for content about body image.

I Already Have a Website. Why Do I Need a Tumblr?
Although some poets, like Tyler Knott Gregson, use Tumblr as their primary base of operations, most don't. For me, my Tumblr account is a peripheral web presence, much like my Twitter account
or Facebook page, that allows me to funnel readers back to my main website. Using my Tumblr account takes only minutes every day, and the payoff is huge.

And if you don't want a Tumblr account, you don't necessarily need one. You can still take advantage of Tumblr's reblogging abilities by enabling the Share of Tumblr button on your own site, although having your own account will make it easier to track those reposts and connect with readers.


Thank you, Gabriel!

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