Neglected Traffic Sources: What’s Popular on Pinterest, Tumblr and Flickr


Recent stats show that marketers prefer Facebook and Twitter while they downright neglect Tumblr or Flickr.  Many marketers seem also still to be at a loss how to approach Pinterest. What’s popular on Pinterest, Tumblr and Flickr and how to win over all three? How to find out and act accordingly?

First off let’s separate the social networking from the content sharing sites.

Social Networking Vs Content Sharing

That’s not easy in this case. We can see the difference when we compare the two largest social sites (Facebook and Youtube). Yes, they are an unlikely couple. Facebook is clearly a social networking site despite its common content sharing use cases of the recent years.

At first it was meant to stay in contact with your friends you often knew in real life, in college for example. From that it expanded. Today people debate and share images or links like on many other sites.

Initially Facebook was all about social networking.

YouTube in contrast was not built as a social network. It was about sharing of self created content. You were meant to upload your own videos and make them available to the public. That was the official use case. When Google took over in 2006 – yes, it’s that long already – they had to focus on that use case even more because copyright holders were keen to limit the availability of unofficial copies of their work.

Today Google’s YouTube rewards genuine User Generated Content more then ever.

This is the only option for them to monetize the site without significant investment. The exchange “free video hosting for free content” works better than buying expensive professional content from TV networks or Hollywood.

So now that we know what Facebook and YouTube are about we can compare the other seemingly less popular sites among marketers to them.


Tumblr has been for many years the Facebook for teens even before it was official that younger generations abandon Facebook. While Facebook requires real names and has an awful privacy management Tumblr is private by way of anonymity. Most users simply don’t use their real names on Tumblr. It’s also partly a competing service to Blogger and

Unlike real blogging Tumblr gets used to share content from third party sites often without proper credits.

In most cases the source will  be just another random Tumblr blog and even in case you try to follow who reblogged it from whom you rarely will find the original source at the end. Believe me, I have tried numerous times.

Tumblr s like half a social networking site and half a content sharing site.

You socialize with strangers who don’t use their real names but who are also interested in the same things you are. The connections on Tumblr are often based on real life aspects like skin color, religion or sexuality. You will find lesbians and gays sharing images of sexy bodies while Muslims will show people praying and beautiful mosques.

Tumblr is an identity site where you show your true self not your real name.

When you want to reply to a given piece of content you have to reshare it. Thus debate stays pretty civil in most cases despite sharing with strangers. Also the most popular content on Tumblr are usually images. People rarely write and argue. Instead they just share and reshare images that somehow reflect their identity.


Pinterest has been hailed as the fastest growing social media traffic source for years. Recently a study even shows that Pinterest is the third largest sharing tool online – even more commonly used than email. Even when we consider “dark social” that is sharing by copy and paste using mail and instant messengers you can’t measure it’s still a very intriguing rise.

Until Pinterest skyrocketed to Internet stardom Tumblr was the fastest rising star.

Pinterest overtook them showing phenomenal growth. Pinterest is even more image oriented, indeed technically it’s a so called image bookmarking site. There have been plenty around before Pinterest but it was the first one to go mainstream. Why? It appealed to mainstream audiences, especially women by suggesting use cases for recipes, weddings or fashion.

So What’s Popular On Pinterest, Tumblr And Flickr?

Well, Pinterest as noted above still excels at traditionally female topics like food but it’s not only about outdated gender stereotypes. Pinterest is about what and who we want to be like. So you will see a lot of images of expensive lifestyles nobody can afford money or health wise.

Tumblr is similar to Pinterest when it comes to wishful thinking – it doesn’t show that many items we aspire to own but instead it shows people we want to be like.

Also on Tumblr many more self created images get shared. While Pinterest is more a place for adults Tumblr is rather a venue of younger people. So here you will encounter more images of musicians and actors, animated gifs and other memes. While Pinterest is clean and safe Tumblr is still wild and ruthless in many cases.

As both sites Pinterest and Tumblr consist mostly of third party content it has come from somewhere. One of the major sources of content for both sites is of course Flickr.

YouTube is one too but as noted above images work best on Tumblr. On Pinterest videos do not work that well either simply because the still that is often shown is random, not the most beautiful or attractive scene. So people scanning their pins quickly do not notice a good video along amazing images.

Every minute several images from Flickr get used on Pinterest directly. Many more end up on Pinterest by way of Tumblr.

On Pinterest a celebrity image with a bike, dog or new jacket works best, on Tumblr just the celebrity picture will suffice when made in a “lifestyle compatible” pose.

On Pinterest travel images with luxurious swimming pools work best while on Tumblr even political images from Kiev may work in case they are intriguing enough.

On Pinterest you categorize your dreams. You show off the travel destinations you want to go to, the mansion you want to live in the wedding you want to celebrate. So Pinterest is future oriented. On Tumblr you show images of who you are right now. Other people, situations and things that represent how you feel.

Feed Three Birds With One Grain


So all you have to do is ideally take an image, put it on Flickr and others will share it on Tumblr and later on Pinterest.

The only difficulty is the right audience to notice and share the image.

Sometimes tagging will suffice. Giving away the image under a Creative Commons license may help but in most cases Tumblr and Pinterest don’t care for copyright or proper source attribution. So you have to make sure that the Flickr images speaks for itself (e.g. displaying your product used my a celebrity for example) and/or has the URL engraved on it. I refer to small type at the bottom, not huge overlay watermarks. These will kill shareability.

Both on Pinterest and Tumblr popular tags are

  • cat
  • funny
  • girl
  • love

and other usual suspects. So you may want to add some of these to your image already on Flickr. Don’t aim solely for the huge phrases though as they are pretty crowded. Also add some specific tags.

One of the niche topics that work well both on Tumblr and Pinterest is birding.

There is one hugely popular birding Tumblr blog that rarely adds proper sources. Even in case it does, you have to click the image, scroll down and decipher the tiny fine print below the image. That even helps them to establish themselves as the source and final destination. Most of the images are of course taken from Flickr, as you may easily discover using Google’s reverse image search (search by image).

Pinterest users just pin from the Tumblr blog without caring for the original source on Flickr.

Most people just repin the images from others without even clicking the image to check its source. So again, don’t just think link building here. Think exposure and viral spread. The image has to display what you want to show the world without the need to click it and visit the source.

Even images that are just shared a few times can spread literally forever and Pinterest.

Tumblr popularity comes in bursts. Most images get forgotten after a few minutes while others get rediscovered months or years later and suddenly get popular.

The hummingbird image above is a good (but not perfect) example of using an image to spread the word about you and your skills. The photographer even got his image used on Wikipedia for the Violet-tailed Sylph entry and it also gets display on Google and DuckDuckGo when you search for it. As you see the visible image credit have been stripped on Wikipedia etc. It’s also popular on Pinterest but without proper credits.

Ideally the shared image shows your product so that the people who view the images search for your product on the Web and end up on your site and an online store where you can buy it. The traffic doesn’t have to lead to your site and be direct as long as you get it in the end. Just don’t treat the image as a proxy. Make it travel on the Web and lead people to your offerings.