Tumblr — the site that has apparently overtaken Instagram as the fastest-growing social media property — has today announced a test of a new feature that will give it more interactivity, and more of a social commerce spin. Users that post links from a selection of sites — Etsy, Artsy, Kickstarter and Do Something — will now automatically see action buttons appear in the top right corner of the posts for people to “buy”, “browse”, “pledge”, or “do something”.
For now, the actions are limited to these four sites. Down the road, if Tumblr decides to integrate the buttons into links from a wider range of properties — taking in e-commerce behemoths like Amazon and eBay, for example — it could feasibly become much more of a competitor against the likes of Pinterest, Facebook and others, positioning Tumblr not just as a place to consume content but to transact, too.
The buttons give viewers the option of buying or pledging or getting involved on the spot, currently with a link back to the original page for the item in question. You can also set reminders to take an action later, by sending the address you have registered with Tumblr back to get contacted in the future. (The reminder option currently seems to only be working for items that you buy.)
When Tumblr was acquired by Yahoo last year for $1.1 billion, Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer made it clear that the intention was to turn on more monetization for the service. Many assumed that would be primarily through advertising. To be sure, this is an area where Tumblr has been rolling out more features, including these app install ads that were turned on last week with their own action buttons. Today’s announcement shows that there may be more up Yahoo’s sleeve.
At the very least, they show that Tumblr is also going down the same route as the likes of Twitter in weighing up ways of monetising their platforms alongside more direct advertising.
Indeed, the buttons on Tumblr are somewhat reminiscent of the buttons that Twitter has been adding to Tweets, initially giving people a way to sign up for services, to follow new accounts, and more recently as a route into purchasing items advertised in Tweets.
But there are some differences.
Currently, Tumblr’s buttons are much more simple for anyone (not just businesses or power users) to create — they come up literally when you a copy/paste of a link. Or, as Tumblr notes on its blog, a “clever new button” that comes up simply when you post “something you love” to Tumblr.
And while Twitter has integrated with payments companies to underpin its own buy button, Tumblr’s implementation is, well, a bit more rough and tumble.
It’s unclear, for example, if Tumblr is getting an affiliate cut on any traffic that it sends to these sites as a result of the button. If anything, it feels more like Tumblr has added these buttons to test the waters, looking at how such a feature might potentially get monetised in the future, perhaps as an ad unit for businesses using the button.
We are reaching out to Tumblr to ask for more details about when other sites might get added to the mix, whether it plans to add more actions, and whether it plans to manage some of the transaction process itself.
Update: A Tumblr spokesperson describes that the buttons are “yet another step to support creative communities on and beyond Tumblr.” She adds that initially it’s limited to the four pilot partners and confirms that the offering is desktop only — not mobile.