Tumblr: A Welcomed Respite for the Weary Facebooker

Towards the end of 2012, Tumblr opened up their platform to branded content. This integration went mostly unnoticed (in my opinion), however the company did enjoy a top-fifty ranking on Fast Companies’ 2013 Most Innovative Companies list- for their efforts.

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The first brand introduced to the platform was Adidas and then followed by Coke, Ralph Lauren and Target.

Why Tumblr?

Computer-mediation removes social cues. Tumblr flirts with both anonymity and nonymity, as users craft their personal platform within a veil of asynchronous interactions. On Tumblr no one knows you, unless you allow it. While research examining Facebook will show that most connections are within one’s current social graph- my thoughts are, Tumblr doesn’t follow this phenomenon. Connections are established through content. I would argue that strategically curated content, becomes currency for most users.

Tumblr’s mode of communication revolves around the curation of content. Blogs might center on pictures of nature and pull from many different outlets to center this focus on a personal level.

For Example:

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A page devoted to the state of Rhode Island

Where Tumblr and Facebook may differ, is the ability to present an ideal self or an ought self. Erving Goffman coined the term self-presentation. Self-presentation occurs in our everyday life and is the ongoing process of managing both expressions “given” and “given off”. Self-presentation is a tool we used to manage the impression we give off to others. We engage in this form of management to remedy the chance of rejection.  The study of self-presentation in computer-mediate environments becomes interesting, because it removes the “given off” component. Impressions “given off” are seen as more theatrical and contextual, mostly non-verbal and often (and presumably) unintentional. In order to present a sense of self on Tumblr, one must develop a portfolio of content.

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A common occurrence within the #FITBLR community is the use of athletic gear advertisements to present an ideal self. Branded content, like the Nike ad above, gives depth and complexity to a user’s presence.

On Tumblr, the presentation of self is developed through this use of content. “People seek, express, confirm and ascertain a sense of belonging through what they have” (Belk, 1988). It should not be much of a stretch, that we view digital possessions in the same vein as those we actually own.

Thoughts for Marketers:


Authority: Users seem to covet content

Some users seek out content that allows them to grow their authority amongst specific communities. In many cases, the use of branded content and user created content speak to the knowledge and skill-set of the user. Aside from creating content that users can use as self-presentation tools, brands can create content that help show knowledge and commitment to a certain lifestyle. 

Digital associations and proximal objects

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“CMEs collapse the border between material and immaterial, the real and the possible” (Schau and Gilly, 2003). Just as individuals wear specific brands to present an ideal sense-of-self, on Tumblr (and many SNS) users are able to create digital “portfolios of attachment” (Kleine, Kliene and Allen, 1995). Possessions reflect individual identity, ideal values and how one maintains acceptance into certain groups. The truth is, users are doing this with branded content. Marketers and can inject content that allows users to mold and craft their identity. As users use this content, their promotion of the brand begins to spill over in their everyday postings (see above).

Jeff Bullas does a great job explaining the shift of visual content. The use of visual branded content on Tumblr has implication on other visually-dominated sites (Pinterest, Instagram and even Facebook)

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