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Hi, my name is Amanda Dodge, and I am addicted to Tumblr. It’s my social network of choice whenever I have downtime and I’ve spent several hours – possibly days – of my life scrolling through endless memes, .gifs, and cat pictures. When I found out Yahoo had purchased the site for $1.1 billion this weekend, I responded like middle school girl rather than the objective content marketing blogger writing this today.
To all those who are unfamiliar with Tumblr, let me offer three things you need to know about its users if you’re trying to predict how they’re going to handle the change or if you’re thinking about marketing to them.
One of the main rules of Tumblr is to always reblog the creator when he’s on your dash. Let me translate: whenever a picture of David Karp shows up in the newsfeed, users must share the photo to show their appreciation of him. This isn’t a mandated rule by Karp himself, it’s something that has grown organically over the years.
Tumblr users aren’t just loyal to the founder, they’re loyal to their followers and the website itself. Users who close their accounts usually create posts giving advance notice and explaining why the relationship isn’t working out. Tumblr is more than a social network, it’s a community, which means Yahoo would have to drastically change it to make people leave.
A few months ago, the designers changed the Tumblr background color from blue to… a slightly lighter blue. The entire community noticed and had to weigh in. Tumblr users make Facebook users look flexible. The community took the news about Yahoo’s acquisition with the same grace and poise expected when watching one’s house burn down. Creative minds immediately opened up Photoshop and started predicting the future of the dashboard in Yahoo’s merciless claws.
It was this “sky is falling” mentality that led Karp to choose his words carefully in the blog post announcing the acquisition. Instead of predicting any great changes or benefits with the partnership, he explained how everything will stay the same:
Let me try to allay any concerns: We’re not turning purple. Our headquarters isn’t moving. Our team isn’t changing. Our roadmap isn’t changing.
The Tumblr community can tolerate marketing more than Reddit users, but only if the content is interesting and unique. The website has slowly been introducing ads with sponsors like The Great Gatsby and GE by creating awesome content and integrating it into the dashboard. More often than not, the only clue users have that there’s a company behind the post is the handle or description at the bottom.
Tumblr has one box on the side for a sponsored post, and even that is meant to show off cool pictures and .gifs. If Yahoo follows the suit of Facebook and starts increasing the sponsored-to-organic ratio or keeps adding more boxes to increase revenue then users will leave and find another outlet.
How can Yahoo appease Tumblr users with this acquisition? Keep their paws off. The less changes implemented the better. Historically with other social networks it didn’t matter if the users were happy, it only mattered if the investors and shareholders were. We can only watch to see if Tumblr will go down that path.