Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tumblr and Target Audiences

Tumblr is tough.  Scratch that.  Tumblr is easy, like Pinterest is easy -- as long as you like forwarding things.  Forwarding/re-posting/liking things is easy.  Being a part of the tens hundreds of thousands of "notes" for a particularly popular post is easy.  Making new things to post on Tumblr is easy, if Photoshop is your friend.

Acquiring "notes" for the new things on Tumblr is tough.  Similarly, acquiring views on YouTube is tough.  Acquiring re-tweets on Twitter is tough.  If you create art, media, or even ephemera for their own sake, and are ambivalent about having other people consume your work, that's perfectly fine.  It's just a shame that nothing is communicated when no one experiences or interacts with your work.  To be a part of the communication between producer and consumer, or among producer-consumers in social media, you have to identify your target audience or audiences, and pander to them.  (It helps if you also like what they like, but that is not necessary.)

If you're already famous, then your fans are your target audience, of course.  Until they turn against you or forget about you, you can make whatever you want, and the communication continues.  If you have a large amount of resources (i.e., money or sponsors with money), you can hire advertising and public relations firms to market whatever you make, to varying degrees of success.  If you are somehow charismatic like a cult leader, then whoever flocks to you is your target audience -- but try to be responsible about whatever you create.

For the rest of us, we have to identify a target audience or several target audiences, and find a way to appeal to their preferences.  Since we're specifically talking about Tumblr for this blog entry, the target audience of any given Tumblr post is probably a fan of a TV show, film, recording artist, etc.  These groups are known as fandoms.

Here is an example of a Doctor Who Tumblr post, commemorating the exit of the Eleventh Doctor, played by Matt Smith:

As of this writing, it's barely received 10 "notes," so maybe this particular picture doesn't appeal to the "Whovian" fandom as much as I would like.  Perhaps I have to interact with fellow fans more than I do currently.  My "headcannon" image, which tries to explain how the Doctor obtained his various British accents, is slightly more popular, but not by that much:

On Tumblr, and elsewhere, there are fans who like stuff they like, and there are fans who are obsessed with the stuff they like.  They write fan fiction, in varying degrees of seriousness and/or ridiculousness and/or explicitness.  I'm too silly to be more than halfway serious, and I'm probably too old to be explicit on Tumblr, so my attempts at fan fiction will usually be as ridiculous as possible, to the point of parody.  Here is my first attempt at mashing up Doctor Who with Supernatural, also known as SuperWho, as a wordless sequence of screenshots:


This one mashes compares a character from Game of Thrones with the video game character Link (The Legend of Zelda), commenting on their similarity:

This one is the popular "Hey, Assbutt!" scene in Supernatural, rendered in LEGO (yes, there is even a LEGO fandom in Tumblr):

This one mashes up the band Queen, Doctor Who, and LEGO, which might take it a bit too far, as far as targeting a specific target audience goes:

I consider myself extremely fortunate to get 20 Tumblr notes on some of these images.  I consider myself lucky to get at least one note!  It means that whatever I made has been communicated to at least one other person, and for that, I am grateful.  Maybe in the new year, I'll be able to pander more successfully to the people of Tumblr, without, you know, losing my soul.  As long as I like making these things, even though they are targeted to a specific segment of the population, and as long as no one gets hurt in the process, then it's all fun and games, right?

In 2014, may you all appeal to your target audiences as well.  Happy New Year!