Assessment 3

Surrealism and Soup – Tumblr Communities and How Companies Use Them

Sarah Schofield – 430192988

Kai – Thursday, 12pm-3pm

Social media is in a constant state of flux. While it began as a serious method of communicating with other people, the content that users of certain social networking sites create has begun to evolve into something that is almost unrecognisable to people who do not utilise that particular social networking sites. SNS-specific culture as a category of collective identity expanding rapidly, and while these social communities may diversify greatly in the methods they create content, there are themes that string the social media community together as a whole. In addition to this, companies are increasingly attempting to capitalise on the SNS-specific culture as a method of marketing to the users of these social networking sites, and none more so than the American restaurant chain Denny’s in terms of their Tumblr account.

In order to analyse the ways in which online communities create SNS-specific user created content, it is first imperative to define user created content in itself. Creative content may be classified as text, audio, images, videos and multimedia productions that have been created by a user of a social networking site and distributed throughout an SNS – in other words, something original that a user has created in and of themselves. In terms of the popular microblogging website Tumblr, this merely means posting on the website itself and allowing reblogs and likes to increase its popularity. However, Tumblr users are far more open and free with their thoughts and feelings than they would be on a different SNS. Here, a user may share thoughts they believe that the majority of people they know in real life would either not wish to know, or not care about. As such, one of Tumblr’s overarching themes is that of emotional dependency on others. These thoughts are strictly limited to Tumblr – Bryce J Renninger states “For individual users, certain kinds of communication should be posted to multiple platforms; some kinds of communication are purposefully posted only on certain specific platforms.” In addition to this, a study by Serena Hillman, Jason Procyk and Carman Neustaedter from Simon Fraser University stated “we found that Tumblr fandom users felt they were more ‘themselves’ on Tumblr than other social media sites and even in the ‘real world’. That is, they could talk about what mattered to them, in relation to a TV show, and they need not ‘hold back’ on saying things that may offend others or be considered boring or unimportant.”

Tumblr users are generally involved in communities known to them as fandoms – that is, a group of fans of a TV show, film, book series, manga series, anime series, and so on and so forth. Fandom communities share images, quotes, etc, whilst also microblogging about their opinions of their fandom. A report by Serena Hillman, Jason Procyk and Carman Neustaedter states “some users joined Tumblr not specifically to participate in fandoms, yet as they began following users, they learned about fandoms through their dashboard. Besides cross-pollination, in some cases users will ask for recommendations for a new fandom to be part of. It should be noted that when asking for recommendations, users seem just as interested in the value of joining the fandom as the value of the actual watching of the television series.” Anything can be the subject of a fandom – in some cases, fandoms extend to food. An example of this would be the formerly popular Tumblr user Pizza (a user who has since deactivated their Tumblr account):

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Here it is easy to see a theme running through the user created content. Pizza elected to utilise their username as a food in order to capitalise on most Tumblr users’ desire for the popular food, and therefore role establish their role as a leader in the community of pizza-loving Tumblr users. In an article concerning Pizza, Eslpeth Reeve states “Pizza’s strategy was brilliant: When a random Tumblr would write about “pizza”—either the food or herself—she’d reblog the post to her huge audience. Once, when a user wrote “so is tumblr user pizza god or beyonce,” she dug up the post and reblogged it with the comment “I’d like to confirm that i am both.” Users marveled at how quickly she responded, how you could “summon Pizza.” It made her seem all-knowing, but not superior.” Users today still create posts wondering about whether or not saying ‘pizza’ will automatically summon the user.

However, Pizza’s Tumblr posts were not limited to pizza-related humour, and it is this second theme that proves to be incredibly popular. Surrealist hypotheses, or as they are known on Tumblr – nightblogging, so named for the hours that most of these posts were created – are incredibly popular within Tumblr itself. A nightblogging post may be made during the night or day, but not all text posts created at night are categorised as nightblogging. Instead, nightblogging is categorised by Tumblr user ‘upthawolfs’ as having “a focus on theoreticals, especially in stating absurd thoughts in normal ways”. Some examples of nightblogging posts are given below:

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Absurdist humour on Tumblr is mostly taken in the stride of users, and most categorise the creators of these posts as a community of ‘nightbloggers’. Their posts are reblogged and liked thousands of times, and in general, they themselves start trends. Elspeth Reeve states, “At one point she opened her laptop to scan for some examples and got lost in the content. “These kids are so advanced—so, so advanced,” she said softly to her screen. Not just in their comedy, but in their business savvy. “They are the most brilliant digital strategists,” she said. “These teens are better marketers than anyone in the game right now.”” It is therefore no surprise that the American restaurant chain Denny’s has sought to capitalise on this recurring trend in their social media strategy for Tumblr. A few examples are given below:

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 11.57.01 pmScreen Shot 2017-05-01 at 1.10.39 am

Denny’s decision to use Tumblr nightblogging culture and characteristics in their marketing material on Tumblr means that instead of remaining a separate entity from users, they have in fact become  a user themselves, at least in the nightblogging sense. Their posts focus on absurdist humour, whilst simultaneously creating a recognisable profile within the community. Indeed, their ability to hijack pre-existing Tumblr community themes has been noted by users themselves – Tumblr user leviathan-supersystem says, “it seems there isn’t any meme that Denny’s won’t try to jack, so let’s make the new meme “John C. Miller, CEO and President of the Denny’s Corporation, is a capitalist running dog and his wealth must be seized and redistributed to the people” to see them try to use that for their marketing.” However, Denny’s are more or less seen as a harmless blog – most Tumblr users respond to their posts with some good-natured confusion. In the social media campaign we proposed for the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, the focus was very much on utilising the humour and culture of the Conservatorium students and thereby enhancing the experience for newcomers who might have felt that the Conservatorium was rather more formal than they would have liked.

While many would say that social media does not require the immense brainpower or thought of certain disciplines, it is clear that there are far more nuanced communities on social networking sites like Tumblr than many would think. The culture that they create as a method of establishing communities and reinforcing their emotional comfort utilising Tumblr means that companies often attempt to capitalise on this, and only a few have ever managed to transcend the boundary between being categorised as a strictly marketing-oriented creator, and a user who creates content in and of themselves, for the rest of the internet to enjoy.

References

“Denny’s Diner”. 2017. Blog.Dennys.Com. http://blog.dennys.com/.

Hillman, Serena, Jason Procyk, and Carmen Neustaedter. 2014. “Tumblr Fandoms, Community & Culture”. In , 285-288. New York, New York, USA: ACM.

Hillman, Serena, Jason Procyk, and Carmen Neustaedter. 2014. “‘Alksjdf;Lksfd’: Tumblr And The Fandom User Experience”. ACM, 775-784.

leviathan-supersystem. 2017. THE DIVINE MYSTERIES OF GODBUILDING. http://leviathan-supersystem.tumblr.com/post/159919286619/it-seems-there-isnt-any-meme-that-dennys-wont.

Renninger, Bryce J. 2015. ““Where I Can Be Myself … Where I Can Speak My Mind” : Networked Counterpublics In A Polymedia Environment”. New Media & Society 17 (9): 1513-1529. doi:10.1177/1461444814530095.

“THE SECRET LIVES OF TUMBLR TEENS”. 2016. The New Republic.

upthawolfs. 2017. I Declare War On My Body. http://upthawolfs.tumblr.com/post/126272673204/sjwpanderer-adhdsmokescreen-ok-but-why-dont.

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