What We Can Learn from the Tanking of Tumblr

According to reports, Verizon will sell Tumblr to WordPress for less than $3 million. The social and blogging juggernaut was valued at $1.1 billion only six years ago. That’s an Andrew-Luck-retiring level of loss.

Admittedly, many things were beyond the control of both Verizon and Yahoo, Tumblr’s owners during its time of rapid descent. But there were things they could have done. These are the lessons, their mistakes, that we can all learn from. And those lessons will only cost you a few moments of your time – Verizon and Yahoo were not so lucky.

Rule 1 – You Don’t Own Your Brand

I don’t care how big your budget is. I don’t care if you’re the owner, a C-Suite decision maker, or if you get coffee for them. You don’t own your brand. The public does. Now does that mean we, as marketers, are all wasting our time? Should we pack it up, go home and update our collective resumes?

No. While we lack control over the brands we have been trusted with, we still have influence.

To properly influence your brand, you start by properly respecting your customers. In this case, Tumblr’s customers were its users.

Rule 2 – Respect Your Audience

In December, Verizon leadership chose to ban adult content on their platform. At the time, many in the LGBT community saw Tumblr as a safe space to express their sexuality and build a community. The ban alienated a key demographic in Tumblr’s user base. That alienation led to a user boycott.

This move to ban adult material was made because leadership wanted mainstream advertisers. They thought the money came from advertisers. In truth, the money came because of the user base. No users, no advertisers. No advertisers, no money. They lost sight of what made Tumblr great and what could make it a success. Sanitize your content for the mainstream, and you could lose your legit status with your audience.

Rule 3 – Today is So Yesterday

If you want to continue to be relevant to your audience, never stop evolving. Keep things fresh. In a previous blog about the success of Fortnite, we covered what made the game a success. And the makers of Fortnite will extend their time in the cultural and gaming spotlight by making the experience new for their users over and over again.

The game just released its 10th season and continues to offer new “skins” for users to upgrade the appearance of their character every 10-14 days. Fortnite never gets old because it never gets old. It’s always changing. Keeping your content up to date isn’t the key to the game; it IS the game.

In short, influence your brand by respecting your customer – and know your customer. Know the source of your real revenue. Once you are sure of that, make it your daily duty to keep them coming back for more, for the life of your brand.