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Microblogging sites like Tumblr are shaping the way young people are participating in and learning about politics. By making politics and the electoral process more relatable and even fun, the Democratic party and the Obama campaign in particular are embracing the Tumblr platform to communicate with a portion of the electorate that had fallen behind in the 2012 election.

Tumblr is a microblogging platform created by David Karp and Marco Arment. As a microblogging platform, Tumblr’s functions are designed for simplicity and aren’t as customizable or labor intensive as other, more professional blogging platforms such as WordPress or Blogger. Tumblr users are able to post text, images, video, quotes, links or audio through their content management system, and users are able to customize their personal page with themes and other design options. Tumblr also offers other functionalities that allow the site to operate as more of a social media site by allowing users to ‘reblog’ and ‘like’ posts from other users as well as directly message other users as you would on Facebook.

Media organizations have had an established presence on Tumblr since 2010 using the site as another channel for content and method of connecting with readers. Newsweek, for example, has embraced Tumblr as a platform to post content as well as provide more relaxed commentary on events than they would in their print issues. Tumblr has also started producing its own content, covering the 2012 U.S. political conventions and posting content to its own election site.

Tumblr could prove to be essential to attracting younger demographics in future elections. In this most recent election, Obama’s campaign team frequently posted GIF’s on their Tumblr page that reminded young voters to watch the debate and even poked fun at Mitt Romney’s gaffs. Posts also made nods to popular television shows or movies such as Parks and Rec and Mean Girls. While Mitt Romney’s campaign lagged behind on Twitter, President Obama and his team were trailblazing on Tumblr.

Social media has already proved itself as a powerful tool used by political leaders to drive campaigns, but campaign organizers must adjust their methods according to the media platform they’re working on.

Microblogging sites are interesting in that they generally create a community around shared interests rather than based on relationships as seen on Facebook and Twitter. Tumblr organizes its users based on their interests and blog topics (Blakley, 2012). When a user first creates a tumblr, he or she is prompted to search for tagged posts to find blogs rather than prompted to allow Tumblr to access their Facebook or Twitter account as is seen on sites like Pinterest, Instagram, or even Spotify.

Tumblr is also unique in that it displays news and creates engagement around the news. By posting, reblogging, liking and engaging in discussion, Tumblr users are able to facilitate discussions based on news stories or even presidential memes.

Because the use of Tumblr as a social media outlet for campaigns is still shaking out, the literature is limited- but the power of the smaller microblogging sites is great for gaining the support of younger voters and networking young voters with aligning beliefs.With its nearly 50 million blogs and 500 million daily page views, there is an incentive for politicians to move to the emerging platform (Hoffman, et al. 2012).

In addition to the discussion facilitating qualities of Tumblr, the demographic of Tumblr users is also much more focused than that of Facebook and Twitter. By appealing to younger voters in a language they understand and can appreciate in memes, GIF’s, videos and music- campaigns can better communicate and instill their message on the younger electorate.

-Annie Daniel

Blakley, Johanna. “Media in our Image.” Women’s Studies Quarterly 40.1 (2012): 342-9. ProQuest. Web. 3 May 2013.

Hoffman, Donna L., Novak, Thomas P. “Toward a Deeper Understanding of Social Media”. Journal of Interactive Marketing  26.2 (2012): 69-70. Web. 3 May 2013.

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