David Karp’s personality is a lot like how Tumblr, the social media platform he created, operates: quick bites of content, often tongue in cheek, heavily photo-centric, and unapologetically personal and unique. One of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in 2014, Karp embodies the Entertainer archetype of social media interaction, with his online persona closely mirroring the same attitude of fun and exploration that constitutes his real life experiences.
The Entertainer is a bit of a rogue archetype, more interested in the experiences of the present than a perfectly-designed legacy or the cold rigidity of mere facts. Unlike most others, the Entertainer archetype doesn't necessarily even value engagement that much — sheer reach is the mechanical goal, playing to the largest possible audience.
What builds an audience for the Entertainer is the stimulation his or her social media activity induces in followers — usually a laugh, but it could just as easily be a gasp or a tear. The Entertainer seeks an emotional response in their followers; skirting logical fallacy, a masterful Entertainer can actually inform and persuade better in some cases than the Reporter or the Mobilizer, but those are secondary goals to the Entertainer. Sharing their musing, joke or assertion with an audience who enjoys these missives gives the Entertainer great leverage from a marketing perspective: the brand or product behind the Entertainer isn't in the forefront of activity, and the connection made by the audience is one tinged with personal enjoyment and relatability, a much stronger bond than traditional marketing positioning can ever build.
Chances are good that a brief explanation of Tumblr is in order, afterall, only about 50% of the platform’s users are above 30 years old. Tumblr began for David Karp as a coding side-project, just a simple micro-blog interface and the notion of a community that could use such a thing. In 2007, after a few years of noodling the software around, Karp launched Tumblr into the sea already brimming with social media platforms and companies. The niche that helped build the Tumblr community was eclectic, but today it boasts more than 225.1 million blogs, ranging from art to writing, businesses to nonprofits- time-sucks and useful blogs alike. Sold to Yahoo in 2013 for $1.1 billion, the site has spent the last few years slowly ramping up actual revenue sources, namely accommodating paid advertising as part of the platform’s content flow. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, for better or worse, Tumblr was a corporate ghost town for years, which may have helped it gain users as backlash to the increasing advertising encroachment on the other platforms grew. Today however, an evolving balance has brought several hundred larger brands to the platform, seeking the Millennial demographic on its own grounds.
David Karp’s activity as an Entertainer is in some part enhanced by the very nature of his company and platform of choice, Tumblr. Rarely making an original Tweet, Karp opts instead to push his Tumblr posts as content. The number of followers Karp has on Tumblr isn’t known, but to have a following of 40.5K on Twitter with more than 90% recycled content is quite impressive. However, considering the general age difference between Twitter and Tumblr (about 10 years) many of Karp’s Twitter followers may not have accounts on Tumblr, finding that content only when it filters through other platforms. Funny enough, a parody account surfaced in 2012, @DavidKrap, which quickly gained attention for snarky tweets about Tumblr and its users. Although the account has slowed down, the parody has some 22,000 more followers than the real David Karp — a testament to the power of a gag on Twitter.
Karp’s Tumblr eschews the fancy designs and layouts many blogs utilize — it’s all about the content. There are some aspects of the Curator archetype that Karp exhibits, albeit a large part of the platform is based on “reblogging” — sharing is half the fun of the platform. Most of his posts are his own photos or notes, but there are plenty of linked articles, posts from others and, of course, GIFs, which owe a lot as a popular file type to Tumblr. Shorter than a video, yet richer than an image, GIFs have become a common meme and tool for humorous online commenting.
As CEO of Tumblr, highlighting good user content is an incredible self-marketing tactic for Karp. After all, he’s not looking to create engagement, but rather create positive stimulation that indirectly benefits his brand. Karp does a good job of not “overdoing” it: authenticity is key for being relatable, and for content to be digestible by the most jaded of heavy social media users.
“I’m on Tumblr all day,” said Karp in a 2011 interview for Inc. “I don’t follow a ton of people, but I post and reblog stuff I really care about. I love my blog. I get most of my news from my Tumblr dashboard. I used to be a 24-hour news consumer, but so much of the reporting is bad these days. I find tech reporting incredibly tedious and dull. And I've kind of given up on reading anything that anyone writes about Tumblr. It’s often inaccurate.”
Karp is an unusual entrepreneur. Homeschooled, Karp has been writing code since he was eleven. He’s the physical manifestation of the Hipster CEO (loft in Williamsburg, vintage motorbike with sidecar, hyper-technological Millennial), and his entire business style seems more community-oriented and circular than insular and concerned with vertical development. He’s a natural as an Entertainer because the light, familiar nature of his posts keep his audience tuned in, related, and aware of Karp and his brand, regardless of the content itself. Sharing his life honestly, without pretense, has allowed Karp to parlay what would be an otherwise ordinary personal online presence into an effective vehicle for marketing his business in a very genuine, organic manner.