You’ve finally hit that wall; you’ve tried everything. Submitting to newsletters? Done. Pitching to critics and podcast roundups? You’re practically a pro. Creating a graphics package that pops? Locked and loaded on day one. What other things could you possibly do to promote your fiction podcast?
Well. Do you want to get weird with it?
You’ve heard all the jokes about Tumblr. It’s for skinny white girls in galaxy print leggings and skater skirts to post poetic quotes about how abysmal their mental health is, and also SuperWhoLock is there. But what if I told you that things are pretty chill these days? What if I posited that Tumblr isn’t just one of the best places to get your audio drama in front of its target audience, but in fact holds the honor of being the birthplace of fiction podcast fandom?
I made my first Tumblr when I was thirteen years old, and started obsessing over everything from The Thrilling Adventure Hour to Our Fair City shortly afterwards. I served in the trenches. I have seen early 2010s fan art of Cecil Gershwin Palmer as a blonde twink in a purple three piece suit with tentacle tattoos. I know audio drama Tumblr, and I am here to tell you that it remains, it is thriving, and you need to get into it.
But don’t take my word for it. Just ask Lauren Shippen, creator of The Bright Sessions, head of Atypical Artists, and (my words) Audio Drama Tumblrina in Chief. She told me, “Tumblr is the place for fandom and finding new obsessions, and despite the fact that it isn't an audio medium, a lot of listeners have found their favorite new audio drama from Tumblr posts – fanart of shows like Welcome to Night Vale, The Bright Sessions, and Magnus Archives have gotten thousands, sometimes ten of thousands, of interactions, exposing Tumblr users to excitement about the shows. I've found that once someone listens to one audio drama, they tend to get into the medium, and shows that do well on Tumblr can provide a great entry point for listeners as well as a way for them to share their love for shows.”
An almost secret perk of creating a Tumblr for your show is the reputation of the site as a place to kick your shoes off, fly your freak flag, and keep it casual. If Twitter is the place where fiction podcast creators, networks, and advertisers congregate, Tumblr’s reputation as a hub for fans means you can post content that might not have as glossy a sheen, but still connects with your listeners. From silly references to episodes, to hopping on a popular meme, this is a space that encourages you to not take yourself too seriously.
Thanks to this, and to some of Tumblr’s unique features, it’s even easier to connect with super-fans. Listeners who love your show enough to not just seek it out on social media, but Tumblr, can use the ask box feature to send in messages and questions. I’ve found that this is an excellent way to share character details, lore, and fun behind-the-scenes details that don’t make it into the actual show, but fans love. This kind of creator accessibility does require boundaries to keep it safe and sane, which we’ll get into later.
For now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. I won’t be going over every single basic step of using Tumblr specifically, just indicating the features especially useful to fiction podcasters and how to get the most out of them.
Setting Up Your Blog
One of the first things you’ll choose when making your blog is a URL. It’s best to try and use the one you have for your Twitter, or the name of your show, to keep things consistent. Then, when you’re given a shiny new blog to set up, make the title the name of your show, and get ready to crack into the description.
Unlike Twitter, your Tumblr description can get really long, and all stays in one place rather than different sections to put different information. I like to keep things simple with the show’s logline, a few descriptors of the show’s genre and the fact that it’s a podcast, and maybe an indication if a new season is currently airing. Then I add a link to the show website with this tutorial here (this blog is also a great place to look for basic Tumblr tips if you get stuck).
When customizing your blog, you have two options: mobile and desktop. Mobile has more limited options, and since a majority of Tumblr’s user base will see that version (it’s even the first way people see your blog when they click on it on their desktop), you’ll want to make it look great.
If you want to go the extra mile, Theme Hunter has tons of desktop themes for your blog that you can go wild with. For an example of this done well, check out Kingmaker’s Tumblr here.
Next, you’ll want to turn on your ask box. Doing this allows people to send you asks (Tumblr lingo for questions and comments), which you’ll receive in your inbox and can reply to! You can go into notification settings and turn on the function that emails you when you receive a new ask, but there will always be a little blue dot on your inbox when there’s a new one. If a sender doesn’t have a Tumblr account or wants to keep their identity a secret, their ask will be sent anonymously, should you enable this feature. Depending on the behavior in your inbox, you’ll either have fun answering the questions sent, or need to turn it off for the sake of your sanity.
Submissions allow people to submit posts to you to publish on your blog. Unlike asks, submissions can be of many different post types. People can use this to send fan content to you directly, and I’ve used submitting a screenshot of a written-out message as a loophole for the character limit in asks. Just remember to credit the artist whenever you post a submitted creation– just because someone really wants you to see the cool thing they made doesn’t mean they don’t deserve credit. You should also monitor this feature carefully for malicious content like NSFW images, screamer videos, and other content sent by trolls. Remember: you can always close your ask box and submissions whenever you want, for as long as you want, for any reason. No one is entitled to access, and anyone who thinks they are is in need of a reality check.
Speaking of posts, let’s create a pinned one! Just like how on Twitter people will make a pinned Tweet to introduce themselves and link their other projects, you can do the same thing on Tumblr, but with no character limits! Including things like a pitch of why people should listen to your show, links to other places on the web they can find you, and maybe an embedded audio clip of your trailer, will help catch users’ attention.
Networking on Tumblr
Once you’ve got your blog set up, it’s time to network: Tumblr-style! Check out blogs like boombox-fuckboy, Jan Ma, The Podcast Cat, and Apollo Podcasts to see what other shows are blogging, what fans are talking about, and how to best post about your show to get people to listen! Following other podcast Tumblrs, using tags like #audio drama, #fiction podcast, and #audio fiction (don’t forget those spaces! Tumblr’s tagging works differently than Twitter’s), and being active in the space will help your audience grow.
Don’t just stick to those tags, though: your show also has one! Follow it (and maybe the acronym for your show name if it’s unique) to see what fans are posting and tagging with the show! This will be your number one place to find fan content for your show on Tumblr. Reblog stuff: fans love it when their work gets noticed! You can also like posts and access them like bookmarks; I love to go through my Likes to reread liveblogs and reactions that I don’t want to reblog all of.
One of the best things about Tumblr for co-producers is the ability to add people as admins to a show blog. There’s a great tutorial on it here.
Accessibility, Courtesy, and Having Fun
When it comes to alt text for images, Tumblr has a ways to go when it comes to a cohesive accessibility structure, but there is a way to add it on both the mobile app and desktop browser. On mobile, when posting an image, tap the three dots at the bottom right corner of the image, then tap “Add alt text”. On desktop, sometimes the opportunity to add alt text will present itself (usually when you’re answering an ask), but I find it doesn’t most of the time. In that case, go to a new paragraph under the caption you’ve written and write out, “[Image description: (the alt text of your image here). End description]. Remember: alt text is an important accessibility tool that should accompany every single image you post! It’s basic courtesy online! That also means that alt text is not the place to make jokes or subjective statements about what is being described. This is an accessibility tool for blind and low vision users to have an equitable online experience that is as close as possible to that of visually abled users, not a standup mic.
If you’re looking to be in the know about more of Tumblr’s unspoken courtesies, here’s a few quick tips:
- Don’t add unnecessary comments to posts when reblogging them. If the post isn’t about your show or something directly related to it (i.e., adding some commentary to a post about phoenixes in Judaism by explaining how it influenced Episode 11 of Where the Stars Fell), keep any jokes or notes in the tags. This is the equivalent of sharing a knowing glance with a friend when someone is talking, rather than shouting your comment to them across the room: err on the side of tasteful and subtle when it’s not about you. Here’s a set of tags I left on a post I reblogged to my personal Tumblr:
- Going off of that, sometimes people leave funny things in the tags that are about you, and you want to reblog the post in a way that makes those tags more visible to everyone seeing it! If you want to reference the tags of someone you’re reblogging a post from, it’s more accessible to copy the tags, add them as a comment when you reblog the post, and tag the user like this: @ladymaybelle said: #i want to put him in a pringles can #and shake it so so hard
- YOU CAN ALWAYS. ALWAYS. ALWAYS. TURN OFF THE ANON FUNCTION, THE ASK BOX, OR JUST DELETE ASKS. People can be weird, jerks, or just plain toxically parasocial. This is the internet. You don’t know them, and they don’t know you. There is no shame or sneakiness in eliminating or turning off methods of contact, much less deleting hateful or inappropriate messages, even if they’re from fans of the show. Don’t answer an ask you wouldn’t feel comfortable being asked in real life. Don’t try to shrug off trolls if they’re filling your inbox. Protect your internet peace first and foremost!
There’s plenty of fun to be had with these functions, though. You have a ton of room to get creative and promote special events, boost engagement, and more. Use the submissions feature to run a fan art contest! Take advantage of longer post lengths and embeddable content to share bonus material! One of my favorite things to do is choose an ask game (where people can send in specific themed questions from a corresponding post) to celebrate events like anniversaries and holidays. Here are two of my favorite lists: hour-themed asks, and questions about characters’ bedrooms. You can find more by searching in tags like #ask game and #ask meme.
At the end of the day, social media for your podcast can feel like a chore. By finding new avenues for fun and connection with fans, you have the opportunity to create a space that’s safe, sane (mostly), and silly. Welcome to the land of blorbos, VIS (very important shoelaces), and woman-coded men covered in blood. We’re very glad you’re here.
Newton “Newt” Schottelkotte (they/them) is a producer, sound designer, VA, and all-around podcasting person from Nashville, TN. In addition to writing about podcasts, they produce them, including Where the Stars Fell, Mini Marconis, and Inkwyrm, as the head of Caldera Studios, and can be found sharing their skills and love for audio storytelling throughout the audio drama community. Newt enjoys getting outdoors, knowing way too much about the history of country music, and attempting to be funny on Twitter. Find out more about Newt on their website.