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April 5, 2016

Nobody owns the concept of an interview; those have been around forever.

So, in the era where social media has made fan and public figure interaction easier than ever, how do you jump onboard the Internet trend of fan-sourced Q&A sessions?

Take an existing model and make it a million times better, of course.

In mid-2015, Tumblr, the Internet’s favorite (and weirdest) microblogging site, unveiled a feature called Answer Time to challenge the increasing popularity of Reddit’s Ask Me Anything (AMA).

Unlike Reddit, an online dumpster for some of the Internet’s worst garbage, Tumblr is a website better known for trendy fashion blogs and pop culture super fans who crank out GIFs on demand. The site is a hub of fan culture in every way, shape and form, which makes it a perfect place to host extended Q&As with notable people.

How Answer Time Works

In the days leading up to an Answer Time session, Tumblr users are invited to submit questions for special guests, which have included everyone from major celebrities to Zika virus experts.

Since Answer Time is hosted on a website that plays a huge role in the world of Internet fandom, the enthusiasm for many of the guests is already there. Just a few weeks ago, Harrison Ford was the special guest, and let’s just say that Tumblr users were a little more than excited to participate.

When an Answer Time session is coming up, Tumblr alerts users ahead of time…

Answer Time 1

…and reminds them of their ability to submit questions every time they log in.

Answer Time 2
Yes, my Tumblr icon is a picture of Spock, but that’s beside the point.

Then, when the big day rolls around, the guest of honor spends about an hour publishing their answers to all the fan-submitted questions.

Here’s an important note: These answers aren’t just posted anywhere. For most guests, a large brand with a Tumblr account such as BuzzFeed, Entertainment Weekly or The White House (yes, I just referred to The White House as a brand) will play host to the Answer Time session.

This (brilliant) strategy effectively combines all of the host blog’s followers with all of the guest’s fans who tune in, resulting in a way bigger audience.

At the end of 2015, to show just how much users engage with Answer Time, Tumblr put together a collection of the year’s most popular answers from featured guests ranging from astronauts to “emo dads.”

answer example 1

answer example 2

Why does this concept of a chat event work so well and generate so much engagement? Well, because in the creation of Answer Time, Tumblr mixed together a few very important ingredients:

  • A frequently used feature – every blog’s “ask box” – that users already know and love
  • A popular format for engagement with public figures (online Q&A) with major improvements
  • A ton of behind-the-scenes material to make participants feel like they’re part of the experience as a whole
  • A strategy to capitalize on the extra traffic by driving some of that attention and activity to other platforms (Snapchat, Instagram, etc.)

The Day When Answer Time Became Avenger Time

Okay, let’s talk about the most hyped-up, well-trafficked Answer Time session to date.

Recently, in a well-timed marketing move, BuzzFeed hosted an Answer Time session dedicated to Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War that started just minutes after the upcoming film’s second trailer dropped online. Obviously, fans who were hyped to see the trailer were extra hyped to stick around and watch the film’s stars answer questions about it.

Four of the film’s main actors (Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Robert Downey Jr. and Chadwick Boseman) and both directors (brothers Joe and Anthony Russo) were on site at BuzzFeed headquarters to answer questions, and they were promptly GIF-ed upon arrival. Cue instant onslaught of Tumblr likes and reblogs.

Team Cap gif
#TeamCap (L-R: Evans, Stan, A. Russo)

Team Iron Man gif
#TeamIronMan (L-R: Boseman, J. Russo, Downey)

Check out the number of notes on the Captain America: Civil War Answer Time compared to other sessions around the same time:

Answer Time 3

That’s a lot of notes, y’all. But if you know anything about Marvel fans on Tumblr, you probably aren’t that surprised.

Followers and fans who tuned into this particular Answer Time session were not disappointed, and were treated to a constant stream of answers to their questions:

answer example 3

answer example 4
Thousands of notes per post, people. Did I mention that fans were INTO IT?

Those following along on the BuzzFeed Tumblr got more than just plain text answers, too:

buzzfeed photo 1
Sneak peeks of high-res shots? Rebloggable af.

buzzfeed photo 2
Cute actors with cute emoji versions of their characters? Also rebloggable af.

One Account’s Hot Content is Another Account’s Newest Followers

In addition to the huge number of fans who submitted questions and tuned into BuzzFeed’s Tumblr account to watch the answers roll in, both brands took advantage of the attention to direct people to their other social platforms with promises of exclusive footage and behind-the-scenes photos, resulting in huge influxes of followers.

Fans like me who couldn’t help but add both BuzzFeed and Tumblr on Snapchat were not disappointed:

Snapchat 1

Snapchat 2

None of this extra access was limited to Snapchat or to one brand, either. Tumblr tweeted links to the answers as they rolled in. Marvel came through with some Instagram action. BuzzFeed even threw up a Vine. Followers poured in on each and every platform.

Of course, in any similar situation, some followers are going to bail once the special event is over. That’s inevitable. But even more of them will stick around, either because they just don’t bother to hit unfollow or because they end up liking what the account has to offer.

Here’s the key: By strategically distributing tiny bits of related content across multiple social platforms and directing fans to those accounts, every brand involved gained tons of followers and page views all within about two hours.

They had quality content that they knew was in high demand and they took advantage of it. Major score.

And in case interested parties missed any of the action? There’s an official BuzzFeed article for that. Yay, brand-wide consistency!

Who would you like to see Tumblr feature as an Answer Time guest? Tell us below in the comments.

About the Author

Valerie Hoke

As an associate creative director at ChatterBlast, Valerie leads editorial and strategic efforts companywide. In addition to having a weird lifelong obsession with bagpipes, she likes scouring the city for the best Mexican food and telling people she’s from Arizona.

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One response to “Move Over, Reddit: Answer Time With Tumblr Is Here To Stay”

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