While in the process of researching social media and branding I was tasked to look at other brands and focus on how they are successful/unsuccessful. One of those brands I decided to look at was that of Thomas ‘TomSka’ Ridgewell.

In this post, I will be exploring the idea of the microcelebrity; a term coined by Theresa M. Senft in 2001 to describe the idea of self-branding across many platforms, relating mainly to online influencers such as YouTubers and bloggers. (Hartley, 2013)

TomSka is an English comedian, most well known for his sketch comedy and animations such as asdfmovie. He uploads these videos to his YouTube channel and relies on his subscribers and other social media followers to distribute and share his content in order to earn ad revenue for his videos. He has a logo that he uses as his banner/header on his YouTube channel, Twitter and Facebook and has a corresponding one for his second channel DarkSquidge. The logo is effective as it is simultaneously quite minimalistic but also unique enough to be recognisable. It features a blank headshot of Tom wearing a chequered tie that avid fans will recognise from his earlier sketches, backed by an explosion and a series of guns. I feel this is a good representation of Tom’s often quick sketches and punchy dialogue, as well as his frequent use of comic violence and dark humour. Behind the logo you can see screen-grabs from various sketches and animations he has created, and if someone recognises one of the images it may encourage them to search through his channel to either find said video or look for more they may be interested in. Underneath the logo there is a tagline that gives anyone who clicks on the channel a brief summary as to what they should expect to find.

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TomSka prides himself on honesty and openness with his fans, which is reflected in his second channel’s weekly vlogs where he talks about his depression and anxiety as well as his YouTube Money videos, where he talks about how to make a living off of the platform. This self branding continues on his Twitter, where he also comments on his mental health and YouTube as a business, something that many other YouTubers like to avoid discussing. Despite his vlogs focussing on his life and personal issues he also keeps them funny, incorporating his dark humour and keeping his branding as a comedian consistent.

As a YouTuber, his relationship with his subscribers is an incredibly important part of his job. His fans are the ones responsible for distributing his content and gaining views, earning him ad revenue and making him appear more profitable for production companies to invest in him. This open attitude he has with his fans makes them feel closer to Tom and his journey as a creative, which can make them feel protective of him and in turn encourages them to support him in any way they can. While more avid fans will buy merchandise, his book or will pay to see him at conventions, even casual fans will feel they are helping out when they like, comment or share his videos – all of which they can do without spending money or leaving the comfort of their own beds. This appeals to several aspects of Blumler and Kats’ Uses and Gratifications theory. They feel entertained by the video they watch, they experience a sense of social interaction when they share it with their friends and they identify with TomSka on a personal level and possibly feel a sense of connection to him when they support him. There may even be a slightly entitled feeling involved in the knowledge that what they are doing is, in a sense, giving TomSka ad revenue money.

Bibliography

Hartley, J. (2013) A companion to new media dynamics. Edited by Jean Burgess, Axel Bruns, and Dean of Arts John Hartley. United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell.

Blumler, J.G. and Katz, E. (1975) The uses of mass communications: Current perspectives on gratifications research. 3rd edn. London, United Kingdom: Sage Publications.

Thomas ‘TomSka’ Ridgewell’s website: http://thetomska.com/ 

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