Most people have heard of Reddit. The platform has become a hot topic during major news events such as the Boston Marathon bombings. In the hours and days that followed, Reddit users acted as citizen journalists to report breaking news on the spot and working to identify the suspects. But when compared to other social media sites, it seems that most people don’t really understand how the Reddit community works or how their company could engage with it.
What is Reddit?
To start with the basics, Reddit is a completely user-driven social platform. By its own definition, “users provide all of the content and decide, through voting, what’s good and what’s junk. Links that receive community approval bubble up towards #1, so the front page is constantly in motion and (hopefully) filled with fresh, interesting links.”
Reddit provides immediate news and is known as “the front page of the Internet.” Content is organized into subreddits by subject content. Most users are male, ages 18 to 40. Like a game, users can earn what’s called karma. Karma “reflects how much good the user has done for the Reddit community. The best way to gain karma is to submit links that other people like and vote for, though you won’t get karma for self posts.”
Engaging on Reddit may seem like the natural next step in a social media program to connect with fans. Before taking the plunge into Reddit, there are some important things to consider that will help determine if Reddit is the right platform for your brand and a fit for your company.
Know your audience
First and foremost, know your audience. This can be said for any social platform, but it’s extremely important on Reddit. Reddit isn’t always a friendly environment where messages can be easily controlled or contained like Facebook and Twitter can be (even though they’re not always friendly, either). Reddit is full of individuals who are highly knowledgeable, if not obsessed, with their particular topic. Reddit users can sniff out an imposter and typically don’t like big brands that use the platform to push marketing agendas.
To avoid standing out like a sore thumb, we advise lurking before engaging. This is a platform where it’s okay, if not encouraged, to stand back and observe at first. Lurkers will realize that Reddit users have a particular way of talking. Pre-fabricated marketing lingo will not go over well here. It’s easy to identify brands that are trying too hard to be cool.
When starting out as a lurker, take this time to do your homework. Find out how the community interacts with the platform. Which subreddits would actually be applicable for your brand? Which type of posts are popular? What are hot topics for this audience?
By following targeted subreddits, companies can get a glimpse into what the community is talking about, in real time. These windows into niche interest groups can be a great tool for research and can come in handy when brainstorming campaign ideas or upcoming initiatives.
Honesty is the best policy
Once getting started as a brand representative in the Reddit community, it’s best to state your identity outright instead of trying to trick other users into thinking that you’re just another regular user. One of the worst things a brand could do is create an account, make a big splash and start pushing out marketing material. Reddit is a platform where users feel safe to discuss their interests. This type of behavior from brands basically puts a bull’s-eye on their account. Be prepared to be heckled. Other users can see that the account is brand new and they call out these companies for not playing by the rules.
Remember that the goal should be to bring value to the community – not sell a product or self-promote. If you do post content, use caution. Make sure it brings genuine benefit to users and aligns well with the subreddit’s subject.
One way to bring a spotlight to your brand or spokesperson is through an AMA, which stands for Ask Me Anything. Most people have seen celebrities do AMAs, including the president. In these public forums, Reddit users can ask the person anything on the spot. Although this might seem like a good idea, company representatives should tread lightly and be prepared for the worst. Think of it as a mini press conference with basically no rules. If there’s a hot topic that you want to avoid, expect to answer questions about it. Don’t even think about taking part in an AMA to just leave after an hour has passed. The community is always on. If you start to engage on Reddit be prepared to continue the conversations that were started.
If your company has a spokesperson that is prepared to answer the hardest questions, and really doesn’t have anything to hide, then an AMA can be a great place for users to get to know the brand better and show off the company’s personality.
Although there are many potential pitfalls, Reddit can be a great platform to listen to and engage with fans as well as spread content across the Web. Go ahead and give it a try by lurking. If you feel like you can play by Reddit’s rules then start small with comments here and there. Most importantly, be real. Your traditional marketing and PR techniques won’t work here. And don’t forget to have fun. Engage with users and learn more about your community. You may just gain new brand fans.