Walking a fine line as a communicator on Reddit
For the as-yet unacquainted, Reddit is a social media site–of sorts. While not as widely used as Facebook or Twitter, the content sharing site boasts a huge pool of participants who post about and discuss a wide variety of topics. They post to “subreddits,” which are essentially boards with a specific focus, which can be anything from /r/funny to the ever-popular /r/MildlyInteresting, to the inanely bizarre (/r/BearsDoingHumanThings, /r/SlothsWithBeaks).
Reddit’s simple interface means that visitors have nothing to distract from the content itself, and can read posts, add comments, view images and find links to new content. In turn, its users are its own moderation system, and content that is universally liked (upvoted) can wind up on the front page of Reddit. The front page sends a veritable firehose of traffic that can crash unprepared servers in minutes to the websites that manage to rise to the top. With so many opportunities for content sharing, Reddit sounds like a marketer’s dream.
The catch? Reddit users are proudly cynical, extraordinarily picky and have little to no patience for blatant advertising. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
Don’t Do What Nissan Did
Let’s start by talking about what not to do.
About a month ago, the CEO of Nissan posted an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) board to elicit user responses. He created the header: “I’m the CEO of Renault and Nissan and we’re making autonomous driving vehicles happen by 2020. Ask me anything!”
But when users responded with genuine questions, they didn’t get answers, and instead suspected that Nissan was astroturfing – that is, seeding seemingly inauthentic questions from recently-created usernames with no history on Reddit. The AMA is still up, and the users’ disappointment is also there for the world to see. Check out this comment from Reddit user Kinglink:
It has to be said that 99% of the time, your content is not going to be good enough for Reddit at large. It may be of interest to a very specific section of the site, but it takes a really incredible piece of content to appeal to the majority of Reddit, and it absolutely must not reek of advertising or manipulation. I’m not trying to scare you away from trying Reddit, and it really can make a great litmus test for your content. I’ve seen really top-notch suggestions in snarky comments that we have gone back and incorporated into our articles or infographics. But you have to be prepared to fail a few times, and you need to have a thick skin.
How to Not Be Hated as a Communicator on Reddit
On Reddit, PR professionals and marketers walk a fine line. The rules discourage self-promotion, and many of the subreddits are vehemently against marketers. It can be done, but only if your content is seriously fantastic.
If you are unfamiliar with Reddit, you shouldn’t even think about trying to get your client or your business attention from the community until you get to know the platform. Sign up for Reddit (I’d advise against creating a username with your company name in it) and spend some time in the subreddits that interest you most, upvoting, commenting, and sharing interesting content (not your own). Aim to accumulate at least 50-100 karma before you think about self-promoting. If you’re a natural at Reddit, you could earn that much karma in a few days or even hours. If you’re not as familiar with the platform, it might take a few weeks to get the hang of it.
Once you’re ready to try promoting your own stuff, be sure to do the following:
1. Target a niche. Everybody on Reddit sees and interacts with the content on the front page, but you can’t submit to the front page directly. You need to submit your content to a subreddit. If it’s awesome, and has that secret sauce of luck and virality, there’s a very small chance it could be upvoted all the way to the front page. But even if it doesn’t make it to the front page, it can still reach a lot of eyeballs just within a single subreddit.
However, don’t think about that right now. You want to find the most relevant audience you can. Take some time to identify exactly the right subreddit to post to. You can search for subreddits by name with this tool, which lists the top 3,000 subreddits. The ideal place to post to, especially if you’re new at this, is going to be a subreddit where it won’t take that many upvotes to rise to the top of the page (definitely less than 100), but with an active enough community that there are new posts from today. Look for one with a sizeable number of subscribers and at least a handful of currently-online users. It’s also worth mentioning that some subreddits don’t allow you to post links, so make sure you read their rules to avoid getting banned.
One brand that pulled this off successfully was Guardanis LLC, an app development and design company that posted information about their new app to /r/LucidDreaming. Simply by subscribing to the thread, users are expressing their interest in new content about lucid dreaming, which meant that Guardanis had a pre-made audience for their new app, Lucid Dreamer, designed to help users achieve lucidity. According to the company’s co-founder and developer, “the most beneficial aspect [of marketing on Reddit] would definitely be the subreddit targeting feature.”
2. Be human. Reddit users want to know they’re interacting with other real users of the site, so make sure that you are not only using your account to self-promote. Above all else, be sincere and answer questions like a person. If you are doing an AMA, it’s okay to bring a prepared list of responses, as long as you understand that you’ll have to deviate from them at some point.
Despite their recent failure, Nissan actually succeeded at this about a year ago. Two actual company community managers created a space where users could respond about the craziest things they could buy off Amazon. As it turned out, the craziest responses were rewarded with the items they requested. A few days later, a Reddit user posted a picture of a huge Amazon box being delivered. The box contained a Nissan Versa Note.
The typical model of offering free stuff in exchange for coverage isn’t really the way to go on Reddit, but Nissan’s creative approach actually elicited a lot of affection from the users. By engaging with users’ fun sides, Nissan created viral content and reaped the rewards.
3. Monitor for what matters to you. Sometimes users will express frustrations about certain products or services – and your company may have the answer. Take this delightful example from Bridgford Foods, a premium beef jerky company.
Here’s what happened: a Reddit user posted, “Why is beef jerky so god d*mned expensive. I just want some freakin jerky, but it’s like 6 god d*mn bucks.”
The response? Reddit user timothyjwood provides some insightful commentary on why beef jerky is so expensive, explaining that high quality comes at a price and that the reason products like Slim Jims are so cheap is that they’re made of a lot of byproducts. He validates this claim by telling Reddit users that his parents own a beef jerky company.
Another user responded: “Beef jerky company, eh? Reddit discount?”
The best part is that the users got exactly what they asked for – a discount on a high quality product that was exclusive to Reddit readers. In addition, the Bridgford brand got a lot of visibility and some great, dedicated new business.
In Bridgford’s case, this win was a simple result of being in the right place at the right time. He just happened to be there when someone was complaining about jerky costing too much. But what if you can’t be everywhere you need to be at once? Simple: you monitor for the keywords that matter to you! Use metareddit’s free monitoring tool to track things like your client’s brand name, competitors, and main keywords.
Your Turn to Succeed
Reddit is like any other online medium – it takes work to find success. Pay attention to the reddiquette (Reddit etiquette), remember to always bring value to the community, and avoid coming across as a simple spammer. Because Reddit is primarily a site for sharing information, the rules of content creation reign supreme: stay relevant, stay human, and offer insights and solutions users aren’t going to find anywhere else.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Reddit's Director of Communications Victoria Taylor wrote a fantastic piece for Muck Rack a few months back featuring best practices for journalists on the site. It's definitely worth a read! Check it out here. Victoria also encourages all brands who are considering using Reddit to check out the brandiquette page before joining the conversation.
Have you used Reddit with success? Share in the comments below!
Adrienne Erin is an earned media analyst at WebpageFX who has pitched thousands of bloggers and journalists. She writes for SiteProNews, Search Engine People, and Socialnomics. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter or visit her blog, Design Roast, to see more of her work and get in touch.
Photo: Reddit logo