reddit-alien

If you’ve heard of reddit, but aren’t sure how it works or why/ whether it can be useful in generating leads for your business, don’t feel alone.  Of all the social media outlets available to the masses, reddit might be one of the trickier to utilize effectively, and it is certainly not for every kind of enterprise.

What is reddit?

Reddit is what they call a “news aggregator”, though the majority of what is found there would struggle to defend itself as news.  In reality, it is a place where anyone with access to a computer can chuck up a news story or a funny .gif or a fascinating video or just about anything they think another person might be interested in looking at and find out if they’re right about that assumption.

The creators of the site called it “reddit” with the idea that people would read things there and tell others about them – “I read it on reddit”.  So far, it’s working.  According to the reddit’s blog, the site saw more than 56 billion page views last year alone from 731 million unique visitors.  The most popular posts of the year each had more than 3 million page views, most of them in the span of a few days.  Popular posts have been known to overload sites to the point of collapse with the amount of traffic they generate.  They’ve got the kind of statistics that bring startups and big business alike to reddit’s vast shores wondering – just how choppy are these waters?  ‘Cause that’s a lot of fish.

How does reddit work?

Well, this is where the tricky bit comes in.  In order to post something on reddit, you have to have an account (no, smartass, that is not the tricky part – accounts are free and as easy to create as dog farts).  Anyone with an account can post generally or to what is called a “subreddit” (more on this later) and, though anyone can browse reddit freely, only registered users (called “redditors” for “reddit” and “editor”) can vote or comment on a post.  The trick comes in creating the confluence of interesting content, catchy title, careful social media timing and general reddit cred that will allow large numbers of people to see, read, and like your post enough to grace it with the much-coveted “up-vote”.

reddit upvoteThe more up-votes (this is the reddit form of “likes”) an item gets, the higher up the page it moves and the closer it gets to being the first thing people see and, consequently, the thing they are more likely to look at, click on and vote up-repeat cycle.  If you’ve posted something that leads back to your own site (which ultimately is the point of this exercise), this automatically generates traffic to your page where you will undoubtedly be waiting with something irresistible. However, this must all happen very quickly, because incorporated into reddit’s ranking algorithm is a devaluation of votes once a post has been up for a mere five hours.  Though different subreddits will have different hours of peak visitation, in general it is best not to post when people are sleeping (between 12 and 6) or playing (on Saturday during the day).

What should I post?

It cannot be emphasized enough how vital the answer to this question is to your reddit success.   Nor is there any one thing that will guarantee it.  There are, however, a few basic things to keep in mind as you think about (really think about) how best to endear yourself  or (eek) your brand to the reddit community.

One.  Post mostly things that do not originate with you.  Redditors do not like to be marketed to and they pride themselves on not falling for consumerist trickery.   They will call out a wolf in sheep’s clothing in a heartbeat (though they would be loathe to call themselves sheep) and then they will tear the wolf limb from limb and call its mother to tell her about it.  Also, if more than about 10% of your posts promote your own material, reddit itself will disown you and cast you out among the spammers and robots.  While you can, of course, create another account and start over again (dog farts), if you are trying to establish yourself or your company as one that has something valuable to offer, the bad juju will follow your name and all will be lost.  Which takes us to number two.

Two.  Offer something of value.  If the service or product you provide cannot be easily and naturally associated with useful or entertaining information, images, video, etc., either give reddit a pass or find a creative genius to make it look natural.  Remember that wolf in sheep’s clothing.  And its poor mother.

The only way to really understand what it is that redditors want to see is to become one of them.  This will take time and conscientious effort.  Don’t half-ass it.  Get on there, post things, vote for things, make comments, read comments.  Become a part of the community.  Honestly, trying to fake it will take just as much time as actually being involved and will be much less enjoyable, so just dive in.  Swim with the fishes.  But…in the good way, not the mafia way.

There are also some things that seem to fly particularly well with the motley reddit crew:

  • Heartwarming stories about overcoming challenges
  • Photographs, both artful and of cute kittens and sloths
  • Posts with obscure or surprising facts about history, medicine, or social conditions
  • Politics (both domestic and international)
  • Religion
  • Video games of all kinds, the more specific the better
  • Technology (computers, browsers, gadgets, programming)
  • Science, especially space and natural science
  • Music of various genres
  • Comics
  • Food
  • Fitness

What is a subreddit?

Great question!  Like any community of millions, reddit is divided into hundreds of thousands of sub-communities brought together by different interests.  Again, any registered user can start a subreddit, which has led to subreddits as broad as /r/Pics for photographic images of any kind (5,849,699 subscribers) to /r/twitchplayspokemon “where thousands of people play Pokémon at the same time” (89,190 subscribers.  Yup.).

Your post is much more likely to get to the front page of a subreddit than the reddit general frontpage, which is typically reserved for things like conversations with world leaders and inter-species animal friendships.  You will want to cruise the subreddits to figure out which might be most appropriate to participate in in light of your particular line of work.

subredditsIf you offer web design services, you might want to get involved with /r/startups, offer advice and point to useful articles, some, but only a few of which may be on your company’s blog.  If you are a florist, you would naturally want to get into some subreddits where you can post photos of your flowers and maybe give advice on arrangements on, say, /r/InteriorDesign.   You will, of course, want to find a community with enough subscribers to be worth your while (this number can be easily found near the name of any subreddit), but it is essential that your subject matter be relevant to the community.

Think of a subreddit as a convention of sorts, where people come together because they share a similar interest.  Some of the people come for ideas, some come to find specific products or information, and some, like you, come to provide those products or information.  This is not a place for the hard sell.  This is a place to run across the people who might be interested in what you are offering and make sure they know you have a website that they can check out if they enjoyed their conversation with you.  It is up to you to make the conversation interesting enough to draw a crowd.

What else can I do on reddit?

Depending on your particular experience level or vocation, one thing that seems to draw a crowd is what is called an “AMA”, which stands for “Ask Me Anything”.  Basically, at a given time, you put yourself out there on /r/IAmA/ with a little intro like “I am best friends with Kanye West.  Ask me anything.”  Then people who think you might have something interesting to share ask you questions in real time in the comments and you reply, also in real time, for, say a couple of hours and become massively popular for that period of time.  Of course, you want to make sure that whatever you claim to be is what you are and that you will have some special insight to offer in that role.  For example, you would not say “I am 35 years old and single.  Ask me anything,” because the great majority of redditors already know quite a lot about that particular state of affairs.

Anything else?

If you feel like the time commitment needed to establish yourself as a part of the reddit community is a bit more than you are willing to give for the pay-off, you can still reach the reddit populace by purchasing a reddit ad, which, for a relatively small fee, will appear a certain number of times at the top of the reddit page of your choice looking very similar to a reddit post.  Interestingly, these ads also behave like posts in that they allow user comments and advertiser responses, which is kind of special. Once your campaign has run, you can see how much traffic your ad is getting, which can help you determine not only whether to run another campaign, but whether it might be worth it to participate in the community in other ways.

Actual post:  real post

Ad post:  ad post

 

So, knowing all this, if you think you might be ready to dive in to the reddit seas, you should check out a few of reddit’s own bits of advice on its wiki.  Also, before entering any of the subreddit tide pools, be sure to read carefully the community guidelines on the right-hand side of the subreddit’s frontpage.  Once you have made your preparations, don your flippers and your floaties and jump on in…always being mindful of other swimmers, boats, lamprey and floating turds.

Screen clippings taken from Reddit.com
Herring gif courtesy of wikimedia