What can Reddit do for your campaigns?

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Are you on Reddit? Should you be? It has been described as ‘the front page of the internet’. But is Reddit the right place for B2B marketing? Several clients have asked us for a primer, so here goes:

Reddit works by votes from users – Reddit is not like Facebook or Twitter, where anyone who likes or follows you will see your content. Reddit works by user votes. Get upvoted, and you may attain the giddy heights of the front page. Get it wrong, and you’ll disappear into oblivion.

Reddit has lots of users – Last month (April 2016), Reddit had over 227 million unique visitors, from 217 different countries. In a single day, it had more than 3 million logged-in ‘redditors’ or registered site users, who cast over 32 million votes. Contrast that with Twitter’s average of 310 million active users each month in the first quarter of 2016, and Reddit looks very much like a major player.

Reddit’s demographic is very specific – Its users tend to be male, aged 25–44, graduates, with a reasonable income. Many of its users are based in San Francisco, Seattle, and Toronto, and are very tech-savvy. It’s a place for early adopters. If this is your target demographic, go right ahead. If not, it’s maybe not worth your while just now.

Certain content works much better on Reddit – We already know that content is crucial. But this is particularly true on Reddit. We’ve noticed that ‘heart-warming stories’, obscure facts, posts about politics, religion, technology and science, all work well. Symantec, for example, recently held a technical ‘Ask Me Anything’, and found that both the company and their audience got a lot out of it. Overt marketing, on the other hand, is an absolute no-no.

You really need to be a regular user of Reddit to succeed in using it for marketing – Users build up ‘karma’ by posting content and making comments on other people’s posts. If you are already an active user, you will already built up some karma, and you will also know what kind of content will work.

The best way to get the best out of Reddit (apart from being a regular user) is subreddits – Subreddits are forums on particular subjects. Some are standard, such as ‘IAmA’, where users with unusual jobs or particular expertise post who or what they are, and end ‘AMA’ or ‘Ask Me Anything’. US President Barack Obama has taken advantage of this feature to do a 30-minute Q&A. Both questions and answers are posted as comments. Other subreddits are very specific. It is best to subscribe to relevant subreddits, so that you start to understand the ’right’  content.

Get it right, and Reddit posts can go viral very fast… For example, an open letter to Canadian premier Justin Trudeau about the housing market in Canada generated thousands of comments within 24 hours of being posted. It generated even more publicity by being removed and then returned by moderators. It certainly seems to have struck a chord with users around the world.

…but you can be heavily punished for getting it wrong. Reddit users have a lot of fun spotting and highlighting corporate posts. There is even a special  subreddit for these. Anything that looks overtly like marketing will either be downvoted very rapidly, or end up in this subreddit. If you don’t get it right, you could be heavily punished for your temerity, as actor Woody Harrelson found out.

Reddit is a bit…well…unusual in social media terms – Anarchic might be the word if you were feeling unkind. If you were feeling kind, it would be ‘a community with its own very distinct norms’. If you take a look at some of the threads, you will get the idea. Reddit users are engaged, but not necessarily with the topic. They’re quite happy to go off on tangents, and some of them are very opaque indeed. You may not get quite what you expect in response to posts. In particular, ‘AMA’ really does mean anything.

Our verdict? Probably not yet for most marketers  – If your target demographic is on Reddit, and your content fits, then Reddit may well be for you. But you probably already know that, because the chances are you’re already a redditor. If not, it may be best to stay away for the time being. The risks of getting it wrong probably outweigh the benefits.

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