Rafael Sangiovanni|Jul 9, 2013

Marketers have all heard the saying, “Content is king.” Holding that to be true, I’d argue that Reddit is content’s kingdom.

On Reddit, users form communities to curate the best content on the web. As such, the site bills itself “The front page of the Internet,” and it’s not really hyperbole. In 2012, the site averaged more than three billion page views a month and more than 34 million unique visitors. Ad Age declared that the mainstream blog media is “almost ridiculously dependent” on Reddit. It even got President Obama’s attention.

In fact, most people likely got wind of Reddit for the first time when President Obama did an Ask Me Anything interview in 2012. In typical Reddit fashion, the president was grilled on everything from his stance on Internet freedom to the recipe for the White House’s beer to whether he likes cats or corgis (of course).

Why does this matter to marketers? Because Reddit thrives on and rewards good content, and the communities that exist on the site are some of the most passionate on the web. If the content you submit strikes the right chord, it can get immense visibility and virality and drive a huge amount of traffic to your site.

However, Reddit is a complicated, layered, fickle beast, for better or worse. As a Redditor myself, I admit feeling kind of icky writing the sentence about “visibility and virality,” because, by and large, Redditors hate being marketed to. They’re aware that companies have teams dedicated to crawling the site and posting content they’d be likely to upvote and share.

But if you’re going to dive into Reddit, come armed with the knowledge of how the site and its communities work. Next week, we’ll look at more specific ways marketers can tap into Reddit for content marketing.

OK, knowledge time.

What is exactly is Reddit?

Here’s a great quote I spotted on Nieman Journalism Lab: “Almost everything on the Internet is bad,” said Eric Gilbert of Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing, “so somebody’s got to sort through it all. That’s why we need Reddit.”

Simply put, Reddit is the largest aggregator of content on the Internet. Users can submit text, image, video and link posts to one of thousands of user-moderated subreddits. (More on that in a sec.)

From there, users either upvote or downvote content. Good content buoys to the top of the page, everything else gets pushed down. Users get karma (in the vein of a Facebook like) that fluctuates based on responses to their posts.

If the content is really popular, then it ends up on the “catch-all” home page. The result is mosaic of the web’s most interesting, insightful, absurd, outrageous and controversial content.

Who is a Redditor?

Reddit’s community is vast, so it’s a bit unfair to generalize. However, Prestige Marketing did some of the heavy lifting and found that the average Redditor is male between the ages of 18-24, college educated with an average income of $25,000-$50,000. It identifies them as “skeptical, Internet savvy, geeky and liberal,” and likely to “downvote blatant advertising.”

I’ve spent enough time on Reddit to know this is not true across the board. But it’s a starting point for knowing the audience.

Why should I care about subreddits?

The real power of Reddit lies in its subreddit system. There are more than 160,000 micro-communities here. The most popular subreddits are /r/funny/r/pics/r/askreddit/r/todayilearned and /r/worldnews, but there are loads more (including /r/marketing.) Pretty much, if you can think of it, it’s there. (I’m looking at you /r/mildyinteresting and /r/randomactsofpizza.)

Many marketers look toward Facebook and Twitter to find places where people congregate around their interests. But Reddit has its roots firmly cemented in the online forum world (it basically looks like a giant white board), and by design it draws in some of the most passionate people.

Thus, the conversations that take place on Reddit threads are just as interesting – if not more interesting – than the content they’re commenting on. As a brand, this is an excellent opportunity to interact with the niche communities around your industry.

That said, mind the “hivemind.” Stories of “Reddit’s bad side” are as common as the good ones. Redditors are aware that their communities can wield power, like the time they boycotted GoDaddy into revoking its support of SOPA. Whenever a general attitude or response picks up steam, it can avalanche out of control.

The flipside is also true. Read this touching story of how Reddit raised $65,000 to make an orphanage in Africa safer against attacks in the area. The original ask was for $2,000.

Like I said, Reddit is a passionate place. Next week, I’ll discuss some ways marketers can leverage the platform with good reddit etiquette.

Oh, and if you got the bottom of post because it looked too long, here’s the “too long; didn’t read” for you.

TL;DR – Reddit is the Internet’s largest social news aggregator, and for PR pros it can offer huge opportunities for viral content marketing – if you don’t piss the community off.


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