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How to engage with the diverse community that is Reddit

30 Aug, 13 | by Claire Bower, Digital Comms Manager, @clairebower

An article in The BMJ on muscular strength in male adolescents and premature death received over 55,000 page views in December 2012. On closer inspection, we discovered that 66% of visits to that particular article had come from Reddit, the social content sharing and news aggregator site. In fact, after tracking down the article on reddit.com, we found that the article had generated quite a flurry of conversation, with just under 300 comments.

You would be forgiven for thinking that this was a one off, especially given the relevance of the paper to the adolescent users of Reddit. However, another BMJ article seems to have provoked a similar reaction. This study focused on didgeridoo playing as an alternative treatment for sleep apnoea and received a significant 59% of its total traffic from reddit.com.

Although it lacks the mainstream appeal of Facebook and Twitter, Reddit is still popular, with more than 67 million unique users per month. The site is known for its simple user interface, which consists of links, thumbnail images, and a user policy that prizes anonymity and free speech. What sets it apart from a real-time information network like Twitter is the curation of the stream of content by its users. Items of value are “upvoted” and those deemed undeserving of attention are “downvoted.” This process determines a post’s position on the site, with those items voted onto the front page being seen by hundreds of thousands of people (and therefore sending a great deal of traffic to the linked website).

While Reddit users tend to take a strong stance against spam and obvious promotional activity, there are still ways that businesses can engage with the vibrant and dynamic Reddit community.

Subreddits and market research

A subreddit is a user-created and moderated subsection of Reddit that is tailored to a specific topic. Although the user base may appear geeky and liberal, Reddit is, in reality, deeply varied. There are thousands of user-created and moderated ‘subreddits’ focusing on a diverse range of topics, from silly memes to highly technical scientific discussion.

As a company, the opportunity to observe a community that either fits your specific demographic segment or, in the case of larger brands, is completely devoted to your products, is particularly valuable. For example, there is a medical subreddit called Meddit with over 25,000 readers. There are also subreddits devoted to Google, Coca Cola, Nike. The feedback and opinions of Reddit users who are interested enough to participate in a dedicated community can be a useful source of consumer insight.

IAmA

IAmA is a Q&A subreddit platform that allows Reddit users to identify themselves by submitting a Reddit titled “I am ___ ___ Ask me Anything”. This prompts the community to ask questions and engage in open discussion. It’s particularly valuable for brands as it builds engagement, social credibility, and is controllable.

Barack Obama used AmA on Reddit to answer questions about topics like his work-life balance, the recipe for White House beer and the influence of money in politics. The post became Reddit’s top post of 2012, bringing in 5.6 million page views and generating over 24, 000 comments.

AskReddit

This subreddit gives users the ability to ask direct questions and receive a wide range of answers from the general community. It is essentially a focus group on mass scale. The trick is to pose questions that aren’t necessarily all about a brand/company/product but can be related to it. Reading this kind of unbiased perspective may well require a thick skin but is undoubtedly valuable in understanding consumer feedback.

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