What You Need to Know About Viral Success on Reddit

As far as Social Media sites go, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are all pretty commercialized.  Companies view them as opportunities to expand their brands and get in front of consumers, and the users of those sites are well aware of what’s going on.  Ads are straightforward, and most folks don’t mind.  Another social site that offers the potential for thousands of views is Reddit, where users can share links and vote them up or down.  The highest voted links rise to the top, and any link that makes it to the frontpage is guaranteed a massive amount of traffic, often to the point of crashing smaller websites.  Sounds like an advertiser’s dream, right?  Perhaps, but there are a few things that those not immersed in the culture of the site should be aware of before trying to take advantage of it…

Reddit Users Do Not Like Lies

Just like any consumer, Reddit Users (or, Redditors) do not like to feel manipulated or lied to.  Redditors are skeptical.  Exceptionally so.  So much that innocent-looking links such as this one are often decried as Corporate Shilling by some poor marketer on Cheez-Its payroll.  Whether it was a focused marketing effort or not is largely irrelevant.  The fact that some Redditors believe it to be is enough to start a witch hunt.  They will investigate the poster, delving through his past posts in an attempt to find other “Cheez-Its” related posts so they can skewer him as the manipulative jerk they believe him to be.  But despite this paranoia, advertisers can still find success on Reddit.  It’s just a matter of approaching it the right way…

Make Something Awesome

Viral success along the lines of Old Spice or The Dollar Shave Club is possible on Reddit.  In fact, Reddit is famous for being the driving force behind tons of major successes in things like Kickstarter campaigns.  But the difference between these and the witch hunts is how companies present themselves.  The two videos linked are advertisements, through and through, but they are also entertaining.  These videos are extremely shareable, spurring people to say “hey, look at this funny ad I found!”  Rather than worry about manipulative tactics to keep the consumers mind on their brand, they simply offer value in the form of humor.  It accomplishes the same goal, but people don’t feel tricked by it, creating a true Win-Win for brands and customers.

Be Straightforward, Offer Full Disclosure

Another popular method of Reddit promotion comes in the form of “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) Interviews.  Often, before the release of a big-budget Hollywood movie, the stars will create Reddit threads titled something like “I am Tom Hanks, Ask Me Anything!”  They will then proceed to answer questions from Redditors for the next couple of hours while promoting their upcoming project.  Barack Obama even hosted an AMA before the 2012 election, and it remains the highest-voted AMA of all time.  The payoff here is that, while Redditors understand they are being advertised to, they are also getting a chance to interact with some of their favorite celebrities.

Tying it all Together

Whether you’re looking for marketing success through creating something awesome or being straightforward, one requirement remains constant: offer value to the community.  Don’t try to trick people, and don’t lie about your motives.  If the content is good enough, it will be embraced, and the Reddit community will support it.  “Make worthwhile content” seems like such a simple and universal rule, but for some reason, companies advertising on Reddit just don’t get it.