Communicators and PR pros have typically shied away from Reddit as a platform for client engagement, in part because even defining or explaining what Reddit is can be a challenge—is it a news aggregation site or a discussion site, or…something else?—and, there’s also Reddit’s reputation as a freewheeling forum that might sometimes get a little too toxic.
In late 2016, articles were being posted about Reddit “tearing itself apart” (Gizmodo). However, recently highbrow publications have been looking at it differently. The New Yorker posted a think piece titled “Reddit and the struggle to detoxify the internet,” and WIRED magazine in January advanced the argument that Reddit might just be the home to civil discourse on the internet.
This change in how Reddit is viewed is coming at the same time that the company has turned its attention to something its users might not care for: a push towards advertising.
Last week, the company made a significant move signaling that advertising will be important to Reddit’s growth as it announced the hire of Jen Wong as COO. Wong is a media executive and the former COO of Time, Inc.
Taken in conjunction with last week’s headlines that let us know that Reddit has just as many active monthly users as Twitter—but those users are much more engaged—we might be seeing the beginnings of substantive changes for the platform.
While some communications professionals have been beating the drum about using Reddit for years, it’s still not a very widespread practice among PR pros. The reason for this is most likely a combination of unfamiliarity with the site, a perception that it’s a bit of the Wild West (which brings up risk issues), and finally that with other platforms out there it isn’t worth it to sink the time and effort into ramping up on another social platform.
I’m betting that the news about its active monthly users and engagement levels is going to change the landscape for Reddit.
What should communicators know about Reddit?
The first thing that PR pros should understand about Reddit is that it requires a commitment. While this can be said of any social platform—it’s just bad form to drop in and blast any community with messages—it’s particularly true of Reddit.
Because Reddit is structured in a way that prioritizes specialization and topic focus, you have to be selective and smart in your approach. There are thousands of subreddits, so finding a dozen that are somewhat or tangentially related to your topic and then posting messaging on them all will not be welcomed warmly, to say the least.
Find the absolute best fit, and then become involved with that community. Brands are being mentioned and discussed on Reddit, and this is perhaps the most logical entryway for PR involvement: monitoring and answering questions, and responding to critiques or queries, in the most transparent manner possible. Also, know the rules for each subreddit in which you are considering becoming involved. Getting downvoted or reported for violating community norms is avoidable if you know (and follow) the rules.
In short, it’s best to treat Reddit like you’d treat a prized media contact: don’t appear out of nowhere and ask for something, be helpful and build a relationship first, and be honest and transparent about who you are and what you do.
That’s actually super-good advice for any PR or communications relationships, come to think of it.
Reddit might not be the right place for your company or brand. But given the news that it’s on par with Twitter for active users and blows past Twitter on engagement, it’s worth spending some time investigating to see if there’s a fit. Understand that Reddit is different, and invest the time you need to in order to make a good first impression.
Photo Credit: Eva Blue