It’s hard being an SEO on the Internet. The old people on Facebook can’t understand what we do, we’re not famous enough for Twitter and our forums are more shady than that alley behind the Arby’s. So where can a search engine optimizer go to hang out and talk shop with his or her compatriots?
The answer is Reddit. Yes, other communities exist. You can praise the latest Moz blog post in its comments. You can congratulate yourself on the links you’ve bought in BlackHatWorld’s forums. And you can tweet into a great void until there’s no more SEO to talk about. But Reddit has everything if you know how to use it. To prove it, Clayburn Griffin and I started a brand new SEO subreddit (a “subreddit” is a community!) and it’s off to a great start.
This isn’t about using Reddit to bring traffic to your website. People have written about that. It’s not about how to use Reddit when you have no idea what it is either. People have written about that, too. We want to convince you that being on Reddit is good for you, as a person first and foremost, and as a marketer second. Reddit is opportunity waiting for whatever part of you needs it most.
redditors are painfully honest
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom. – Thomas Jefferson” – Michael Scott
The truth is there’s a lot of dishonesty in marketing. The irony is that honesty is a very effective marketing tactic. It’s especially effective in the digital space. When you look at the success of something “viral” like the Old Spice Guy campaign, it was the foundation of honesty that made it well-received.
The brand had fun with its fans and celebrities. No overt ulterior motive needed. They didn’t even mention a product in some videos. Compare that to the Terry Crews Old Spice Guy. This Old Spice Guy has a message, and it’s something to do about power? Why? I don’t know, because it’s not an honest message. It’s a marketing attempt to connect Old Spice with Power for some reason.
Good marketers have to learn to be honest. Reddit will force it out of you. If there’s one thing that Reddit excels at it’s keeping people honest. For instance in 2010, Reddit called out a History professor’s hoax when he had successfully deceived the Internet. In Reddit’s infamous /r/IAMA subreddit, where scientists, movie stars, and the President all come to answer questions, Redditors never shy away from asking the things that make PR professionals cringe. Take the now infamous Woody Harrelson AMA. Some PR agent probably thought it was a great idea. They even had studio interns asking tough questions about Harrelson’s upcoming film Rampart. Except Reddit didn’t care much about Rampart and called Harrelson and his PR team out for not only planting questions but also lacking transparency.
If posts, promotions, comments, discussions want to succeed and gain traction on Reddit, they need to be honest. As marketers who want to bridge the gap between search and marketing, and more importantly convince traditional marketers that we have something to offer, we need to do more “Real Company Sh*t”.
Reddit has natural hostility towards SEO and marketing. It’s overt at times and for good reason. Marketing, in Reddit’s eyes, tends to subvert communities, influence actions, and cheapen interaction. And Reddit has no qualms about calling this out. You want to know how X feels about Y? Ask a Redditor.
interact with real People
“What is an ocean but a multitude of drops?” – Adam Ewing
Redditors are great people to know and interact with. You never know what someone might bring to the table. They’ll challenge you, educate you, maybe just insult and/or annoy you. This engagement might be Reddit’s greatest gift. Whatever person you need at any given moment is on Reddit. They’re sitting at their computer just waiting for you to ask for them. Ever wonder why taking a shower makes your hair pliable? Redditors have the answer.
These individuals, anonymous and not, come together to make Reddit what it is: a community of communities.
According to Reddit, as of 2012, there were 8,400 subreddits with 100 or more users. Over 100,000 exist in total. These subreddits vary from discussing Starcraft and Guns to Philosophy and Home Remodeling. Soccer moms and Hackers occupy the same domain but create distinct communities. Redditors are driven to act, interact, and mobilize for a greater purpose. No better example of mobilization exists than Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity. In short, guy writes a post about making a satirical rally in the guise of Glenn Beck’s Rally for Honor. Article gets posted on Reddit. Redditors “charity bomb” DonorsChoose.com to get Colbert’s attention. Two months later, the Rally is a reality and Colbert credits Reddit as the catalyst. And who said neckbeards don’t take action?
Subreddits like /r/Startups offer genuine feedback for founders. /r/ELI5 (Explain Like I’m 5) translates complex questions into simple analogies and explanations. /r/ShitRedditDoes compiles a list of the amazing acts of kindness Redditors are capable of – just another example of real people using Reddit as a vehicle for good.
understand Audience Culture
“I used to be with it, but then they changed what it was.” – Abe Simpson
Old Abe wasn’t on Reddit, and society passed him by. Now he doesn’t understand what anything is. Don’t be like Abe. The landscape is rapidly changing, and you can easily get left behind. Being active on Reddit will keep you immersed in the latest that digital culture has to offer.
If you don’t understand this culture, it can be very difficult to succeed online. As an example, just look at Microsoft. They were innovative once. Bill Gates is the epitome of what you might find on Reddit, give or take a few billion dollars. At one point in time, Microsoft “got it,” but they took it and focused on making money, creating products and marketing those products. They forgot to keep their eye on society. Now they have Bing. Did they ever think to ask what people want in a search engine? No. They decided a picture on the homepage would be “cool.” Did that come from knowing the Internet community or from an internal need to be exciting, fresh, dynamic and other adjectives some marketer wrote on a whiteboard during an hour-long brainstorming session. Look at Xbox, though. Here you have a successful brand from Microsoft where marketers got it right. They took the time to understand the gamer community, to create not only a console that could fit their personality but an original video game to match. Halo was smart marketing because it was a product informed by the culture of its target demographic. A product like that makes marketing easy.
Marketers often look for cross-sections of a population to figure out their target markets. We often hear about creating marketing personas and targeted messaging. These personas are often based on keyword research, search behavior, demographics, etc. We compile these into names like “Technical Tim – the IT Admin that uses his off time to rock climb and kayak.” How many times have we actually found a Technical Tim in the wild to engage with and see if our personas even check out? Reddit provides you a vehicle to find these personas, in real life, and interact and learn from them. Think of yourself as Jane Goodall, observing ape behavior in nature. Your marketing could use more anthropology.
So, when you’re coming up with your next great strategic vision for the digital space, don’t forget about the culture. If you’re not in tune with it yourself, how can you expect to strike the appropriate virtual chord? You can’t. You have to understand the Internet.
And what better way than reading “the front page of the internet.”
Anonymity brings out the best and the worst in people. As marketers, we’re used to plenty of self-aggrandizing or publicly stroking the egos of “big wigs” in our open online communities. Behind the mask of a Reddit account you get real opinions. Ideas, not personalities, rise to the top. If you want genuine discussion, aren’t afraid of feedback, can withstand the occasional troll, and want to grow as a marketer, then you should be on Reddit.
Quick Edit: This article was a collaboration between Clayburn Griffin and me. I’d be remiss to not give credit where credit is definitely due. He kicks butt and his knowledge of memes and how to best use them in semi-legitimate articles on very legitimate blogs is unrivaled.