Mike Connell

Finally: How Communicators Can Use Reddit for Content Marketing

By: Mike Connell | March 27, 2018 | 
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How Communicators Can Use Reddit for Content MarketingWe recently wrote an article about the January 2018 changes to the Facebook newsfeed.

In it, Gini Dietrich explains how Facebook is trying to put the social back into its social network, and how the organization is committed to placing more value on “meaningful interactions.”

Ultimately, she illustrates why we shouldn’t worry about or over think it.

And she’s right. You shouldn’t. Worry that is.

I’m here to tell you to keep on thinking.

Can Facebook Save Face?

Because the more I thought about it, the more I started to ask: good or bad, what does this mean for publishers and content creators who have previously leveraged—if not outright relied on—Facebook for distribution and engagement?

Sure, both Facebook and publishers can and should confab about how they can help each other (Patrick Gladney, partner and chief strategy officer at FleishmanHillard HighRoad, raises some interesting points in “How Facebook Can Save Face”).

Because yes, Facebook has an attractive user base. One that’s hard to ignore.

But instead of just going back to the well, maybe content creators should try to learn some new tricks.

Enter Reddit for content marketing.

“The newsroom finally has a place on Reddit,” writes AdAge journalist Garret Sloane, in an article announcing The Washington Post’s new profile page on the site.

In October 2017, Reddit and TIME Magazine teamed up on a new editorial partnership.

In January, Boston’s NPR news station WBUR premiered a brand new podcast in partnership with Reddit.

These (along with others like National Geographic) mark the first in a foray of content creators taking advantage of Reddit’s new profile page.

Reddit for Content Marketing in Context

Reddit’s popularity has never been in doubt. It is the sixth most trafficked site in the world. Number four in the United States.

This content-focused move (publishers cozying up to Reddit) makes sense, and it’s exciting (I may need to get out more), but it is a bit of a departure from the norm for Reddit.

Since its inception in 2005, the (discussion website? social aggregator?) so-called front-page of the internet has intrigued, yet confounded publishers and, well, anyone that has a marketing agenda.

Now, Reddit considers itself a full-fledged editorial tool.

From Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian:

We want to generate a flywheel of engagement. My favorite example is a New York Times story on prison reform.

This reporter wrote the story, then got involved in the discussion on Reddit, then wrote another story for the Times about the conversation he had.

We’re not just sending these media sites traffic. We’re helping them come up with new stories.

But it’s more than that.

Remember, way back up at the top of this opus, when we were theorizing how Facebook and publishers could get together to talk about their great ideas for paving a way to the future of content marketing?

That’s just it. It was a theory.

Don’t get me wrong; Facebook has many teams in place to help marketers and publishers spend more money on their platform.

But that’s not optimizing what your users love about the platform and identifying ways to include content creators in the mix.

It’s capitalizing on a captive audience and monetizing them.

That’s enabling. Facilitating.

It’s not a bad thing. It’s a business thing, and a toolset to weave into your paid tactics.

What is Reddit doing?

Innovating around the shared, owned, and earned tactics.

Reddit for Content Marketing: Taking Action

Reddit is taking an active role during this time of confusion for content creators.

When it comes to working with publishers, Reddit has created a dedicated media partnerships team and hired a head of journalism and media.

The organization is on a mission to strengthen ties between content marketers and the Reddit community, not just because it’s a cool thing to do, but because Reddit saw an opportunity.

That said, let’s not sit back and criticize the prioritization and algorithmic adaptations designed to bring the social back to Facebook. That’s what users apparently want.

Instead, let’s spread the love and embrace what each platform has to offer.

Reddit for Content Marketing: An Opening

Why focus on content marketers (and content creators)?

Because the organization saw an opening. It knows it can provide content marketers and publishers with new, better ways to connect directly with their readers.

Not with ads or targeted campaigns. But by asking the creators how they can work together.

Reddit has partnered with a company called CrowdTangle to “help journalists stay on top of what’s trending before it hits the front page and enable publishers to measure how they’re performing on Reddit.”

In October 2017, Reddit sent their media partnerships team to the Online News Association Conference to “to meet with journalists and publishers to discuss how they can engage with Reddit to level up their reporting and readership.”

As a result, they’ve rolled out native video hosting, native video ads, and an improved self-serve ad platform (we’ll discuss advertising on Reddit in a future article).   

Not to mention their Reddit embed tool, designed so journalists and media can more easily cite and credit their Reddit-based sources.

The moral?

I used to look at Reddit as the scrappy startup that built the wild-west of content aggregation, and that was, frankly, successful for reasons I couldn’t fathom.

Now?

They’re the scrappy startup that built the wild-west of content aggregation that was successful because they like to innovate, and because they built engagement and transparency into the platform’s DNA.

The Reddit Mission

Fans aren’t on the platform to be “social.” They aren’t, typically, following their friends and posting photos of their lives.

Reddit’s mission:

Reddit bridges communities and individuals with ideas, the latest digital trends, and breaking news (…okay, and maybe cats).

Our mission is to help people discover places where they can be their true selves, and empower our community to flourish.

The mission of Facebook:

The Facebook mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.

People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.

How does that translate?

IMO (which, as I’ve said before, most certainly does not reflect the opinions of the Spin Sucks Community), Redditors are all about being who they are.

Facebook users: they’re about perception. Showing the world the profile they want them to see.

Reddit for Content Marketing: What’s the Key?

Like Facebook, there’s no arguing that Reddit has an appealing audience.

(1.6+ billion unique users, primarily male, 18-34, with a 25 percent bounce rate, who spend an average of 15+ minutes on the site)

Unlike Facebook, Reddit isn’t cluttered (yet) with advertising, and it built traffic and engagement around discussion-forum-style content.

In other words: Facebook is populated with users. Reddit is rife with fans. Passionate, active fans.

Facebook users flocked to the platform because, well, everyone else was. Flocking. It was easy. It is and was social and fun.

Reddit isn’t easy. Its fans expect transparency and honesty and, in theory, that can work. It’s not easy, but it can work.

The key: Be yourself. Be more of yourself.

You’re a content creator. Redditors love content. But don’t push it at them, engage with them. Participate, adapt and innovate with them.

Reddit for Content Marketing: A Case Study

The Washington Post is a Shorty Awards finalist in the “Emerging Platform” category for its efforts on Reddit.

The publisher’s underlying premise for its Reddit strategy? What if a news organization operated online like a creator?

The Post believes that Reddit users are a highly engaged audience that cares about long-form, deep journalism, as indicated by successful AMA sessions with our national security team, our foreign correspondents who have spent time in North Korea and Russia and the investigative team responsible for covering Roy Moore’s campaign.

And in recognizing that discussions about Post journalism already happen without us on Reddit, we provide new context to our work on Reddit that provides the reader a better understanding of our work, and more value beyond what they read in our pages.

The results:

Since debuting on Reddit, The Post has become one of the most-shared news organizations on the site, and has built up a reputation that’s so responsive to its readers, random users constantly tag us in news tips or interesting stories they find.

Karma is the only currency that matters on Reddit, and The Post has racked up hundreds and thousands of karma less than a year on the site.

Reddit users have given us enough “gold” for comments (paid as donations to support Reddit) to last us until 2023, and it has twice won “Best Comment of the Day” on Reddit.

Our Reddit presence was a finalist in the WAN-IFRA Digital Media Awards for “Best in Social Media.”

The result of our presence is best encapsulated by this exchange between two Reddit users. One said, “Today I learned Washington Post has a Reddit account?” Another user responded, “Be careful. They know how to use it.”

Winning on Reddit

The interesting thing?

The Washington Post and its efforts on Reddit stood out amidst the other Shorty Awards finalists and campaigns.

Why?

Because it wasn’t a campaign. It wasn’t a particular brand promotion done well on a platform.

They are content creators participating on a platform. They’re winning because “they know how to use it.”

Reddit: The Double-edged Sword

The whole “double-edged sword” idiom means something cuts both ways.

It can have both favorable and unfavorable consequences.

There’s another way of interpreting it: two is better than one.

The best part about Reddit is also the scariest.

Its fanbase (let’s leave user base to Facebook) can be trollish. That’s not bad, in and of itself. It’s a consideration. Something to think about.

It’s why brands and publishers have to “know how to use it.” And even then, it can be tough.

The “how” isn’t foolproof. Be honest and transparent in your content creation. Engage with your audience. No problem, right?

Riiiiight

From a PR perspective, Reddit can be risky.

Take game maker Electronic Arts (EA).

In late 2017, the video game publisher launched the second iteration of Star Wars Battlefront.

Users quickly found out that there was a hitch. The game blocked players from using certain characters immediately.

Fans hit the subreddit to voice their dissatisfaction.

EA, rightly and responsibly, responded. The company was listening.

They did what they thought was right, and engaged their fans where they lived (/r/gaming is one of the most popular subreddits on the platform with 17 million+ subscribers).

Good, right?

Headlines:

Damned if You Do…

EA did everything right (well except, perhaps, for developing the game that way), and paid for it.

Now, in the big picture, this isn’t necessarily the worst thing.

Gamers on Reddit are notoriously outspoken. Star Wars gamers even more so.

The results (or a like-minded, far-reduced, facsimile of those results): expected.

Double-edged sword.

Note: the video game publisher changed the requirements to unlock the players. They have a crazy-engaged community they can engage with (at their peril), and they have a ton of feedback with which to create content going forward.

Reddit for Content Marketing: the Takeaway

Reddit for content creators and publishers is a relatively new concept.

It’s not the silver bullet in your content strategy arsenal. It’s another tool (weapon?).

The best part? Where previously the organization tended to ignore content promotion, now Reddit wants this to happen.

“Imagine being invited to a dinner table where people are all discussing an article you wrote,” says Alexis Ohanian about how publishers should look at Reddit. “How would you engage with them? This is exactly how you should think about engaging on Reddit.”

Ohanian goes on to discuss the future of content and media in general:

A lot of content sites are going to struggle unless they’re providing the kind of expertise or long-lead-researched content that a billion disparate people can’t logistically do.

That’s where I think the future of the media industry is headed, those niche dimensions of news that are vital to a functioning democracy, but not the tempting clickbait that’s just derivative of an article someone already wrote on Reddit.

Reddit and the Business of Content

From Alexandra Riccomini, the site’s first director of business development and media partnerships:

I’m starting to feel like we’re making inroads. How we function, necessarily, is with third parties.

I’d love to see our continued march toward becoming one of those platforms that’s top of mind for publishers.

This is just the start. We’re just heading down this road.

Reddit isn’t top of mind for content creators, yet, but nor are Facebook or Twitter anymore.

The key is experimentation. Engagement. New ways to add value to our content.

I’m excited!

This is the first part of an exploration of Reddit. 

An introduction that peeks into the potential of the platform. 

Watch for future segments addressing specific tools and tactics that will make Reddit a realistic part of your content strategy.

About Mike Connell


Mike Connell is the director of client services at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. He is also a contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks, the leading source for modern PR training, trends, and insights. Find more of Mike's musings on his blog, Communative. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

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