Opinion: When Redditors praise a brand, you can assume the affection is genuine
If you are a marketer who has resisted Reddit until now, this might be a good time to reconsider: The site recently added video advertising to the mix for select clients and received $200 million in funding, which put its valuation at $1.8 billion.
Reddit is a real internet powerhouse, and there’s probably no better platform for launching a would-be viral ad.
Despite its recent high profile, Reddit has been called one of advertising’s best-kept secrets because its fans are engaged and influential. Movements such as the push for net neutrality, the incredibly fast rise of Elizabeth Barela and stock art meme Hide the Pain Harold all went mainstream because they hit Reddit’s front page.
Reddit calls itself the front page of the internet, and if you hit its front page, you are pretty much guaranteed to rule the internet, at least for a day.
Bear in mind, though, that Reddit has always been a weird place for marketers. Back in 2006, when Condé Nast bought Reddit, I was on the team that placed the first ads on the site. We had an early success—an ad featuring an older woman’s cleavage. The ad got earned media by becoming a legitimate Reddit story. Was it a total success, however? Not quite. In fact, Redditors were mercilessly bashing the ad. They were brutal.
Since that time, I’ve steered clear of Reddit. Although the company’s recent decision is intriguing, I view the site as a sort of a black diamond for marketers: Only proceed if you’re a certified expert in social media.
But things are changing, and this video advertising opportunity should prompt marketers to give Reddit a second look. Here’s why:
Reddit’s influence is unparalleled
Reddit is one of the largest sites in the world, claiming some 250 million users. comScore, which just measures U.S. visitors, estimates that Reddit reaches about 28 million people per month, making it the 36th-most-visited site in the U.S.
While those are respectable numbers, they don’t illustrate Reddit’s real strength, which is its ability to drive the conversation.
Why not? Reddit is sort of like a real-life testbed for viral content. (Reddit got so tired of BuzzFeed stealing its content that it launched a BuzzFeed-like site called Upvoted in 2015. Reddit now uses Upvoted as a blog for its official announcements.
Redditors are tough to win over, but if you can, it’s a major victory
As my experience in the early days of the Condé Nast acquisition shows, Redditors don’t take kindly to the idea of marketers infringing on their territory. But if you’re able to penetrate the network, Reddit bestows credibility on your brand. Like New York, if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.
In general, Redditors prefer to highlight bad marketing and to use the platform to take down brands and CEOs.
Chief executives from outdoor clothing company REI and automaker Nissantried to do AMAs (an acronym for “ask me anything”) and found that the questioning turned hostile. When actor Woody Harrelson submitted to an AMA, he was lambasted for promoting his upcoming film and not honoring the agreement to answer questions about “anything.” Likewise, when Warner Bros. tried to use fake postings on Reddit to create buzz for a film, a representative from Reddit publicly shamed the studio.
Seeing these tales of woe, many marketers have opted to steer clear of Reddit and maybe just focus on making clever ads that might get some traction on the platform.
Reddit is trying to make advertising easier
In the past year or so, Reddit has made a bigger effort to woo A-list brands by creating an internal agency that creates ads to fit subReddits. This has prompted Coca-Cola, eBay and Procter & Gamble to advertise on the platform.
Reddit also helps brands find safe spaces to advertise. Airlines, for instance, can find subReddits that aren’t trashing airlines.
In addition, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian told The Wall Street Journal that the brand is looking to provide data to marketers about what Redditors are saying about their brands. Reddit could allow brands to have more authentic conversations with customers, he said.
That’s a worthy goal. Although brands can converse with their fans and critics on Facebook and Twitter, Reddit’s community and upvoting system (members can vote for comments they like, which puts them higher in the feed) means that you see a more authentic dialog on Reddit than you do anywhere else.
There are millions of sites out there, but I can’t think of many others where that’s the case.