How to Use Reddit to Grow Your Business

Last time we took a look at Twitter and ways to use it to help enhance our social networking camp­aigns. The technology world has other great tools at its disposal: one such tool is Reddit. The consensus, however, has not solidified about its marketing usefulness. Our analysis must begin by laying out the three following questions:

  1. What exactly is Reddit and how does it work?
  2. How do we corral the Reddit beast?
  3. What are some of the drawbacks?

The easiest way to ex­plain what Reddit is by comparing it to something that you perhaps learned in middle school social studies: Meritocracy.

(Image Courtesy of commons.wikipedia.org: Nichalp)

Meritocracy can be thought of as a human pyramid. The base is the majority and its efforts are focused on bringing its most talented and gifted members to prominence.

The meritoc­ratic concept is something which is inherent in functioning democracies. It can best described as the belief that the most deserving people in society-by virtue of their hard work- should be rewarded.  This is not to say that everyone else is not worthy of our attention, but rather to note that societies have, but only so many resources at their disposal. The meritocratic concept flatly lays out that we must focus our society’s attention and resources on only those who have earned it. Reddit it takes it’s responsi­bilities as a web curator seriously. It has even been publicly quoted as saying that it is the internet’s only true democracy. Its contributors are consistently evaluated and are either rewarded or punished according to the whims of other Reddit users. Let’s, however, postpone discussing the negatives for a brief moment. I want to discuss ways that we can use Reddit to our advantage.

How does Reddit work?

Before telling you how, we must first look at the why. I will go out on a limb here; Reddit is perhaps the web’s most powerful traffic generator. It has even been shown on occasion to have a near catastrophic effect on servers, as people rush to view trending content. Some have aptly compared this to a DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack, for its overwhelming size, incessant strength, and shear ability to collapse content accessibility. Reddit users submit stories and then vote them to prominence within their specific groups.

Reddit’s voting is fast and easy! Image courtesy of Flickr user Bull3THughes

As stories climb they then receive even more votes, leading to greater traffic, as people rush to check out the hottest new story. James Davenport in a gem of a blog post graphed its impact. He published an earlier article regarding Starbucks and the chains store building patterns, which went viral, in part due to its high ranking on Reddit. The most interesting part of his account is not that he had a massive traffic surge, but rather that this extra one time traffic resulted in a substantial growth in his following, which was measura­ble in his blogs mailing lists and comments. The question now that we must ask ourselves is:

How are we to harness this effect?

The first thing that must be made clear is that using Redditt is the internet version of high stakes poker. The winnings that come in the form of incredible, instantaneous, growth in web traffic are tantalizing; but the potential for loss is also massive. This dynamic having been clearly stated, lets lay now go ahead and layout what a Reddit content push strategy should look like.

Our first step should be to create an account which does not blatantly advertise our site. In the event that you did not fully capture the significance of what I just mentioned, let me make it a whole lot clearer: If your site is called cats.com, do not give your username any hint of the word cat. Fret not, for we will talk about why this must be done in the next section. Once your account has been created, you must maintain a Ratio of about 30 to 1, between your’ content and the content of others, that you share. Ideally this should be enough padding to protect you from being accused of spamming, while also ensuring that you only share your best content. Using Reddit for only your best content increases the likelihood of it going viral. This may sound all so simple and amazing, but Reddit has a nasty downside to it.

What are Reddit’s Drawbacks?

The downside of Reddit is that it is ridiculously unforgiving and some say even downright vindictive. Reddit uses something called “Ghost Banning” to punish its wayward followers. This is in my opinion, worse than being banned outright. Ghost banning means that you will be able to post content to Reddit, but in a cruel twist of fate, the content will never, ever, be shared. It is sinfully effective, in that you are still being used for their data and user counts, but have been effectively stripped of all use of the site. Members, who are ghost banned, have been known to go months before figuring out that they have lost access to Reddit’s services.

(This is usually the only notice that banned users will get. Image courtesy of itechcode.com.)

It does not, however end there, Reddit also bans in a much more sinister ways. They have been known to even bar ISP addresses, meaning that you are not merely able to change user accounts. That in Reddit’s eyes would be the equivalent of allowing you to walk away with the proverbial “slap on the wrist.” This means that deleting an account will not clear your ban, and just in case you thought that simply switching ISP were enough, then think again. Reddit goes a whole lot further in its efforts to punish in that it bans whole websites. There have been well documented reports in which well-known and established sites, such as the Huffington Post and CNN, have been banned by Reddit. This is not to say that Reddit has little value, but rather to remind ourselves that the juice may or may not be worth the squeeze. As always we are interested to hear what your thoughts are.

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  1. […] Content entries are organized by areas of interest called “subreddits”. A blogger named Micah has made a good discussion on how Reddit works and how to use it to grow your […]