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3 Important Marketing Lessons Learned from Reddit

The front page of the internet.

It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? For those who don’t recognize the slogan, it belongs to Reddit — a social news and entertainment website that allows registered users to submit content in the form of either a link or a text post. The submissions can then be voted “up” or “down” by other users, which determines the ranking of the post and its position on the site’s pages. “The front page of the internet” is a fairly appropriate moniker when you think about it, since Reddit functions much like a crowdsourced news aggregator.

We can trace Reddit’s roots back to 2005, when co-founders Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian started with just a single subreddit (category of posts): /r/ For the first few years, posts to Reddit were primarily centered around tech-friendly topics like politics, programming, gaming, and science. It wasn’t until 2008 that we started to see the Reddit that we’re familiar with today: a site full of subreddit after subreddit with a growing focus on images and video.

So what sparked this evolution from a political and technology discussion center to a popular news and entertainment community? In many ways, it was a change in the way that consumers digest content, which forced Reddit to adapt in the same way that marketers have had to adapt their strategies over the past few years. Let’s take a look at a few lessons that marketers can learn from Reddit’s continued success, despite the changing preferences and habits of their users.

The Importance of Community

One of the biggest draws of Reddit, and perhaps one of the reasons that the site has been so successful, is its community. Registered users of the site who post entries and comments are referred to as “redditors,” a mash-up of “reddit editor.” As registered users, redditors can vote for or against posts on the site, giving them the power to dictate what makes it to the front page. Redditors also have the ability to respond to conversations and friend one another, building a diverse user community that is now one of the largest on the internet.

Building a community should be one of the main goals of your marketing strategy. You should always want to encourage positive discussion around your brand, because getting people involved is what turns them into brand evangelists. There are countless ways to start building a community — you just have to find the ones that work best for your company. Try starting a weekly or monthly webinar series to get some additional face time and Q&A with prospects and clients, or consider hosting quarterly user groups. You should also be getting involved in social media, because that’s where you’ll find many of the discussions taking place around your brand.

Empower Your Consumers

Part of what gives the Reddit community its draw is the power that the site entrusts to its users. In addition to having the authority to determine submission rankings, Reddit also introduced the ability to “create your own subreddit” in 2008. Almost overnight, several subreddits sprung up dedicated solely to pictures. Within three months, a third of Reddit’s content was sorted into subreddits focused on specific topics. Giving redditors the tools to sort their own posts added another element of empowerment to the site, bringing in even more users who were intrigued by “the Reddit system.”

Marketing is also seeing a shift toward more empowered consumers, who prefer to seek out content on their own time rather than have marketing messages forced onto them. Consumers now control their own pace through the sales cycle, which means that marketers need to be taking certain steps to make the content that consumers need readily available. There are several ways to do this: include a thorough and easily accessible resources library on your site; create buyers guides that consumers can use to guide their decision making process; include customer testimonials and reviews on your site for consumers who are in the midst of the research cycle; and attend industry events and trade shows to ensure that consumers can seek you out when they’re ready to talk.

Videos and Images are Hot

Let’s take a look at the evolution of the posts that have appeared on Reddit’s front page since 2008. On January 1, 2008, only 1 of the top 100 posts was an image. Fast forward two years to January 1, 2010, when that number had grown to 27 of the top 100 posts. In 2011, we start to see bigger jumps in visual posts, with 60 of the top 100 posts being images. And one year later, in  2012, 77 of the top 100 posts were images. This means that while images only represented 1% of Reddit’s material at its inception, the site’s content now revolves around images, which represent more than 75% of their posts.

The transition toward more visual content has been readily apparent in the marketing industry as well. With the marketplace now being flooded with content, consumers are gravitating toward posts that are easier to digest, i.e. shorter and more graphics-oriented. Why spend ten minutes reading an article when they could just as easily watch a video about it, or view an infographic? For marketers, this has meant a change in content strategy. To cater to these changing preferences, make sure that you are regularly posting visual content, like helpful graphics, checklists, short videos, and infographics.

If you want to learn more about the evolution of Reddit, and see some pretty cool graphs of posts and subreddits over time, check out this article by Randal Olsen.

Are there any other parallels you can draw between Reddit and marketing? Let us know in the comments!