What Is Reddit and Why Should Your Business Care About It?

Lance Concannon Lance Concannon, Marketing Director, Europe

When people think of the most visited websites in the United States they usually think of sites like Facebook, Amazon, Google, Youtube, Wikipedia, and other perennial favorites.

But among the top ten is a website that, despite its popularity, many people know very little about. This site is Reddit and its growing popularity for over a decade is perfectly summed up in the company’s motto – ‘the front page of the internet’. So what exactly is Reddit? And why should marketers care about it?

Forums: A Trip Down Memory Lane

At its simplest Reddit is really just a good old-fashioned discussion forum. The site operates in much the same way as other forums in that it allows discussions to be started by posting a topic, question, or piece of content and then people respond by adding comments underneath in a conversation thread. And it’s in these threads where the real value of the site can be found – the discussion, jokes, insight and camaraderie amongst Reddit community members really is something special.

There are some features to Reddit that blur the lines between bulletin board, news aggregator, content rating site, and discussion site, which help to create its unique magic, but for the most part Reddit is just a modern and very popular forum.

What truly makes Reddit unique though is its governance, or rather lack thereof. Reddit is mostly a self-governing body policed by its users, with few restrictions on what people can post or discuss. Anyone can sign up, post, view, comment, rate, direct message, create new communities, follow groups, follow users, and many other actions without anything except a login. In truth even a login isn’t required if all you want to do is lurk and consume content without engaging.

Reddit for Business Use: We’re Serious

Despite its enormous popularity, Reddit has largely escaped the attention of businesses. While other sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have long been the battleground of businesses vying for relevance in a social media dominated world, many businesses shun Reddit either because they don’t understand it’s potential or perceive involvement with it as not worth the risk and resources. At present, businesses involvement in the site is limited to banner advertising and running Q&A sessions in relevant subreddits as a PR activity. But there’s a lot more potential waiting to be tapped.

Beware: For Brands Reddit Is Nothing Like Other Social Channels

In its own native form, Reddit is a network that has more risk than reward for uneducated businesses looking to dive right in, create a profile, and start engaging with other users. Doing so would probably make a business realize immediately that Reddit users do not look favorably upon corporate influence into Reddit communities.

The unwritten Reddit values of self-governance, individuality, and non-corporate influence are held extremely highly by its user base and involvement by businesses usually results in the Reddit equivalent of a death sentence; aka being banned.

While you can easily find lots of marketing articles on ‘Brands Who Rocked it on Reddit’ or ‘Ten Tips to Marketing Your Brand On Reddit’, remember that you’re only reading about the times they got it right, and few brands are likely to tell you much about all the times they got it wrong. As with any marketing activity, there’s a learning curve and it often takes a little experimentation so it’s a good idea to start off with baby steps.

With that said, let’s look at starting out with Reddit as a data source for research instead of a place to be actively engaged on right away. The value Reddit brings due to its nature as a repository for candid and authentic conversations on every topic imaginable is where its immediate and possibly greater value lies for business.

Slow Down: Consider Reddit as a Data Source

The safest and simplest way to test the waters is to resist the temptation to actively engage on Reddit and instead consider it as a data source for mining insights. Sounds boring, but Reddit’s fringe popularity with businesses, combined with its extreme popularity with the general public and, most importantly, the endless amount of communities it has organized around very niche topics make it a massive untapped gold mine for business research.

The Reddit user interface can be quite unfriendly for business research purposes and unfortunately there isn’t a business Facebook native analytics equivalent. Due to the lack of features for advanced searching and filtering, no business analytics or visualizations, and hard to read thread formats, business research natively on Reddit is extremely challenging. And while there are plenty of Reddit web apps that have one off features like user searches, or subreddit searches, or user statistics,  many still lack a full user interface meant for business analytics and, more importantly, one that has other data sources integrated into it for comparisons.

To effectively do business research on Reddit, you need to consider using a social analytics solution that has invested in Reddit as one of its integrated data sources. Even in the world of social media analytics solutions Reddit data is rare. If you are a Sysomos customer though, the good news is you’ve always had Reddit as a data source in our Search product. But what’s even better now is that Sysomos has recently entered into a partnership to provide unmatched access to Reddit data for our customers. Combine this expanded Reddit data access with Sysomos’ industry leading analytics platform, and all of a sudden business research on Reddit becomes realistic and easy to do. Read the official release here.