July 20, 2016

Does PR work on Reddit?

By

Emily Barnes

How to tackle the Wild West of a reluctant social community

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For brands, Reddit it is new and relatively unchartered territory- and for good reason.

For those who need a quick briefing, the social news networking site is a space where registered users share news, thoughts or images as either links or user-generated content, which are posted to areas of interest called “subreddits”; with topics ranging from worldnews, movies, politics and gaming (it even has a subreddit for PR pros) to more niche subreddits like the ever popular ExplainLikeImFive (does what it says on the tin). Posts can be voted up or down by other users, with the most popular content going to the front page of that subreddit and potentially of the whole site.

You might’ve seen Reddit gain traction in mainstream media; mostly thrown around in publications like The Huffington Post and Daily Mail who use the more sensational user-generated content for their own stories. The self-proclaimed “front page of the internet” is a monumental platform for discussion and content-sharing, with front-page content going way beyond Reddit’s 234 million unique users and into viral territory. Access to so many engaged users all over the world is an amazing opportunity for PRs to learn more about their clients’ demographic as well as to implement some clever campaign tactics.

But Reddit users, or ‘Redditors’, are notoriously savvy to bullshit. Reddit is fundamentally a frank and honest space that users understandably want to keep that way, and self-promotion is rejected with particular hostility. It goes without saying that employing Reddit as a brand or representative has to consider a careful, honest and informal approach.

So, how do we crack a quick-witted userbase with a reputation for pitchfork wielding scepticism of corporate activity on the site, and use Reddit productively for PR? Don’t be scared- it’s not all bad. Let’s look at how PR fits in.

1. Research

Since Reddit is essentially people talking about pretty much every topic you can think of, it’s a great go-to for looking at sentiment on a topic, brand or person- or simply learning about them.

When looking at brand sentiment, Reddit is also a great place to check on customer service- when a redditor voiced his anger at being ignored by Samsung after his phone battery melted, a rep from HTC offered to send him a brand new HTC phone on the condition that if Samsung replaced his old one, he donate it to charity. The community loved it.

The site’s structure and function make it a fantastic way to talk reach otherwise hidden, niche audiences, which can be great for pitch research, for example. Use this scope to access focus groups that would have marketers chomping at the bit, including experts and professionals as well as consumers, to impress prospective clients and keep your finger on the pulse for current ones.

2. Get involved in discussion, or start one

Bear in mind that Redditors are famously creative, witty and honest, use this to you advantage by hosting a discussion as part of your research, as part of a campaign or simply for brand awareness. Transamerica (whose reps also happened to be actual redditors)  launched a financial advice session for users in a personal finance subreddit, which went down particularly well.

3. Brand image and reputation

A go-to PR channel is an AMA (ask me anything); which is essentially an online press conference for your client that shows honesty and transparency through an informal Q&A session. Ben and Jerry (of Ben and Jerry’s, of course) even developed a new ice cream flavour as a result of theirs.  As the name suggests, the consensus is that your client can be asked anything, so be prepared and don’t push back.We’ll leave you with some friendly and cautious advice:

Think and post like a user and not like a brand

Be transparent, informal and genuine. Think like a user- from the types of questions you’re asking to the way you word your posts. Relax and strip away the buzzwords- it’s not often you feel obligated to do that in PR!

Play by the rules

Each subreddit has its own rules and guidelines for posting and commenting. Ensure you’re familiar with these, else you’ll get booted out by the mods and, if you’re really foolish, you’ll be banned.

Have a play around

As with any new platform, it’s important to explore for a while to get to grips with functionality and user culture. Non-posters are known as ‘lurkers’; get lurking, you creep. Even better, emerge from the darkness and get involved early to establish yourself on a non-business level. If you immediately jump in with your PR hat on, you’ll get thrown right back out. Take it as a warning!

And lastly, if you’ve got places to be and want a condensed version of how to use Reddit as a brand you can read its official ‘brandiquette’ guide, or, if you’re a PR or journo, the pressiquette guide is worth a read. You’re welcome.