Reddit: The Incubator Of Viral Brand Stories
Reddit is an incubator of stories. How do stories about some companies, both positive and negative, seem to crop up out of nowhere and suddenly become part of the collective consciousness?
Where do these stories originate, and how do they spread so fast and so far?
To go truly viral a story needs an incubator to launch it. One of the most powerful is Reddit: A social news site with 3 million unique visitors per day.
How does Reddit work?
The basic premise is that users link to content – news articles, pictures, videos, etc. – and other users up-vote, down-vote and comment on it.
The pieces of content that get the most up-votes and comments are pushed to the front page of the site, where users spend most of their average 17 minutes per visit.
Brands get a fair share of the spotlight – usually because of controversial corporate decisions and over-the-top customer service interaction or popular corporate decisions.
Those ideas and stories that get the most attention ultimately end up as memes, which are the cultural currency of the Internet. Memes can just as easily celebrate something as ridicule it. They often reference previous memes, and evolve over time.
Nickelodeon was celebrated in the ‘Good Guy Nickelodeon’ meme for playing the television programs that its viewers really wanted to see:
Conversely, Chevy was ridiculed with the ‘Scumbag Chevy’ meme (the brown baseball cap on the references an earlier popular meme – Scumbag Steve) for adopting a slogan perceived as hypocritical after accepting a government bailout.
The community has even started boycott campaigns against the most offensive companies. This happened to GoDaddy twice: Once when their CEO was seen shooting elephants in Africa and again when they were found to be supporting SOPA.
The latter resulted in Domain Migration Day on Dec. 29th, 2011 in which thousands of GoDaddy users dropped the companies hosting services in protest.
LGBT rights are big on Reddit. Two companies have gotten glowing reviews from Reddit for pro-LGBT marketing campaigns: Oreo and J.C. Penney.
Oreo’s simple marketing campaign to promote Gay Pride Day reached the top of Reddit amid positive comments. This is the promotional image that caused such a stir:
J.C. Penney received the same treatment by hiring (and retaining) Ellen DeGeneres as their spokesperson amid a backlash from groups such as One Million Moms (who get no love on Reddit).
Reddit has a history of operating like a hive mind – once a consensus is reached by a few hundred users (a very small percentage), the whole community historically will jump on board (at least until a popular counter-opinion is reached the next day).
This is what makes it so easy for stories to spread as its community pushes the shared opinion through more mainstream social networks like Facebook and Twitter, where it gains more widespread traction.
Once an idea blossoms on these networks it gains recognition on popular social media blogs like Mashable before being written about in more established publications like Time and Newsweek under the context of a “social phenomenon”.
The community is swift in doling out its opinion and extremely influential. The activity of just a few users can amplify a story and begin this process.
What Can You Do?
The perceived fickleness of the Reddit community has meant that companies have been hesitant to jump into Reddit, unlike Pinterest and Instagram which they’ve taken to in droves. However if you spend a little time on Reddit you start to understand what turns the community on, and start thinking about how your company can utilize Reddit.
Here are a few points to get you started:
Anyone can post a link on Reddit: Make one about something innovative your company is doing or one asking for feedback on something new.
- Do not post about how you’re helping charities or non-profits as this will only seem like insincere PR and will be received negatively by the community.
- Ironic, self-deprecating humor often resonates best – if you’re willing to poke fun at yourself it will show the community a very human side of your company that they crave.
- Offer exceptional customer service: Many glowing reviews and excerpts from customer service interactions have been posted and received mass attention and positive reviews
- Think about doing an AMAA (Ask Me Almost Anything): This creates a simple question & answer thread. Users love to be able to talk to a real person who works at a large company that has some effect on their life. But make sure not to do an AMA (Ask Me Anything) or else users will expect you to answer every question that is asked, no matter what. Doing an AMAA gives you a free pass to avoid more embarrassing questions.
- Redditors are extremely insightful and analytical – often going to extremes to find out the truth about a published story or product. If you are going to interact with the community make sure that you are 100% transparent or you will see repercussions. Think of it like talking to your family at Thanksgiving.
- BE CAREFUL: Make sure that your team is well-versed in the norms of the online community before you even think of dipping your toe in. If you don’t play by the community rules (both explicit and implicit) they will publish you for it.
Good luck with your Redditing!
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