A client recently came across a relevant industry discussion on Reddit and wondered why its brand name was not mentioned.
At first the answer seems apparent, given that Reddit relies on user-generated content that, for the most part, cannot be controlled. But that got us thinking: Is Reddit, the online community powered by users, a viable place for PR pros to promote brand awareness for clients?
In case you haven’t dealt much with Reddit, it’s huge in terms of Internet platforms. The site describes itself as “a source for what’s new and popular on the web.” Users are responsible for providing all the content and identifying what’s interesting and what isn’t. They share tidbits from all over the Internet on the social platform—images, stories, and more. Users then comment or vote to promote content they find most appealing, which then has a chance of landing on the site’s front page for maximum viewership.
Reddit is wildly popular with users, but for many PR pros it is largely unchartered territory for promoting a brand. We came across an interesting article
in the November 2013 issue of PR Week
, which pitted two thought leaders against each other on the question: “Should brands embrace Reddit as they diversify their digital outreach?” The article highlights the opposing views regarding whether Reddit is a viable tool for PR and marketing purposes.
In the first view, the answer is an obvious yes. Reddit has definite value. With an audience of 85,901,746 unique visitors per month from more than 185 countries, the question is, why wouldn’t
you want to tap into that market? The numbers showcase how Reddit can be an extremely successful platform for promoting a brand.
A successful post holds huge potential for generating online interest. The site includes hundreds of topics and subtopics relevant to a wide variety of interests. Commenting with unique insight on posts can gain you votes, upping the chances that your content will be read and shared and might even end up on the main page—where it will spread everywhere.
The opposing view, however, notes that there is little tolerance for commercial content among Reddit users. The site thrives on non-promotional, non-editorialized material. In general, the site’s users are sensitive to brand promotion and will immediately reject content that’s blatantly promotional. From this standpoint, Reddit is just not the place for brand messaging.
A brand butting in with self-promoting content on Reddit can ruin conversations. Promoting a client could therefore backfire and bring negative sentiment to a brand. What’s worse than posting obviously promotional content is trying to pass it off as non-promotional—a move that can ruin your Reddit reputation for good. As the PR Week
article notes, Reddit is an “earned channel.”
You cannot control your image as you can on other social media outlets, such as Facebook or Twitter, which makes using the site for PR purposes risky.
So, can PR pros effectively use Reddit in their outreach for clients? It’s a tough question. Reddit can’t be ignored—it’s an extremely powerful platform with a wide and varied audience. At the same time, you can’t treat it like any other social network. You can’t just jump out there with a bunch of promotional content; you have to start small and gain respect first.
Once you’ve built a reputation, you can consider contributed posts geared more toward brand awareness and generating site traffic. Even then, do so with extreme caution—and always be sure to disclose the full relationship.
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Sharing messages should be done sparingly and only when the content offers genuine benefit to the site’s users. Posts must be exciting, genuinely interesting, or clever. Spamming will only get you booted. For the most part, PR pros should likely stick to using Reddit mainly to monitor conversations relevant to a client’s industry or interests.
Those with big-name clients might find value in hosting “Ask Me Anything” sessions, in which users participate in Q&A sessions with brand executives. No matter how you use the site, always stick to its guidelines—its Reddiquette
Think of using Reddit like entering someone’s home. That’s exactly what it is—home to millions of diverse users who are very protective of their community. Keep this in mind every time you log on, and be sure to wipe your feet at the door.
A version of this story originally appeared on Communiqué PR's blog.