Rules for Reddit: B2B intro to the world’s most influential discussion forums

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Your boss or your client wants to run a new B2B marketing campaign. And try some new things. And they’ve heard Reddit is big. What do you do? Start here.

First of all, is it big? Yes. Nothing major happens on the web without Reddit noticing. That may seem like a grandiose statement, but it’s true. The figures are staggering: 5.2 billion monthly page views, 115 million uniques. But that doesnt make it a marketer’s paradise.

So yes, Reddit is big. But … what is it exactly? Founded in 2005, acquired by Conde Nast in 2006, Reddit is a website where you post news stories, forum discussions and other content. Yup, you got it. That’s it. Redditors upvote (like) and downvote (dislike) those posts. Posts with many upvotes get a lot of traffic. These are the primary activities (aside from commenting and AMAs and the whole pizza thing but we’ll get into that) that occur on Reddit. Like chess or bridge: the rules are simple, mastery almost impossible.

Getting upvoted to the top of Reddit was once the Nobel Prize of the internet. The site’s dominance has waned slightly as its corporate parent tries to establish a vision and business model, and that is no longer the case, but it still pushes a lot of influence.

Why? Reddit is a gateway between the web’s Wild West seamy underbelly, full of rumour, vendettas and wounded adolescent hacker egos populating sites like 4chan and imgur and various Twitterhoods, and its corporate manicured surface. It’s a thoroughfare where the web’s edgecases mingle uneasily with deft PR practitioners.

There’s nowhere else quite like it; an anarchic freeform venue for passionate free expression owned by the most legendary brand in publishing. As a result of this combination (although the two brands rarely actually mix), it is the breeding ground for many of the memes and stories (and myths) that ripple across Twitter and social media and fleetingly grab the attention of the world. The eye of Reddit is a powerful thing; it can mean massive amounts of attention and traffic.

So how to make sense of Reddit? We can use Game of Thrones content and discussion to illustrate how the internet conversation matures:

– fans go to HBO’s site for original content
– then talk about the book on discussion forums
– talk about the show on Twitter while it is on
– formulate epic discussion threads on Reddit that go deep into academic-quality semantic deconstructions, hypothesize exhaustively on upcoming developments, and catalogue meaningful conversations or tidbits found elsewhere.

Rumours about the next books or next season will migrate to gain traction there. More than just a message board, ideas live and get discussed on Reddit and its mix of literary and hacker cultures has created an intellectual “anythingcouldhappen” vibrancy rare online – or anywhere.

More than anything else Reddit is a very passionate community, with extremely diverse composition: 4channers, the opinionated, Bill Murray, academics, the curious, the conspiracy theorist, the literary conspiracy theorist, Bill Gates, the insomniac and the bored. That community has made Reddit one of the institutions of the internet. And anything goes. With one exception ….

Marketing.

It’s not that Conde Nast is against marketing on Reddit. They’ve got ads now. It’s that Reddit is the community, and Reddit is anti-promotion within the community. Uncompromisingly so. Conde Nast gingerly started testing ads and business content, and a Wikipedia-style fundraising campaign is underway, an unusual move for a for-profit property. But virtually any kind of self-promotion on Reddit will result in an almost immediate ban. Great content is rewarded, promotional content is expelled.

So do you invest? Is there a place for B2B marketers on Reddit? [Editor’s note: Read our next article for tips on navigating Reddit as a B2B marketer coming next week]

Here are some basics that will orient you before you visit.

What is a meme: a meme is an idea or concept transmitted digitally that reflects an element of culture or subculture. A meme can literally be anything: see fleek, Doge, I can haz cheezeburger and granddaddy all your base is belong to us as random, meaningless concepts that nonetheless became memes millions now share. See: meme catalog

What’s an AMA: AMA stands for ask me anything. For a specified time period Reddit users can ask someone anything, and we do mean anything. Anything can happen. Reddit loves Bill Murray, so Bill Murray’s AMA was a thing of beauty. Woody Harrelson had it tougher. These guys … Ouch. AMAs can be one of the few ways to get a B2B conversation going on Reddit, but beware of hecklers, low participation and unwanted attention. Unless you’re likethis guy. And he’s got some serious tech and community creds.

What is the Reddit pizza thing? A loved Reddit tradition is RAOP or Random Acts of Pizza. Just about what it sounds, Reddit sends pizza to people who need it.

What are 4chan and 8chan and imgur? Digital subculture sites. If your corporate blog is Uzbekistan (come on, be honest) and Facebook is Manhattan/Shanghai, 4chan etc is the dark narrow alleys of Tokyo and Beijing and New York and the early morning raves of London and university dorms all over the world. Reddit makes the connections.

So now you understand the Reddit basics. Despite our examples of the high bar for success, and warnings, B2B marketer, you still want to press on and market on Reddit? You’re a brave one.

Next: 9 things B2B marketers need to know about Reddit.

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Jennifer Evans

Jennifer Evans

President at B2B News Network
President, @B2BNewsnetwork (launched Nov 2014). Content, community and analytics obsessed. Inventor @squeezecmm. Past chair, @itac_online @whiteribbon
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