SXSW: The marketer’s guide to Reddit

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Most of the marketing on Reddit sucks. It’s spammy or sleazy or plain embarrassing.

Rohit Thawani

That’s why Rohit Thawani, director of digital strategy at TBWA\Chiat\Day, and Garrett Tillman, senior social media manager at Trulia, are holding a session called, “Reddit: You’re doing it Wrong,” Monday at South by South West in Austin, Texas.

Thawani said he and Tillman were inspired by the “embarrassing, cringe-worthy things that have taken place on Reddit at the hands of marketers” and wanted to offer advice, as both are redditors themselves.

“We want to stop everyone from embarrassing themselves and make the Reddit space friendly for marketers and productive for them – while not ruining it,” he said.

Ahead of the talk, Thawani spoke with Marketing about what marketers should be doing on Reddit.

Be transparent and honest

Reddit is an anonymous community. Identifying another user is actually against the terms of service of the site. But don’t expect the same standards applied to brands.

Thawani said Reddit users expect marketers to be completely upfront about what they’re doing on Reddit and who is speaking for their brand. “If what you’re doing is completely transparent and believable, that’s the first handshake,” he said. “It’s crucial.”

Add value

Reddit works on a system of Karma. Posts and comments are voted up or down based on how relevant, entertaining and informative they are. Quality of conversation is pushed up, so it’s important to remember to add something on Reddit, not just ride the coattails of what’s already there.

“If you can add to a conversation or create a post that enhances what’s happening on Reddit and it’s not seen as pure marketing, then that creates a chance for an open dialogue with the people and Reddit and do something more authentic,” Thawani said.

Lurk first

Reading Reddit can teach brands the ropes and prepare them to market on the site, but it’s also a vast, free research tool. Thawani said marketers should search their brand’s name daily, plus their competitors.

He said he often uses it for briefs, too, as he did recently when working on a Google Maps brief, finding dozens of insights about how consumers use maps to go on vacations from their desk or repeatedly use street view before a vacation.

“Reddit is a panel of millions of people who are openly talking about your brand and things your brand is related to,” he said. “All you need to do is search for it.”

Know who you’re talking to

Reddit is a lot like a country. It has its own culture, way of talking and accepted values and norms. But like any country, it also has specific regions – sections of the site called subreddits that have cultures of their own.

For marketers, this means researching the section of the site they’re targeting before posting. “All these subreddits are evolving, changing and spidering out,” Thawani said. “You have to understand the history of a subreddit and the mindset.”

Don’t get caught up in novelties

When Reddit first registered on the mainstream consciousness, it was filled with Rage comics, Lolcats and impact font memes. While Reddit maintains a young, humorous ethos, Thawani said the “teen-Reddit humour” is a little passé and not a good fit for marketers.

“Memes can be dangerous. Rage comics can be dangerous. Even the Gangnam Style and Harlem Shakes that brands have done, by the time they get it done, it’s old,” Thawani said. “It’s important to learn what’s popular now because by the time your brand does it, there’s a good chance it’s not going to be cool anymore.”

You’re going to fail (but that’s OK)

Like any user of Reddit, brands on the site are sure to fail the first few times they post. But, like a real redditor, Thawani said brands on Reddit are also going to strike gold every now and then as long as they do it right.

He said not to worry about the first few fumbled attempts at marketing on the site. “Keep your head up,” he said. “Keep trying.”

“Just don’t ruin Reddit.”

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