Note: This is a guest post by Samuel J. Scott, a contributing writer for Wakefly and publisher of the Considerations blog.
When one thinks of social-media marketing (SMM), three websites usually come to mind: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. But there is another overlooked site that can often deliver even more Internet traffic than the so-called “Big Three.”
Reddit is extremely similar to Digg — which happens to be losing traffic after a poorly-received revamp — in that users submit articles that are then ranked “up” or “down” by the users of the websites, and the top vote-getters make it top of each category or even the main page of the site. But unlike Digg, the newer website does not seem to be reportedly effected by vote collusion (see here and here).
Large groups of Digg users would allegedly enter into agreements with each other in that they would vote “up” each other’s submissions (in non-competing categories or forums, of course). As a result, the articles submitted by these users — usually their own — would reach the front page and attract a great deal of online traffic. Websites submitted by the Average Joe User, though, would rarely make it to the top of the digital pack. It is spamming by another name.
But there is a way for online publishers to use Reddit in a way that is not spam and actually benefits both the community and themselves. For example, I noticed a few days ago that some of my referring traffic had come from Reddit. I had never heard of the site, so I took a look. And I was immediately impressed.
So, as a test, I decided to submit another blog post of mine to the “Men’s Rights” category on the difficulties facing modern men in the dating world (as a former journalist, I cover topics ranging from economics to Middle Eastern politics to dating to culture). At the time of writing, I had garnered the following results: 95 points (150 “up” votes and 55 “down” ones); a presence at the top of the category over several days; and 1,805 visits from Reddit on only that post (as of the time of writing). According to Google Analytics, 58 percent of my Adsense revenue has come from visitors from Reddit so far this month.
Now, as an professional blogger myself, I can predict the first thought of anyone reading this article: “Great! I’ll submit all of my content to Reddit and make millions!” But, not so fast. There is a right way and a wrong way to do this. The general principles that apply generally to online marketing — and specifically to SMM — also apply to Reddit.
1. Know your motivation.
If you look at Reddit and think that it will be an easy way to submit numerous links and gain traffic, you will fail. A quick perusal of the website makes it clear that spammers are not tolerated. The users will vote “down” such links, the articles may be “hidden” by moderators, and the users may be banned outright. Online publishers are explicitly discouraged from submitting their own content too often.
The purpose of social-media websites like Reddit — apart from garnering profits from the shareholders — is to foster community through the discussion of various topics. Those who will be successful are those who help to build the community. (The inbound traffic is merely an indirect benefit.)
With this in mind, I submitted a few additional links and then followed the discussions. In Reddit, every submitted article has an associated, extensive thread of reactions and votes. For each article from my blog sent to various categories, I addressed questions posed by Reddit members in each thread and responded to dissenting opinions. In short, I became more than just an author and submitter. I was a participant. By fostering more interest and discussion, I helped to build the community and ultimately created more incentives to click on each article’s link. But, again, the community is what is important. Never forget this rule. I gained more statisfaction from getting feedback on my posts than I did from the increased traffic.
2. Write quality headlines.
As a former Boston newspaper reporter and editor, I would like to think that I have a knack for writing good headlines. After all, a publication’s top headline on Page 1 or the cover is aimed to get people to buy the paper, and the headline on each individual article is meant to get people to read that item.
Now, in the age of Internet marketing, the goal has shifted towards including as many high-traffic keywords in a headline as possible in order to get hits from search engines. But this strategy will not work on sites like Reddit. The site’s users see hundreds of links each day, and those that attract their attention are those that appeal to flesh-and-blood motivations rather than those of robotic search engines. So, describe the content in both a provocative and accurate manner. When trying to get humans to click on a link, use practices that motivate humans rather than search engines.
Still, it is important not to appeal to base motivations like, “Hey, Reddit users, what do you think about XXX?” This is the method of a spammer. Imagine that you are a newspaper editor who is trying to get people to buy his newspaper out of the many available in a local store.
Write the best content possible, and then attach the best headline possible — one that is both provocative and accurate.
3. Participate in the community as actively as possible.
This is a point that bears repeating all unto itself. Submit only quality, original content, follow any resulting discussion, and particpate in the thread.
The beauty of social-media websites — as opposed to one-way media like newspapers and magazines — is that people interact and thereby help each other. By submitting, reviewing, and commenting on interesting content, social-website users can foster important discussions on the issues of the day — or even laugh over debating hobbies and the latest movies.
Reddit has a category for almost everything — and almost every type of content on the Web. Your B2C or B2B business blog and website surely caters to a niche, and a search of Reddit’s categories will likely reveal something useful. Just do not — DO NOT — become a spammer.