5 Lessons We Can Learn From Reddit
If you haven’t taken the time to check out reddit.com, I would recommend you do it—but then again, you might not crawl back out for hours, so be careful. Reddit is the so-called “front page of the internet.” Like many online communities, it’s a subculture all its own: it has its own rules, standards, norms, and even slang. If you work in an office, go to college or have interacted with humans before, you’re sure to know at least a handful of “Redditors.” In fact, some estimates say they pull in 112 million users every month.
So what makes it so great? There are already plenty of content aggregates on the Internet, so what sets it apart? And better yet, as content creators, what can we learn from it?
They have an incredibly underwhelming layout, minimal ads, and Reddit itself is barely creating any of the content, but clearly people love it for something. That something: The community.
Everything on Reddit is user-submitted, and gets voted up or down (an idea that likely inspired the name of sites like “Upworthy,” as a matter of fact) by other users. If a comment doesn’t contribute to the discussion, is spammy, or something else detestable, it’s gets voted down into oblivion—and the same goes for content. The community decides what belongs on the front page and what doesn’t, and it—generally—encourages users to create and contribute things that will benefit the whole community. They’re rewarded with the imaginary currency known as “karma.”
Taking a look at just a few of the aspects that are at the core of Reddit’s DNA, here are a few takeaways that we can apply to our own sites:
Mods are the Answer
Reddit’s homepage is an aggregate of all of the top voted content on the site, from a collection of subcategories that you can tailor to your liking—they’re called subreddits. Each subreddit has a moderator, making sure that people follow the rules that have been set, and helping to solve any issues, etc.
They don’t need to be The Hunger Games’ not-so-peaceful Peacekeepers to be effective police of Reddit law. Having active moderators who simply enforce community guidelines, as you are welcome to establish and regulate on your own site or WordPress, is the first step towards a healthy online community.
A Healthy Comment Section is Possible
Nothing’s a bigger bummer than going on YouTube, just trying to watch your favorite SpongeBob clip, and seeing horrible racial slurs and bigoted, disturbingly graphic comments being thrown back and forth between users. Or directed at the YouTuber. Or the YouTuber’s mother. You don’t see much of that on Reddit.
Even comments replying to other comments are funny, build on each other, and provide helpful links and discussions that spur on something interesting even beyond the original post.
Don’t lose faith in humanity: just do what Reddit is doing with their comments: rewards and penalties that the users dictate.
The Price of a Neutral and Freely-Creative Internet? Reposting
One of the best parts about Reddit is when a funny or awkward picture surfaces online, either through the news or some other outlet, and it gets turned into a Reddit-wide joke. Redditors build on each others’ creativity and often accomplish pretty amazing feats with the help of Photoshop.
The consequence of this freedom to repurpose? Reposts: people trying to take the credit and karma for themselves. It’s something that’s going to happen as long as people are allowed to take creative liberties with other people’s material. It begs a longer discussion, but the short of it: just let it be.
The Next Viral Hit Can Be an Accident
Sometimes the things that get voted up to the top of the front page are baffling. It could be that the world is collectively in a weird mood on some mornings, or simply that someone posted something—not trying to reach the front page, but rather just for the sake of contributing something they like—and the community latches on.
We don’t have to try and be viral all the time. Posting the content that you can create in a unique and quirky way is worth posting—whether or not you think everyone will love it. Who knows, maybe they will!
But There is a Formula
The other side of that story is that Reddit can be incredibly, unabashedly predictable. Got a cute picture of your cat? Front page, my friends. If only SEO were so simple.
Formula or not, Reddit is a great place to check out new trends and get a feel for what people like these days. Often you’ll find that what you see on your Facebook feed actually started on Reddit.
TL;DR – Reddit has a lot to show content creators about what works. Check it out, and take some notes.