If I were to mention Reddit to you, your mind would probably race to images of online obsessives posting ‘hilarious’ memes to something called a subreddit at two in the morning. In fairness, you’d be right. Reddit is a hotbed of the weird and not-so-wonderful of internet culture, and careful consideration should be given before diving in and posting. But Reddit’s also a powerful tool for traffic generation that can work wonders for the amplification of a content strategy. Post the right content to the right subreddit at the right time and the hits will start rolling in.
It’s not hard to see why Reddit has its aforementioned reputation. With its endless subreddits, dense jargon, and (it must be admitted) unappealing design, the site can seem more trouble than it’s worth. But look beyond the surface-level complexity and the site’s surprisingly easy to use, so it’s worthwhile taking a look at exactly what Reddit is, and what everything on it means, before exploring the benefits it can bring.
WHAT IS REDDIT?
Reddit is, quite simply, a social network, no different to Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Users sign up, submit content as either a direct link (a link with no explanatory copy to provide context) or a text post (a short post with a link added at the end), and engage in conversation with fellow users about it.
Where Reddit differs from its competitors is the ability to drill down into specific types of content. Blending the virality of social media with the structure of an online forum, Reddit features a seemingly endless array of ‘subreddits’ – sections dedicated to certain subjects. These can be very broad, or very focused, and they’re all held on URLs with the structure reddit.com/r/[topic].
For example, the subreddit for cinema is www.reddit.com/r/movies
The subreddit for the World Cup is www.reddit.com/r/worldcup
The subreddit for politics is www.reddit.com/r/politics
Once the post has been added to one of these subreddits, other users can either ‘upvote’ it (approve of it) or ‘downvote’ it (disapprove of it). These votes dictate the post’s position on a subreddit’s homepage – the more ‘upvotes’ it has, the higher it appears; the more ‘downvotes’ it has, the lower it appears. The better the content, the more ‘upvotes’ it’ll receive, the higher it'll appear on the page, the more exposure it'll receive. So a careful strategy that pays close attention to the content that’s being posted, and the place it’s being posted to, is of utmost importance.
Users can also comment on a post, as they would on Facebook or Google+, and those comments, along with the up/down votes, contribute to the poster’s link and comment karma, a points system that indicates how positively a user has contributed to the Reddit community. Though these points have no bearing on the post itself (a poster with very high link or comment karma will not see their posts placed above those with lower figures), they are a mark of the user’s authority, and could inspire others to trust the poster more and therefore be more likely to engage with their posts.
I’m a huge Steven Spielberg fan and since 2011 have run a Tumblr blog dedicated to the film-maker called From Director Steven Spielberg. Being a small site with no paid media budget behind it and limited opportunity to gain organic traction in the already-packed film blog arena, From Director Steven Spielberg is heavily reliant on social media, which was one of the deciding factors in setting up on Tumblr, where the social element is already baked in.
Twitter has been my main source of traffic for the last few years, with Facebook and Google+ playing supporting roles. Traffic has been steady, averaging around 1,200 visits per month in 2013 and rarely more than 50-60 visits per day. As is typical of Tumblr, a platform users tend to open and stay on all day, perusing page after page of the blogs they visit, time on site rate is high (3 minutes and 23 seconds) and bounce rate solid (66.92%). Decent stats, but certainly in need of boosting.
During May, I signed up to Reddit with the aim of doing just that. Posting two pieces of content at different times to different subreddits every day for the month, my aim was to work out exactly how valuable Reddit is to generating traffic to my site and whether it was worth adding it to my list of amplification platforms in the long-run. I was particularly keen to learn more about the best type, placement, and timing of content.
My attempt to work out the best type of content proved somewhat inconclusive. I had assumed that pictorial content would perform exceptionally well in the fast-paced environment of Reddit, where immediate impact is vital. However, it was the wordiest post – a link to a review of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom by the science fiction writer Alan Dean Foster – that generated the most interest, pulling in nearly 200 comments, over 120 up-votes, and nearly 1,000 site views on the day of posting.
Why did this content perform so well? Two reasons. Firstly, it was posted in the Science Fiction subreddit rather than the Movies subreddit. This proved a perfect arena thanks to Foster’s position as a sci-fi legend and the more focused nature of the subreddit. Whereas the post would have quickly disappeared on the Movies subreddit thanks to the sheer number of posts on that very general section, it found a quieter home on the less active Science Fiction area. Secondly, it provoked debate, with users not only commenting on the harshness of Foster’s review, but also giving their own opinion on the film. The combination of these two factors made for a perfect storm that resulted in a very high level of engagement.
With regards to optimal time, it’s vital to understand that while Reddit has a large global reach, it’s most popular in America. Posting should therefore take into account American timezones - for example, when it’s lunchtime here, East Coast America is only just waking up. I found early evening and night in the UK was the optimum time, capturing the free time of those in the UK and the lunchtime and early evening crowd in the majority of the US. Only mornings were to be avoided, with very few page views coming in during those hours.
WHAT ABOUT FACTS AND FIGURES?
Comparing May to March, when there was no Reddit activity shows the benefits of exploring Reddit as a source of traffic and content distribution. The number on the left in each section is from May, while the number on the right is from March.
Views leapfrogged from 1,796 in March to 6,976 in May, a growth of 288.42%. Growth was even higher for unique visitors, jumping 336.38% from 1,248 in March to 5,446 in May. Moreover, there were 11,221 pageviews in May compared with 3,223 in March – another huge jump, this time of 248.15%.
Looking specifically at the referrals, traffic jumped from 754 in March to 4,381 in May. 3,118 of these came from Reddit, far outstripping the second highest referrer, Twitter, which brought in only 354 visits. Only engagement rates were down, and even then, not by very much. Average time on site dropped from 1 minute and 35 seconds to 1 minute and 3 seconds, while the bounce rate jumped from 76.39% to 77.87%. Such drops are to be expected, but it’s a relief to see the dips were not significant.
The good news didn’t stop in May. During June, when I posted no links to Reddit, the site attracted 3,308 views and 2,339 uniques. This is, of course, a significant drop from May, but a sharp increase compared to March. The Reddit links worked as I had hoped – as a source of both short term and long term traffic generation – with 480 referrals coming from the site in June. There’s no guarantee it will last longer, of course, but with regular posting and a considered strategy, there’s nothing to suggest it won’t either.
On Reddit, content really is king. A vast and diverse source for all kinds of content, Reddit runs the gamut from the very brief and trivial (yes, those memes) to the in-depth and meaningful (check out that politics subreddit). There is, in short, a place for anything, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your anything will take off.
The key is understanding the three W’s: what, where and when. Trial and error will reveal key trends and provide vital insight, so invest in some experimentation time and use those learnings to put together a thorough content strategy. Once this is done, posting is quick and simple, and is likely to result in lasting benefits. Good luck, just remember to avoid those memes!