It’s fair to say that the last couple of months have not been the easiest for Reddit. The site went through a wave of problems following a decision to start charging for its API. Vast swathes of the site participated in the so-called “Blackout,” making their communities private and preventing anyone from accessing them. For advertisers, that was concerning, to say the least.
However, the problems didn’t stop there. While a number of communities came out of private mode following the protest, a number started tagging themselves and every post “NSFW” or Not Safe For Work. Under Reddit’s own rules, it does not offer adverts next to this content.
From there, a battle took place between community moderators and Reddit, with the platform demanding that moderators remove the tag, lest they have their moderator privileges removed.
As it stands, the r/Pics community, with more than 30 million members, is still protesting against the changes and seems locked in a battle with the platform about its content being marked NSFW and, bizarrely, every picture containing British comedian John Oliver.
Reddit said that it is “Committed to fostering a safe and responsible developer ecosystem around Reddit – developers and third-party apps can make Reddit better and do so in a sustainable and mutually-beneficial partnership, while also keeping our users, advertisers and data safe.”
But, the dust is starting to settle and the site is returning to normal. But is Reddit still a safe place for advertisers? Will Cady, Reddit’s global brand ambassador told B&T that the site’s unique nature makes it more than a simple ad platform.
“It’s a unique audience that you cannot find elsewhere. There is a high proportion of people that use Reddit that do not use other platforms. So when reach is the assignment, Reddit has to be in the plan,” he said.
We spoke to Cady in June, prior to the Reddit blackout but his points about the broader usefulness of Reddit for brands and users alike still stand.
In Australia, the site has seen a small but not earth-shattering drop in traffic. Compared to May, traffic in June was down by 2.55 per cent. And, comparing June of this year to June last year, overall traffic is down by almost 4.3 per cent.
Clearly, the blackout, while damaging for Reddit’s reputation, has not necessarily cut through to user behaviour. What’s more, when users come to Reddit, they tend to be very engaged, looking for answers and inspiration.
“We represent this interesting evolution in targeting, where we’ve gone from identity, to interest, to intent. When somebody goes to r/WhatCarShouldIBuy, in a sense, it almost doesn’t matter what their demographic is. They’re there to buy a car,” said Cady.
“Yes, the interest, the psychographics that I have, matter. Yes, the demographics matter. But as far as getting to conversion, the most important thing is ‘Why are they here? What’s the context?’
“That’s what makes Reddit a unique platform versus the others. We’re able to identify a user’s intent on where they are in the space and where the ad is reaching them.”
The other side of Reddit, of course, is community engagement. Cady told us that brands can and have demonstrated great success in being active in communities that relate to their products or sector, or are about their product or service directly — GoPro being a classic example.
Of course, it isn’t easy to get it right.
“I won’t go into specifics,” said Cady, “but we’ve seen some of our partners fumble at launch, which is really difficult when you know the people that have invested so much time and energy.
“They had to admit the fumble and that gains an enormous amount of trust when you admit ‘We messed up here. We’re sorry, let’s talk about it.’ Reddit is a place where that conversation can happen.”
In order to avoid those fumbles, Cady recommended that brands should be on the platform every day. Listening and watching how the communities interact.
Given what has gone on with Reddit in recent months, one would be forgiven for thinking that advertising on the platform would instantly make a brand persona non grata.
However, Cady explained that Reddit’s users understand that they will be advertised to and the value exchange that keeps the platform free to users, at least.
“When I started in 2016, we didn’t have an ad product. We had something called the Promoted Post. It was created for users like me that were musicians recording demos in our dorm rooms, trying to be heard,” he said.
“We were spamming the music communities and so the platform created a place where, if you pay to be heard, you can do this. That was a space where Reddit users understood that this is where people — people — are paying for visibility. That’s an interesting origin to our ad stack.”
From there, brands including Coca-Cola and Toyota jumped on Reddit and began to make users feel “excited” due to the size of the brands and their engagement with users.
“Universally, that’s been the experience that we find when we connect brands with the communities that have already gathered to talk about them. They’re very, very welcome,” Cady added.
Reddit might not yet be at the end of the tunnel in its battle with moderators and a selection of communities. However, once both sides have managed to completely put down their arms, it’s likely that the Front Page of the Internet will become a great place for brands to do business again.
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