Have you heard of Reddit? It’s actually been around for quite some time, but it’s popularity is on the rise. If you’ve been in the internet marketing game for quite some time, you probably remember a time not so long ago when marketers were recommending that you submit your content to a social bookmarking site called Digg. That ship has sailed, however, with Digg now bringing in 14% of the traffic it did just two short years ago.
During the same time period, Reddit’s traffic grew by a staggering 360 percent. In December of 2011, Reddit bulled in an astounding 2.07 billion pageviews. Digg? They brought in a lousy 4.6 million. That’s million, not billion.
This was despite the fact, or more likely because of the fact, that Digg has $45 million in funding. The problem was that Digg alienated its core audience by caving to corporate pressures. Reddit, meanwhile, has promised that it will never use ads to draw traffic to its site, it will never pester its members to ask their friends to join, never send them an email unless they forgot their password, and it will never even integrate with Facebook.
Reddit has made its way to the top of the social news phenomenon by doing one simple thing: staying out of the way of its users. The site has managed to foster one of the most engaging sites on the web in much the same way that Wikipedia has, by allowing users to take over the site. Users submit their own content, rate each other’s submissions and comments, and have the power to create their own “subreddits,” which are smaller communities centered around a specific topic.
What are some lessons that we can learn from Reddit, and from their failed competitor, Digg?
Remember Who Your Audience Is
What was cool about Digg wasn’t just that it did some of the things that Facebook and Twitter did before those sites existed. It was also that, afterward, it wasn’t Twitter or Facebook. It served a different purpose and had a different kind of appeal. We expect to find excessive marketing on Facebook brand pages, because Facebook is huge and inevitably most of the brands who try to market there won’t really “get it.” Furthermore, Facebook brand pages don’t “break” Facebook, because users only see them if they click on an ad or go looking for them.
Digg was different. You didn’t go there to talk to your friends, you went there to find interesting content being shared by real people. When Digg gave brands the ability to simply attach their RSS feeds to the site and pump out all of their content without even really being a part of the community, they made a fatal error and alienated their core audience.
Don’t Outsource Your Strengths
Digg made a fatal error when they outsourced all of the user customization to Twitter and Facebook. On Reddit, users are free to subscribe to whatever subjects they are interested in, and to create their own subjects. They do so through the site, not through some third party provider.
One of Digg’s early errors was that the categories were defined not by the community, but by the site’s founder. Users didn’t have any way to customize their news. When they tried to rectify this, they did so by sending users to Twitter and Facebook. Since users can already subscribe to news through these services, Digg effectively rendered itself irrelevant by making this move.
Do Empower Your Audience
Reddit has dominated social bookmarking for the same reason that Wikipedia has dominated practically every single-word search query, by letting its users create their own community and decide where to go from their. The Internet is one of the few places where people can still go to “play.” Zapping all the fun out of it with excessive moderation and trying too hard to “control the message” is a bad move.
Andrew is an amateur blogger and longtime redditor currently doing media research for a Long Island elevator company.
Image Credit: 1.