With engaged groups clustering around the thousands of subreddits, it’s a site that fosters community in a fairly unique way in the online landscape. So who better to understand the way online communities operate, and how brands and agencies should navigate the potential and pitfalls of this space? Chief marketing officer Roxy Young chats to LBB’s Laura Swinton about why collaboration with online communities is the future of brand creation.
LBB> For decades now, people have been connecting online around shared passions - but how are online communities evolving?
Roxy> While people have absolutely connected virtually around shared passions for some time now, online communities had always been mixed with in-person interaction and collaboration until the onset of the pandemic. Over the past two years, we’ve seen online communities mobilise just as powerfully as in-person ones, and become increasingly meaningful to people in creating true belonging. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen people flock to Reddit for advice, distraction, and camaraderie in times of unprecedented disconnection. Two years later, Reddit is still a home for passionate and engaged online communities, we regularly see them driving real world action, providing belonging and an increased sense of engagement amongst users. Rooted in trust, the desire to learn and work together, it’s exciting to see how communities are evolving in a positive way and it makes me feel optimistic about the future of the internet more broadly.
LBB> And what do you think are the biggest misconceptions that marketers tend to have around how these communities work and even what they are?
Roxy> A common misconception is that brands aren’t welcome in these close-knit communities, and may be seen as intrusive or out of place. Contrary to this, we’ve actually found that Reddit users welcome brands to engage with them on the platform, with around 69% respecting when brands make an effort to participate.
With thousands of communities on Reddit covering every topic imaginable, from r/beauty
which is filled with makeup and personal care recommendations to r/Cryptocurrency
where users share their learnings of the ever-evolving digital payments world, there is a place for every brand on Reddit, no matter what industry they reside in, with these communities only continuing to expand and evolve.
What’s more, around 60% of Reddit users say they’re more likely to trust a brand that participates on Reddit, and 66% of our users say brands can have conversations with them on Reddit that they can’t have anywhere else. We encourage all marketers to consider Reddit as a place to meaningfully engage with their audience and make an impact. Ultimately, engaging in online communities drives brand love, trust, and action and the power of this is hard to ignore.
LBB> Can you tell me about any examples of Reddit communities that have really come together to rally around a cause or to enact real positive change - and what the team at Reddit has really learned from these cases?
LBB> When engaging with online communities, why is authenticity so important?
Roxy> One of the primary reasons people are on Reddit is to be informed by communities of like-minded people who are passionate about a particular topic, and they trust the community environment on Reddit. In Reddit communities, people are their authentic selves, and expect brands to behave in the same way. Although Redditors welcome brands into their communities, they expect this to be done in a relevant and thoughtful way, contributing something valuable to the community. The advice and recommendations exchanged on Reddit are even more meaningful and authentic because people have no reason to be anything other than honest –this applies to brands just as much as the Redditors themselves.
LBB> Some of the best engagement between a fandom or online community and, say, a movie studio or entertainment company, has been incredibly human and collaborative - picking up on the lore or in-jokes of the community and elevating fan content - from a marketing perspective, how can marketers cede that need to 'control' how their brand or IP is perceived or played with?
Roxy> Co-creation with your community is ultimately the future of brand creation, which is something that can be hard for brands and agencies to adapt to, as they are used to being in control of the message.
Supporting communities can lead to brand health and growth. A good example is Afrocenchix, a Black-owned SMB offering all-natural and organic hair care, which leaned into Reddit’s beauty and hair care communities to grow their business and target new customers through interest based targeting and is seeing great success.
By targeting existing communities that were already passionate – and regularly talking about hair care and natural products – Afrocenchix joined the conversation seamlessly, where interest in hair care and natural products was already present, providing valuable and relevant hair care information to an already engaged audience.
Sometimes you have to play by different rules and trust the process if you want to have an impact. Every brand has the ability to do that when they tap into a cultural moment and truly connect with their community and by being bold and meeting the moment, you can see a real pay-off in terms of brand loyalty and leaving a lasting impression. Embrace the opportunity to show what the power of community can do and you might be surprised with the results.
LBB> The old saying goes that today's news is tomorrow's fish and chip wrapper, and similarly it's quite common to see flurries of excitement within an online community that flare up and fizzle out in a matter of hours - so how can we turn those breakthrough moments into sustained engagement?
Roxy> Broader, ongoing social listening is important to continue to understand where your brand fits within a topic or conversation. Jumping in when you can is key as the chatter landscape is ever-changing.
With things moving so quickly, it's true that something incredibly relevant and timely one day may be old news by the next. However, by acting swiftly and being consistent where it makes sense, you can ensure that any and all activity is authentic. This helps build community and sustained, impactful engagement – after all, culture is just community at scale.
LBB> Online communities can be incredibly passionate - and that passion can drive so much positivity. But on the flip side, that passion can run high and can mean heated debate and occasionally toxicity. How can brands navigate that side of online communities?
Roxy> Any content of this nature is simply not allowed on Reddit. Furthermore, brands work very closely with our Reddit Account Team to select the keywords they don’t want their campaigns adjacent to. In addition, they can exclude their ad from appearing in specific communities focused on topics they would like to avoid. Brands on Reddit will also have access to a dedicated ads manager who can help them navigate communities and best practices on the platform and answer any questions as they ramp up.
LBB> Often online communities have their own norms around what's expected, what's accepted and what isn't in terms of behaviour - what's the key to figuring all of that out to ensure you don't overstep?
Roxy> Reddit’s mission is to bring community and belonging to everyone in the world, which means building and fostering communities that reflect our values and respect civil discourse and human dignity. Our users are extremely passionate about the platform, which means they play a special role in keeping Reddit open and authentic, which can be a helpful insight for brands too.
For instance, by allowing users to signal the value of content with upvotes and downvotes, we’re essentially providing them with the opportunity to hold one another accountable and self-regulate what’s appropriate for their community (e.g. removing false information). The vast majority of information on Reddit is curated not by automated engagement algorithms, but by the upvotes and downvotes of real people. This crowd curation helps ensure that quality, authentic information rises to the top.
LBB> And, are we at a point where the word 'online' has become redundant as the line between the online and offline world blur? Are online communities any different from any other kind of community?
Roxy> Though online and offline do sometimes overlap, there are certain elements of online communities that simply don’t exist in the real world. Even being able to show up as your authentic self and being unapologetic about your passions, without needing to share your name, gender, appearance, age and so on, is refreshing and keeps our platform authentic and unique.
Digital and online interaction is a huge part of modern culture, and this isn’t stopping as the world opens up we’re simply seeing conversations and content evolving in a different way. The value of online communities is clear and it’s not slowing down anytime soon!