Developer Relations: Let’s Talk About reddit
by Reena Leone
Writing great content for developers is, well, great and all, but if it’s not distributed properly, how will they find it? In the world of content distribution, the mantra is simple: go where the people are... because they probably aren’t coming to you. However, once you enter their world, you need to remember there are rules and other subtle cultural norms to follow. Not just community rules but parameters set up by certain sites to keep marketers and others from spamming. One of these sites is reddit.
In the off-chance that you’ve been living on a remote island for the last 11 years since the company was founded, reddit is a social media and social news aggregation, web content rating and discussion website. The dedicated community of 542 million monthly visitors (234 million unique users), creates and curates popular threads or subreddits with various things from news and current events to the most ridiculous images / memes / gifs on the Internet. Users determine what content makes it to the top of the page via “upvotes.” In addition, reddit has also gained popularity with celebrity Ask Me Anything sessions (AMAs), with everyone from K-Pop star Psy to President Obama. As of 2016, reddit is the 26th most popular website in the world.
This is what http://www.reddit.com/r/drupal looks like
With stats like that, it seems like an ideal place to communicate to developers (there’s even a Drupal subreddit). But before you start populating the site with all your latest developer content, there are some things you should know.
First: going blindly into any community of passionate participants with the explicit goal of promoting yourself / your product / your company will quickly earn you the scorn of that community. Remember, long before reddit or Hacker News, or Facebook or LinkedIn or even Livejournal, at the dawn of the commercial Internet, there was a very reddit-like precursor known as USENET. Just like present-day reddit, there were thousands of special discussion groups on everything from cats to Unix. Then came the infamous Green Card advertisements and thus spam was born, amidst a huge community uproar. Ancient history aside, if you enter a forum or social network with marketing and promotion as your agenda, you won’t last very long.
However, there is a way to influence people without acting like a blinking neon sign. That means participating before promoting, sharing before taking, and knowing that no bad deed goes unpunished in the unforgiving world of developer relations.
No Thread Hijacking Allowed
It’s great to get colleagues involved in the promotion of content but spamming or trying to game the voting system isn’t going to fly here. reddit isn’t naive; it logs your IP address and if you try to keep upvoting or try to organize your colleagues to join the cause, reddit’s algorithm will actually remove upvotes and bump you down as a penalty. The right way to engage reddit is to designate one person to post your new content when it goes live and instead of sharing the link with your colleagues to the specific post for upvoting, share the forum instead.
Encourage people to join relevant subreddits if they want to (as an individual, not on behalf of the company). Instead of trying to upvote only your company's posts, encourage colleagues to upvote other posts they enjoy or find informative. Put together guidelines and best practices or even hold a short demo session to give them the rundown on how reddit works.
The goal of reddit is to be a forum for new content for you to evaluate; you’re not supposed to come in looking for a specific post but rather browse through many and build your own trail through the morass of content and special interests. Plus it’s interesting to see the content your company is creating in the context of other posts. This can also give you a window into what’s on the mind of developers, thus helping you to create relevant content in the future.
Beware the Rabbit Hole
And a word of advice; be careful not to go down the rabbit hole that reddit can quickly turn into. We’ve all done it; gone to a site like Wikipedia to look up something specific and then an hour later you find yourself reading some bizarre, delightful, but totally unrelated entry and forget what you were doing there in the the first place. With reddit, what can start out as a simple research mission to see what is going on in the Drupal community can quickly turn into a long discussion of everything that’s wrong with Suicide Squad, whether or not Michael Phelps is an alien and/or merman, adorable gifs of baby animals, etc. reddit is super fun to explore but if you’re someone who easily loses focus, maybe wait until you finish up work before clicking through threads. Just trust me on this one.