Reddit: the evolution of the peer-to-peer conversation?

Reddit blog image

I was at a restaurant having breakfast with my family the other day. We were having a discussion of no importance other than a question came up that nobody at the table knew the answer to. At this point my teenaged son piped up and said “let me ask Reddit”. I had never heard about this before so I had to ask “what is Reddit?” and why wouldn’t you just do a Google search or go to Wikipedia? As teenagers love the opportunity to show they know more than their parents, I received a crash course on Reddit. Once the lecture was over I was won over.

For those who don’t know, ironically, here is the Wikipedia definition (old ways are hard to break):

Reddit /ˈrɛdɪt/,[3] stylized as reddit,[4] is an entertainment, social networking service and news website where registered community members can submit content, such as text posts or direct links. Only registered users can then vote submissions “up” or “down” to organize the posts and determine their position on the site’s pages. Content entries are organized by areas of interest called “subreddits”.

Why is Reddit the next best thing?

As an adult that doesn’t really socialize on the internet, I use it mainly for information, e-commerce, and direct one to one communication (email). I know a large part of the material you find on the internet is open-sourced, but what intrigued me about Reddit was the part about the posts being peer rated. I love the concept that if you write something that is completely false, the users are going to speak out and tell everyone. Knowing this gives a level of credibility to the posts (or noncredibility depending on what side of the BS scale the contributor is on). To further this idea, the more posts you make that people agree with, the more credibility you have as a contributor.

The notion of credible information isn’t what really drives the popularity of Reddit. Jason Fagone said this about a typical user of Reddit on “Wired” in his blog “How One Reponse to a Reddit Query Became a Big-Budget Flick” :

Prufrock451 was pretty clearly a quirky character—he was entirely typical of a habitual Reddit user, and like many other redditors, as they are called, he found the site addictive. More than just a creative outlet or time-killer, Reddit was a game. The object was to amass points—”Reddit karma.” Every time Erwin saw his karma level increase, he felt a little squirt of adrenaline. “People are sweating to make you laugh or make you think or make you hate them,” Erwin says. “It’s the human condition, plus points.”

This addictiveness to users makes it a very valuable network for marketers and reseachers trying to take the pulse of social media. Fagone goes on to say:

More reliably than Twitter, more scientifically than Facebook, Reddit answers this question: What do people on the Internet think is important, funny, cute, gross, uplifting—right now?

I think I’m going to have to become a Reddit member… I hope I don’t get addicted.

To get a more indepth look at Reddit take a look at this post put out by CrunchBase:

Authenticity and Influence in Social Media.

Social Marketing blog image

“What have we done to social media? We have squandered away something that could have been great!”

I heard these words while listening to a morning radio show. They were in regards to a news item that explained how corporations, brands, and individuals were using paid services to create legions of fake followers on Twitter and Facebook to increase their perceived influence on social media.

I have to say that he was being a little cynical, but it makes a good news story. Don’t get me wrong, it does happen. Check out Chris Dessi’s first hand experience and confession.

Why is this happening?

Marketing has always been about credibility, and brand recognition. People buy something that everyone else buys. Social media 101 tells us that marketing there is about the buy-in, not the buy-of, therefore it makes sense on an unethical and superficial level, to increase your perceived impact at all costs. Andrew Hutchinson gives a solid explanation of why this is happening in his post “The Inevitable Bite of Buying Followers and likes

Does it work?

It did work in the beginning but it won’t work in the long run. Hutchinson goes on to explain that the reason it won’t work is that the social network companies won’t let it. They rely on the fact that people need to believe in the authenticity of the content or risk them leaving in droves. So social networks will try a stop this from happening, an example is Google’s algorithm changes . I see it as a never-ending battle between social networks and the dark side. As long as anti-spam algorithms can be written, we will be able to believe that what we are seeing is true.

So was the announcer right in his comment? Has this behavior destroyed the ability properly gauge the authenticity of ones influence?

I say the answer is no (for now).


Welcome to my new blog!

As I start this blog, I find myself in the middle of stage 7 of Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. I have this overwhelming need to help guide the next generation of graphic designers and marketing professionals. I’ve been in this industry for a long time (see my “About” page for more details).

I’ve seen many changes.

When I was studying design at York University in Toronto, Canada, the PC hadn’t gone to market yet. My first job out of school was as an assembly artist. For you younger readers that is doing by hand, what the computer does for you now. Layout was all done on a drafting table with rulers, pens, wax and knives. I’ve seen the printing process change from film and plates to digital. Then the world wide web came around, not only changing how we do business but the products that we were being asked to create. The latest change is in full swing now, that is the world of social media.

What I hope to offer here and in future posts is clarity and perspective to the young designers and marketers of today. I admit that you probably know your way around the new media better than I do (then again, maybe not). But one has to be careful not to get lost out there. The technology has changed, but as a species we haven’t. Let me cite one of the most famous quotes and paradigms of our industry, “The medium is the message” — Marshall McLuhan.

This is something that has to be understood more than ever by today’s marketing experts. With that being said one still has to remember that the message is paramount. The question is, how are we going to use technology to get that message across? I came across a blog at Terralever that I think will help you to understand what I’m getting at here. In the post, Terralever states, “social media the medium is an enormous part of the message. It helps if your message is clever or profound in some way, otherwise your content will likely never get shared in the first place if it isn’t.”

So, social media is the message, but what and how are you going to say it?.

Please feel free to comment on this or any other pertinent topic. I would love to have a discussion with you.