An Introduction to Reddit for Charities

With 234 million unique users and 8 billion monthly page views, Reddit is kind of a big deal. It recently surpassed Facebook to become the most visited social media platform in the US, and the third most visited site behind Google and Amazon. But if you’re wondering exactly what Reddit is, don’t worry – you’re not alone.

Reddit is usually the first place where news, memes and even funny cat videos surface before they go viral. And the Reddit online community (known as Redditors) are trend-setters and conversation starters who discuss, debate and delve into all matters, great and small.

At first glance, Reddit may seem unwelcoming – especially to the uninitiated. But, once you familiarise yourself with the user interface, you’ll discover that the ‘front page of the internet’ is really just a free-flowing discussion board where you can join in conversations about pretty much anything – including your cause.

Quick tips for getting started

1. Register and get familiar with the platform. Reddit is daunting for a first-time user, so don’t dive in. Register a personal account first and get familiar with how the platform works before registering an account on behalf of your charity.

2. Learn the lingo There are lots of helpful blogs and videos that can teach you the Reddit lingo. But, here’s a few to get you started:

  • Subreddit – Reddit is organised into thousands of sub-communities, known as Subreddits, each one dedicated to a specific topic. Their url is always reddit.com/r/thesubreddit and you will often see it referenced as just r/thesubreddit.
  • OP (Original Poster) – refers to the original Redditor who shared the post.
  • Upvotes & Downvotes – unlike other social platforms, Reddit allows you to upvote (like) or downvote (dislike) comments or posts. Those with higher upvotes sit toward the top of the thread and those with lots of downvotes move to the bottom and are eventually hidden.
  • Reddit Gold – When a user really appreciates a post or a comment, more than just upvoting, they can give OP “Reddit Gold”. This costs $3.99 and gives them access to a month of Reddit premium. The post then appears with a little gold star next to it, usually signaling especially interesting (or funny) content.
  • Sidebar – every Subreddit has its own custom sidebar, located on the right-hand side of the screen on desktop or displayed by clicking on the menu icon on mobile. Have a read through it before you start participating in a Subreddit as it usually provides information on community guidelines as well as helpful links and information.
  • Lurking – means to actively consume a Subreddit, but not contribute to it.

3. Read, read and read. Start by lurking and read as much as possible to familiarise yourself with the lingo, how it’s used and to see how Redditors interact with each other. You want to fit into the community, not stand out like a sore thumb.

4. Follow the rules. Most importantly, be sure to follow Reddit’s rules. A big one to remember is that Reddit does not encourage self-promotion. That means you can’t simply post a link to your charity’s website or event – the post will be removed by mods (moderators) and it’ll reflect badly on your brand.

Start small. Don’t dive right into an AMA. Work your way up to it. Reddit is a social news aggregator and the community are active and welcoming, but they also have an unspoken ‘no BS’ policy.

Five ways charities can leverage Reddit

1. Connect with potential supporters

Reddit is a great way to start a conversation with someone who truly supports your cause. Reddit has known as Subreddits for pretty much every topic imaginable – and Redditors aren’t afraid of showing their support or contributing to conversations about things that they care about.

Tip: you can gauge the authenticity of a Redditor by viewing their user history and seeing their past behaviour on the site. You can even find tools and external sites that are dedicated to scouring and analysing Redditor profiles.

2. Get honest feedback and opinions

If you want to perform market research or test taglines and key messages, share your thoughts in an appropriate Subreddit and get real-time feedback from Redditors. This is where Reddit’s anonymity is a huge benefit as it allows users to speak their minds without revealing their identities.

If you do use Reddit for market research, be prepared for dark wit, humour and to be challenged. The Reddit community are informed and engaged: they do their research and are known to ask the hard questions that others are afraid to.

3. Educate Redditors about your cause

While self-promotion isn’t allowed on the site, charities, celebrities and even Barack Obama have taken to Reddit via an online Q&A known as AMA or “Ask Me Anything.”

It’s a text-based session that humanises your brand and allows Redditors to have an open conversation with you (or your brand ambassador). These sessions can be hosted by a celebrity ambassador, employee, volunteer, beneficiary or anyone you trust to represent you. Just be sure that your spokesperson is compelling and authentic: Redditors don’t respond well to responses that sound like they’ve been crafted by a PR team.

4. Add value to existing threads and conversations

Chances are that Reddit has threads and existing conversations out there in its universe about your cause and related topics. Use them to your advantage or as a way into the Reddit community and respond to comments or questions.

Tip: Remember that you’re not there to sell or promote your charity, you’re there as a fellow Redditor contributing to the conversation. However, you can still steer the conversation in the right direction and share information.

5. Create new Subreddits

If a Subreddit for your particular topic doesn’t exist, or if you want to tackle a topic from a different perspective, you can always create a new Subreddit (so long as it’s an original idea). Currently, there are 187,384 Subreddits out there, so the most challenging part is often finding a name that hasn’t already been taken.

Once you’ve created your Subreddit, promote it in the comments of existing Subreddits and other look-a-like communities that might be interested in your new community.