How Reddit Implements a Community-Based Approach to Strategy



During #SMWNYC Will Cady, Head of Brand Strategy at Reddit, discussed how brands and people alike must see beyond themselves in order to construct and exercise an effective strategy.


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There is a Subreddit on Reddit that attracts 7 million people a month, coming 125 million times. Its description reads: A catharsis for the frustrated moral philosopher in all of us and a place to finally find out if you were wrong in an argument that’s been bothering you.

Audiences seek to calm their anguish and anger and Reddit has noticed that there seems to be lack of it in communities online. This is because, as Will Cady — Head of Brand Strategy — put it, you “can’t have a**holes in collaboration. Reddit confronts the a**hole in all of us.

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The idea of it is dismantled in Reddit because Reddit relies on “community and collaboration.” The Reddit team clocked on and started to use the community approach with strategy.

People arrive on Reddit asking for advice. They also come and discover opposing opinions in areas such as politics and these help ideas enhance their own.

Be a brand that listens with its ads

“These conversations are built on the idea of listening and bettering yourself. What we’re seeing on Reddit is growth. Growing because of the community,” Cady explained.

As a company, Reddit uses listening to better itself, too. “Our Founder explains some of the tough choices that have been made and encourages others to voice their thoughts on them. The Head of Community has an open call, too.” Engineers open up design based dialogues online so they can obtain real-time feedback and develop based on it – re-design is a difficult process, and discussions surrounding change soften its premise.

Reddit listens to its users and encourages brands to do so on the platform because it gains Reddit trust. “If users trust us, they have the ability to be heard by us,” Cady continued. Reddit found that users disliked ads but loved brands and spotted an opportunity in this tension: being a brand that listens with its ads.

Key elements of an effective social-listening based strategy

Reddit carries out deep quantitative and qualitative learning with their social listening-based strategy, which boils down to these four key procedures for brands:

  1. Listen to the communities
  2. Identify a need you can address
  3. Make your unique contribution
  4. Demonstrate that you are present

Cady pointed to Chipotle as an example using this model. “They created an ‘ask me anything’ dialogue. It was a great place to see some fan love but also a chance to bring some nuance and humanity to some challenges the brand might face. It offered insight, sparks to build on and received empathy,” he explained.

Cady concluded that a voice has “the power to change culture, history, business and how someone feels. A voice is nothing without someone to listen to it.”

Even if you don’t have a good answer for a question, even acknowledging it is powerful.

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