Connecting A Community of 174 Million

The driving force behind the website Reddit is to help people form communities based on specific personal interests. Reddit communities, i.e. subreddits, are built around any topic, from the very general to the hyper-specific. Any user of Reddit, i.e. Redditor, has the ability to create a new subreddit at any time and users tailor their accounts to their personal interests. And, because of Reddit’s dynamic design, those interests are as varied as the 174 million unique visitors the site sees every month.

So how does the Reddit create such an overarching feeling of community?

Redditors are often very enthusiastic brand ambassadors, and not just because users can see their favorite memes about penguins posted by others who love memes about penguins. Much of the company’s success is due to Reddit’s transparency when communicating with their audience. The company regularly gives updates to users through at least two subreddits: /r/blog & /r/announcements. Through these channels, Reddit introduces new employees, gives insight to the inner-workings of the company and promotes different feel-good stories that have happened across the site.

The most recent post on /r/blog announced that 10 percent of all advertising revenue earned in 2014 was going to be donated to the charity of the users’ choice. All Redditors have an equal vote on how the $827,659.49 will be spent.

While this is amazing and awesome, it also makes a whole lot of sense. Reddit is primarily funded through crowdsourcing. The company’s business model is only sustained due to the enthusiastic buy-in it gets from users and that enthusiastic buy-in comes from the feeling of trust created through the company’s transparency.

Reddit’s crowdsourcing business model is simple: Redditors have the ability to acknowledge comments and posts they especially enjoy by buying the person who posted Reddit Gold. This system not only encourages quality content and comments, but it also allows Redditors to support the site in a fun way. Users who have comments and posts “gilded” have access to special areas of the sight, as well as even more valuable bragging rights. The homepage has a very visible bar graph in the bottom right corner that lets users know how close the website is to making their daily funding goal. Again, transparency, transparency, transparency.

Transparency is also key in capturing data. Through the /r/blog & /r/announcement pages, Redditors are encouraged to provide feedback. And this feedback is used to optimize the Reddit experience.  The company listens to the users, because they understand their success comes from Redditors.  The donation of a portion of advertising revenue based on user-feedback is a perfect example of this. Other examples include the changing of default subreddits, and the new and improved training of mods. For Reddit, data capturing is much more qualitative than quantitative.

Reddit has created their brand identity as a quirky, friendly place that welcomes all kinds and listens to everyone. They try to be as upfront as possible, and allow the community to come together to accomplish great things. Many businesses would do well to examine this approach. And many others would do well to check out a few penguin memes.