Reddit is a social news web site that has enjoyed explosive growth over the past couple of years. It’s famous (and sometimes infamous) for a diverse and freewheeling culture that often puts highbrow science and cultural discussions cheek-by-jowl with NSFW buffoonery.
In other words, Reddit isn’t the first place I’d recommend for a button-down B2B social marketing push. Even so, B2B marketers can learn some important lessons here if they know where to look.
Here’s a good example: A recent conversation between Reddit users and staffers at tech vendor Corsair.
This is what’s known in Reddit-speak as an Ask Me Almost Anything (AMAA) thread. The subject basically hangs out in a Reddit discussion thread and answers questions as users pitch them. Check out the full list of recent AMAA sessions (and requests), and you’ll see that these discussions range far and wide.
(I should also point out that Reddit is not known for its squeaky-clean language or politically correct views. If your company frowns upon this sort of thing, then Reddit probably qualifies as a NSFW browsing experience.)
If Reddit users are part of your target market, or if you’d like them to be, then there’s some real value here. There’s also a tremendous risk of making yourself look like a PR mouthpiece, an congenital idiot, an arrogant so-and-so, or all of the above. Case in point: A now-notorious AMAA involving actor Woody Harrelson that erupted into the social media equivalent of a raging dumpster fire.
Anyway, let’s go back to that Corsair AMAA thread. This is a great example of content marketing at its very best, in an environment where mistakes are easy to make and unlikely to be forgiven. Here’s why:
1. The Corsair team knew the rules. An AMAA is just that: an opportunity to ask almost anything of the subject. (The exceptions here, laid down in advance, involved personal info and NDA material.) Reddit users rarely disappoint in their ability to take a conversation from the sublime to the absurd – and back again – and the Corsair folks were ready and willing to go with the flow.
2. The Corsair team acted as brand ambassadors – not brand shills. At one point in the discussion, a Reddit user mentions a problem with some Corsair speaker cables. One of the Corsair folks responded immediately – by offering to send replacement cables. One a more subtle note, when a Reddit user pointed out a misspelling on the Corsair web site, the mistake was fixed in a matter of minutes. This kind of responsiveness cost the company almost nothing, but it’ll probably have more impact than thousands of dollars of advertising.
At the same time, there wasn’t even a hint that these folks were pushing a canned marketing agenda or trying to force the conversation into a set of talking points. That’s a smart move, because Reddit is the wrong place to try this sort of thing.
3. The Corsair team shares common ground with the Reddit community. This wasn’t a “conversation” where the Corsair folks needed guidance on what to say. It’s obvious from the start that these are tech enthusiasts talking to their peers; they use the same products, share the same passion for building and tweaking PCs, and sometimes have the same problems.
4. The Corsair team embraced criticism. Inevitably, people in an AMAA discussion will discuss bad experiences or offer criticism. The Corsair folks acknowledged this feedback and at times agreed that the company could have done things better. If your company can’t engage in the same kind of honest and frank discussion with customers, then you’ve got a serious trust problem on your hands.
5. The Corsair team showed real enthusiasm. I keep saying “team” and “folks” here because this wasn’t just one Corsair employee engaging in a rote customer engagement exercise. Several Corsair team members pop in and out of the discussion at various times; many of them are clearly here because they’re enjoying the conversation and want to participate. You can’t fake this kind of enthusiasm, especially on a forum like Reddit; the users can smell insincerity from a mile away, and they’re ruthless about calling it out.
Like I said, Reddit probably isn’t the right venue for your company’s B2B social marketing efforts. But if you want to see more examples of what works and what doesn’t in a challenging environment, I think it’s worth your time to hang out in the AMAA forum.