Report: The Intersection of Brand Marketing & Online Communities

In this post, I break down a new report just published by Reddit and talk about how brand marketing must start and end with a community mindset.

An image of Reddit's Brand Marketing Report

And the Lord said unto John,
“Come forth, and you shall receive eternal life.”
But John came fifth and won a toaster.

You’re probably familiar with the joke if you frequent Reddit as I do. Online communities have become a haven for connection and belonging as physical isolation continues to take its toll on people. As far as online communities go, none goes harder than Reddit. From in-depth conversations about mental health to the best yo mama jokes, Reddit has it all.

To the users, Reddit is synonymous with community. It’s a judgment-free zone that focuses on who the person is, not what they are. Community is at the core of Reddit, which makes it stand out from other social media platforms that only have the community as a “feature.”

The same way people flock to Twitter to air their ideological and political views, they go on Reddit to share experiences and be part of a global community. Twitter could be likened to a town hall meeting, while Reddit would be more of an AA meeting.

For these reasons, brand marketing on Reddit must be strategic and add value.

Reddit just released a new research report which looks at how the platform fosters engagement and the importance of brand marketing with a community mindset. Based on over 2,000 interviews, Reddit wanted to understand how people use social media to build community and connect with other like-minded people. More importantly, they wanted to know Reddit’s role in that process.

The Four Tenets of Building Community

According to the report, the four tenets of the community are: Membership, Influence, Shared Emotional Experience, and Need Fulfillment. Reddit has been rated #1, outperforming its competitors in each one:

  • Membership: 89% of participants feel Reddit is where they feel more of a member, not just a user. To them, the platform is another family, a place to interact with people from all walks of life and share experiences. This is in comparison to the 77% comparative average.
  • Influence: While the comparative average stands at 77%, 87% of the participants believe Reddit impacts their decisions and how they think in general, as the information provided is user-to-user and more authentic.
  • Shared Emotional Experience: Reddit trumps other social media platforms 87% to 80%, as the participants feel the interactions on the platform are authentic. Reddit users feel heard, as other members participate in giving feedback and sharing their own experiences.
  • Need Fulfillment: 82% of the participants feel Reddit is more fulfilling, against the 74% comparative average. It’s easier to find a niche of members who share the same interests, which fulfills a person’s need to belong. No one feels the need to present their best self; they’re free to be who they are. This is in stark contrast to platforms like Instagram, where one tends to feel self-conscious about their posts.
An image of the four tenets of online communities for brand marketing

As consumers continue to shed outdated gender labels and stereotypes, Reddit remains a relevant community. Participants were asked to describe platform audiences, and deeper psychographics like Informed, Curious, Thinker and Helpful were associated with Reddit. Other platforms were associated with simpler demographics like teenagers, millennials, women, men, and Gen Z buying habits, etc.

93% of the participants feel they’ve found a community of people who share their passions on Reddit, versus the 86% comparative average. The platform has subreddits or smaller communities based on shared interests. Here, the users can present themselves authentically and learn from like-minded members.

Reddit is Additive, not Addictive

Social media has become addictive, and more people use it to escape reality, spending hours on mindless stimulation. A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows how obsessive social media use can be tied to an increased risk of developing anxiety or depression.

As screen time increases, people become more out of touch with reality, which can be disorienting. The COVID pandemic is partly to blame, SHOCKER. As face-to-face interactions were reduced and movement restricted, people had to find other ways to keep themselves entertained. A friend once told me that he “checked out” during quarantine and hasn’t really “checked back in” yet. Even post-COVID, unhealthy social media habits still plague many people.

In this study, participants were asked to stop using Reddit for three days. At the end of the period, the users reported feeling out of the loop and isolated from their community. Reddit, for them, is where they go to stay informed. It’s more about access to trusted information and connecting with friends–not mindless stimulation.

The participants spent their time away from Reddit “messaging friends” and “playing basketball” instead of turning to another app. According to them, their communities on Reddit are irreplaceable.

Part of the research was an Implicit Emotions Associations Test (IEAT). Redditors and non-Redditors were presented with a list of traits and asked to select the platform most closely associated with each trait as fast as possible. The research revealed the following:

  • Reddit and Pinterest are associated with positive traits like welcoming, safe, and curious.
  • Reddit is most closely described as civil, authentic, trustworthy, and supporting mental well-being.
  • Legacy platforms were most closely associated with shallow, shady, bullying, and judgmental traits

So while most social media platforms hurt mental health, Reddit stands out as a platform with positive effects on the users’ mental well-being.

An image of Reddit Implicit Emotions

An Equal Experience for All

Social media has almost become synonymous with algorithms, as platforms try to outdo each other in terms of who can create a better algorithm that provides users with the most customized content. Reddit is unique because it is an equal platform where everyone sees the same content on the popular page and the subreddits where they participate in.

Logically, this should be a recipe for disaster. As people become more “me” centric, isn’t it advisable to provide them with tailor-made content? Algorithms are great for creating a personalized social media experience, but they have created silos that tend to become echo chambers.

The validation-seeking prevalent on other platforms can be rather depressing and self-doubt-inducing. Reddit replaces this “me” mentality that causes isolation with the “we” mentality, where everyone is on equal footing. 90% of those aware of Reddit agree that everyone seeing the same content in subreddits is a good thing.

The Intentionality of Reddit Members

Other social media platforms have “users,” but Reddit has “members.” People spend most of their time mindlessly scrolling on other social media platforms, but Reddit users are more intentional and tend to seek out specific content instead of browsing.

Reddit members are curious and love welcoming challenges to their views and way of thinking. They value feeling understood, accepted, and connected, which is why they reciprocate the same, creating an open community of well-meaning, enthusiastic, caring, and inclusive members.

Reddit, for the members, is a place to be informed, entertained, and learn from others. Subject matter experts on the platform offer their expertise to help fellow community members seeking advice.

Build Trust with Brand Marketing

On most social media platforms, brand marketing and campaigns are more of an unwelcome interruption. In contrast, Reddit users welcome brands into their communities and are more likely to trust brands that participate on the platform than those that advertise on other platforms.

Reddit offers brands a unique opportunity to interact with communities directly, effectively crossing the bridge from “outside advertiser” to “Reddit community member.” This way, brands make more meaningful connections with their audience, which is essential to building trust. There are several Reddit case studies that provide tips on how to make this a reality for brand marketing on the platform.

Reddit is ranked #1 in welcoming brand participation. The following figures reflect how much higher Reddit ranks than the comparative average:

  • Brand participation: +21%
  • Trust of brands that participate in the communities: +19%
  • Liking brands that interact with members directly: +15%
  • Allowing brands to be less traditional: +14%
  • Users considering a new brand/ product: 28%
  • Users making more informed purchase decisions: 19%
  • Downloading or buying products seen on the platform: +7%

Reddit offers a space for brands to be less traditional in that community members are more interested in ads that give helpful information about relevant products. As users tend to trust brands that participate on Reddit, it is easier to drive consideration of new brands, inform decisions, and drive purchases.

Reddit provides the best opportunity for brands and users. It offers a playing field that maximizes non-traditional meaningful interactions between brands and users, which is fundamental to brand marketing efforts.

FAQ

What is brand marketing?

Brand marketing creates a strong and unique brand identity that will help differentiate you from competitors. It involves developing a clear brand strategy, which includes defining your target audience, researching your competition, and creating a distinct brand position. Once you have established your brand marketing strategy, you’ll need to integrate it into all aspects of your marketing communications, from your website, social media, paid advertising, and public relations campaigns.

Why is creating a brand marketing strategy important?

Brand marketing can help you build a loyal customer base, increase sales, and achieve long-term brand affinity with your target consumers. It can also help you attract new customers and create a strong foundation for future growth. By developing a clear brand marketing strategy, you can ensure that all of your campaigns are integrated and aligned with your brand position.

What are some KPIs of a brand marketing strategy?

Several KPIs can be used to measure the success of your brand marketing programs. Some of the most common metrics include:

  • Increased brand awareness
  • A boost in web traffic
  • More social media engagement
  • Higher conversion rates
  • An increase in sales or revenue

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Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.