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Famous Reddit Marketing Fails – And How To Overcome Them

Published on June 14, 2018
Marketing | Social Media Marketing |

Reddit is a fantastic platform. For a site that prides itself on being “the front page of the internet”, the members (Redditors), take their mandate as editors quite seriously. The online community has absolute democratic control over the popularity of posts.

Impressively, Reddit has sections for almost every conceivable subject in the world. From sports forums, gaming news, video discussions to user-made subReddits for local distilleries – they have it all. To uphold the democratic foundations of the platform, Redditors love using the voting system to bury bad memes and reposts. They upvote to promote the fresh, original content. That way, they ensure that the garbage posts are out of site and only the best posts get to the front page. Amazing right? It is!

As a social media platform, it pales in comparison to popular sites like Facebook and Twitter, largely due to its interface, but, it still records impressive hits in the millions range every day. Reddit is well known in celebrity circles greatly due to the Ask Me Anything (AMA) subReddit. Celebrities utilise this to promote their content while revealing insights about them. Famous names like Barack Obama, Bill Nye, Madonna, Snoop Dogg, and Arnold Swartzenegger come to mind as some of the standout names in Hollywood and politics who have leveraged the power of the platform.

Unmistakably, Reddit has carved a niche for itself as an exceptional out-of-the-box style marketing tool. While this may have a couple of pros, most marketers tend to get perplexed with regards to how they can promote their businesses on the platform.

This is because Redditors are known to abhor blatant marketing attempts, most prefer almost Machiavellian-like attempts to appeal to them. How exactly? Well first, one needs to carry the image of a typical Redditor and promote content without seeming like they are strictly on the platform to make a sale.

Confusing? Definitely. And that’s why many brands have tried and failed miserably while trying to market their content on Reddit. We’ll be highlighting a couple of the biggest fails and suggest how they could have avoided the scenarios they found themselves in.

#1 – Jerry Stritzke, CEO of REI

Right after Jerry Stritzke, REI’s CEO announced that REI would be closed on Black Friday, he took to Reddit for an “Ask Me Anything” session. Unbeknownst to him, Redditors are an odd bunch of internet folk. Instead of receiving lavish praise for the extra day off with pay he had granted employees, he was bombarded with claims that the work environment at REI was simply untenable.

The questions ranged from why REI did not pay employees a living wage. Why they cut employee hours and why they emphasize on selling memberships as a way to measure employees performance.

In fairness, Stritzke took it all in stride and made sure to respond as succinctly as he could, both on Reddit and through internal company memos.

Key Takeaway: Companies need to respond to criticism leveled against them. Back then, Stritzke was relatively new to the job, but, he did not let the constant criticism leveled against the company faze him. He made a point of responding to critics even after the AMA session was long over through internal initiatives.

#2 – Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault and Nissan

For Redditors, inauthentic marketing schemes are simply no-nos. It appears Nissan had no knowledge of this and had to find out the hard way. Redditors accused the company of planting questions during their CEO’s AMA as a way to promote their services.

Unbelievably, there appeared to a large number of brand new accounts without a prior history asking Nissan related marketing questions. This prompted Redditors to query Reddit why there was a barrage of new accounts asking phony questions. However, Redditors on the platform simply didn’t buy the explanation and continued to lambast the company.

Key Takeaway: Reddit can tarnish the reputation of a brand, especially if the company is labeled as being unauthentic. Companies looking to make inroads on Reddit need to ensure that they are well-versed with the platform or at the very least, hire someone who does.

#3 – Google Site Reliability Engineering team

Being the tech-giant they are, there’s no way Google can mess up on a simple a thing as social media interaction, right? Wrong.

Just as Google was gearing for their AMA with the Site Reliability Engineering Team, Gmail services went down. In turn, the entire AMA session turned into a chaos. One Redditor after another castigated the company for failing to provide good services.

Key Takeaway: Through no mistake of their own, Google went on to be castigated for mistakes they couldn’t foresee. Companies taking their marketing campaigns on Reddit need to think on their feet and respond to situations as they arise.

#4 – CEO of Skiplagged

Apparently, the famous travel company had a loophole in airline pricing called “hidden city ticketing” that it used to make the big bucks. Once the big airlines took the travel company to court and lost, the CEO took to Reddit to share his story and consult about the best charities to donate some of the excess fees.

As is usually the tale most times on Reddit, his revelation didn’t go according to plan. In truth, some Redditors actually lauded the move and suggested a couple of top charities he should check out and make general inquiries about how Skiplagged works. On the other hand, a huge chunk of Redditors repeatedly bashed the CEO and pointed at the numerous risks involved with hidden cities.

In addition, Redditors went on to warn consumers not to fall victim to the well-worded sales pitch. In a matter of moments, the site went down after a couple of hours. All thanks to the now famous “Reddit hug of death”.

Key Takeaway: One should never assume they have absolute control over the conversation, simply because they started the narrative. Importantly, the lack of hate from Redditors doesn’t necessarily translate to the absence of faith and love in your services.

#5 – Woody Harrelson

The famous actor went down in Reddit folklore as the most failed AMA session ever. Right after shooting his movie Rampart, Harrelson sought to endear some Reddit fans to check out the film and give a couple of rave reviews.

Trouble started when Harrelson tried to condition Redditors to model their questions with the film in focus. He imposed this condition as he deflected questions some Redditors asked about his personal life.

Immediately he shared this information, the backlash was immediate. Redditors were swift to label his as a diva who let members of his PR team answer questions posed to him. Those responsible for handling his PR campaign noticed this and tried to answer a few other questions in order to deflect attention from the initial reaction. However, the damage had already been done.

Key Takeaway: While AMAs should be responded to irrespective of the questions asked, sometimes, it’s best to simply ignore the questions posed when one can’t find an appropriate response.

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