Wow – I’ve just realised that I haven’t posted anything about social media in over a year. I’m slacking. Then again I have posted more about social media than I have about SEO, so maybe I’ve been more slacking with my SEO than with my social media. Anyway, this is a long rambling opening (for a change) so that I can tell you a bit about the goings on over at Reddit this week and what you can do to avoid it. But before I do that – I thought I should point out the things I’ve written before, specifically about how you should work with Slashdot and how you should work with Digg in terms of working with the community. One thing you should never forget though is that social bookmarking is all about networking. To know it, you have to know the community. To know the community you have to be in the community.
So what has been happening over at Reddit this week? As you can imagine given the title of this post, it has been a bit of a witch hunt. Why has it been a bit of a witch hunt? Well it has all been about a ‘moderator’ called Saydrah. But we’ll come back to her later. Really it all started with a nice young chap who used to write an online comic called the Oatmeal (including telling you how to get on the Reddit home page), but who has managed to get a deal with a publisher to get a book of his cartoons out. “Hurray!” most of you will say, his comics were indeed funny. However one poster wasn’t quite so keen that it turned out that he used to work as at SEOmoz and that he may have been gaming the system over at Reddit (even though he had told his whole story on the site before).
This led into someone finding out that Saydrah also had a bit of a history regarding this sort of stuff, posting a self submission on Reddit explaining it and giving out all her contact details. The difference with Saydrah was that she happened to also be a moderator, so it seemed like a conflict of interest having her being employed by a company to tell the other employees how to ‘work’ social media and then moderating a forum (ie deleting spam) from the very forum that the people in her company may have been submitting to. She went on the offensive and posted a Q&A (these are called AMA – Ask me anything). She was then accused of using her moderator powers to ban posts and promote her own above them. However it wasn’t enough, she was removed as a moderator from one of her subreddits.
To fully explain all of this, it probably needs me to talk a bit about SubReddits. Reddit is made up of lots of categories called subreddits. Some of these were created ages ago, but you can basically create a new one yourself if you really want to. These subreddits then combine together to give you your overall Reddit that you can see on the homepage. Each subreddit needs a moderator (or more than one, depending on its size) that can make sure that the posts aren’t spam and people aren’t putting comments into the posts that they shouldn’t be. These positions don’t get paid, can’t promote one post above another and generally speaking sound like a bit of a pain in the arse for little return. There is even an Analytics subreddit (more on that in a moment).
So what lessons can me learn from this? Well I think Saydrah probably would know more than anyone else about this (because she tells people at her company about it), but I think the word missing here is ‘transparency’. If you are doing something like this, then you probably need to make sure that everyone knows about it so that it can’t come back to bite you:
“Hi, I am Alec. I work for Business Link. I’m a Web Analytics Manager. I’ve got a vested interest, but here is something I have worked on”
You probably don’t want to go about it in the way I’ve just said above. However, if you’re doing something in social media and it isn’t immediately obvious what your vested interest is then you should be telling people. When I am submitting and talking about BusinessLink content then I tend to tell people “I might be biased, because I work for BusinessLink, but…” When I’m talking about my analytics, I usually go via my handle ‘Whencanistop’ so most people will know anyway (or will know with a cursory bit of Googling). Of course the Oatmeal did this with all of his work and his AMA, but Saydrah was probably a bit slow in doing it.
Top tips when submitting your own content (or your companies content):
- Do it from a branded account ID. Seriously, people will appreciate it much more.
- Make sure the content is unique and interesting for that community (I wouldn’t submit my blog articles to Reddit, for example, because they aren’t relevant).
- Include in your submission information that you work for the company and any vested interest that you may have (“I appreciate your clicks because it generates ad revenue for my company and I get targeted on that – which is a bit screwy”)
- Make sure you are part of the community first – build up the trust, work out what they like, create interesting content that they’d like to read