July 31, 2012

Don’t mess with Texas (or reddit)

This is the second of two parts. Also see:
reddit is the elephant in the room of social media marketing

http://imgs.xkcd.com/store/imgs/8bit-1.pngChris AbrahamMy recommendation for you individuals who are interested in just growing your experience, mastery, equity, and inclusion as deeply as you can in as many relevant and germane communities as possible, you will never be rewarded unless and until you really commit to reddit. I have been with reddit way over 5 years and I have yet to get any traction there. Like I said last week in Reddit is the 800-pound Gorilla in the room, commit to reddit completely. Eschew Facebook and Twitter for a little while and replace Flipboard on your iPad with reddit. Commit making reddit your morning news and the novel you read before you go to sleep. This week, I want to add a few more specific tips.

Of course register, but register as yourself and not as your brand, your company, or you business, though naming yourself after your hobbies or passions or best feature, your sport, your team, your OS, or your geolocation seem to be popular ones. Many people use the same handle on reddit as they do on YouTube, message boards, and on Twitter, which is smart if you want to be transparent and let people on reddit who casually Fisk you know that you have nothing to hide and have an online historical context (but stupid if you want to elude detection or don’t want me – or someone like me – to find you, actually).

Just in case this isn’t obvious to you, part of listening includes reading threads and not just clicking through to the links. You need to read through all the comments, all the nested comments, all the internal dialogues and the OT (off topic) conversation. Most of the best intel that I have collected in the crisis work I neither confirm nor deny is deep in the conversation after a reddit submission has fermented for a while.

Once a comment thread really build some steam and folks pile in, people lose themselves and you can see people doing research, Fisking, checking facts, and lowering their guards. People really reveal themselves deep in the comments and you can really get to know, especially after the submission is stale enough to turn into a de facto place to chat, to compare notes and to do a little fencing for status, dueling for geek cred. It is here where you can learn more about community pecking order, status, intelligence, competence, context, what people do behind their anonymity, how old they are, where they’re from. This is where the community coalesces and builds, in the secondary and tertiary conversations – the chats you’ve ignored because they’re no longer really about the new Microsoft Surface – except they are. It is in these deep contests where young bucks can – and do – challenge the alphas for dominance. It is also where folks can work on their post count – places they can just chew the fat while positively effecting their reddit karma and reputation.

Let me explain in a way you’ll understand: you know how much you talk about frequent flier miles with your friends and how much of a pissing content you’re in with you workmates over what level you are with your respective airlines and hotels? Well, consider reddit Karma and message board post counts to be analogous to flier or hotel miles. And even though you spend most of your time drooling on yourself, looking like an idiot in your inflatable neck pillow, you fancy yourself a road warrior just because every mile you travel in the air at 600-miles-an-hour gets you closer to the hallowed “million mile club.” (Man, yuppies are lame!) Same thing with reddit (and most of the other contribution-based communities and platforms, including many of the top file-sharing sites).

Don’t worry, gaming post count is a open secret and people are pretty up-front about it. It is essential because when you play silly post count games such as “word association” you really really get to know how game folks are, how willing to be silly they can be, how tolerant people really are, and how well they play with others.

Here’s a new flash: company happy hours, lunches, dinners, and team-building exercises are not optional, they’re analogous to games meant to jack your post count. they’re stress-tests that your employers and those sneaky HR managers use to see if you belong – if you’ll ever make it to VP or partner, and if they actually like you. You can’t just blow them off because you really should be back with your toddlers and your loving wife and ailing mother. Those yearly trips to Vegas are as important as your yearly performance review – and your success and popularity – and discretion – at these (mostly) harmless events very much color your yearly reviews by either enhancing or diminishing them and what management is willing to turn a blind eye to or really obsess about. Remember that when you decide to take a winter holiday instead of attending your company’s Christmas party!

Well, the same is true for reddit and communities like it, both online, virtual, communities as well as in real life. When you’re wading in to the shallow end of the reddit pool, people are going to be judging you based on your swimwear, your fitness, your abs and how cute your butt is, like it or not. they’re going to haze you if you get a little deeper; and they’re going to be suspicious of you as you swim deeper, and they’ll jealous of you if you become more popular or prove yourself more useful or interesting.

Come on, if you’re over 30 you already know all of this stuff. Why don’t you think it maps exactly and perfectly the same way online. We in word-of-mouth constantly de-humanize the natural humanness of online communities, assuming that simple tricks of seduction and incentive – what’s in it for them – can trick thousands of people who are in a very real, albeit virtual, family. I made the same mistake when I dismissed the entirety of Second Life with a turn of my quill without thinking that maybe the heart of Second Life has nothing to do with their exceedingly heavy and mobile unfriendly-app and more to do with the beautiful universe of furries for whom Second Life is their real home. My bad. Never again.

Once you’ve checked your ego at the door – who you were in high school, what college you attended, how much you make, how hot your spouse is, and how good you look in skinny jeans – dive in. Just remember that nobody knows you in this, your new school. They don’t know how hot or successful, they’ll just know you don’t know the difference between they’re, there, and their, and they’ll crucify you for it.

I do recommend you don’t do three things:

  1. Don’t comment right away as this community has a lot of history and people all sort of know each other and until you get a little context, reserve your judgement to an up or down arrow for now).
  2. Avoid being sarcastic, snarky, or a troll until you have enough history and reputation – acceptance – that folks know you’re not a dick but just dry-witted or dickish-but-with-a-heart-of-gold
  3. Don’t start a fight you know you can’t win, meaning, no matter how good a case you have and no matter how correct you think you are, reddit is not rule of law it is mob rule – reddit is not (yet) your home so the locals are under no obligation to support you just because you have the evidence when their allegiance and loyalty is to their friends and family.

Oh, and final rule: prepare your armor and take nothing too seriously because any community that does not enforce real names, like Facebook does, tends to be pretty brutal since everyone has a veil of anonymity. You might very well be bullied mercilessly by the very 98-pound weakling you terrorized in high school. Just desserts is what I call it, but be forewarned and don’t forget to gird your loins before participating.

That said, what I recommend to everyone is spending more money on brand representatives and social media community managers than you do on technological solutions. Learn from the CIA, the FBI, the NRO, the DIA, and the NSA: no matter how awesome your spy tech, you live or die on how many and how good are your analysts. The top online analysts are worth their weight in gold – don’t I know – and even the top big-data-munching-and-interpreting “carnivore” platforms need online analysts online to check for false-negatives, false-positive, and blindspots.

And, unlike monitoring and responding platforms, the longer you have worked with an online analyst, the better he or she is – be it in experience, corporate knowledge, or just because the best employees should be inexorably linked to your brand and surgically removing them can be the gut wound that never heals or it can result in a dangerous shift if (when) your (former) employee takes up with your competition, lending all of his or her equity – that was portable, after all – directly to your competitor. Whatever you believe, company-who-thinks-their-social-media-community-managers-are-fungible-assets, when you let a social media asset leave, get poached, or go, that person is leaving with 80% of the equity they developed while working with you. Are you ready to be 80% poorer as a result?

As an aside, deep infiltration is still going on, I am sure. In full disclosure, I participated in deep infiltration on behalf of many very high-profile clients from until I started my own company back in 2006. While there are many disclosure laws on the books and “everyone” has reformed, I can’t imagine that any of it had gone away. I am sure it has either submarined, distanced itself from the operators, or just expatriated itself to nations where this isn’t a thing.

The only reason why my past company, Abraham Harrison, or my new company, Social Ally, don’t do this sort of black ops thing is because we don’t need to because you really don’t need to be sneaky on social media – you don’t need to master NLP or have a nom de guerre or even wear a trench coat and disguise your voice with a synthesizer – you can just waltz right in, say hello to the owner or high priests, and tell them what you want and what’s in it for them.

But no, folks are still spending too much time listening to Bernays and Freud, assuming that American consumers are ever vigilant and informed and in order to sell them anything you need to come in nap of the earth, under radar, by the inky cover of the night in order to drop your paratrooper and payload. Advertising and PR has earned its reputation by constantly buying into better and better anti-radar and radio-jamming technology and not enough on proper diplomacy and diplomatic channels, that’s for sure. More money on our special forces than on our diplomatic corps.

Reddit’s a little bit like a unicorn: you’ll only see a unicorn – and make it to the front page of reddit — if you’re pure of heart. You can start by faking it ‘til you make it, but at the end of the day, most of the folks on reddit are smarter than you so being yourself is really the only way that this is ever going to work out for you if you ever want to become an influencer on reddit, so give it a go and let me know what happens.

Good luck, soldier!

Chris Abraham is a partner in Socialmedia.biz. Contact Chris via email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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