I have a confession. Take a seat. It may disturb you.

I use Reddit. And I believe more nonprofit communicators should use it, too.

Reddit is a community of communities. It’s like going to a gigantic high school—you can’t possibly know everyone and you certainly won’t all get along. But, within the Reddit website, you can find smaller groups of people who share your interests. Whether you’re a brain, an athletea princess, or a criminal, you can find your kindred spirits in various subreddits (discussion areas about specific topics).

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There are many potential benefits for nonprofits brave enough to experiment with Reddit. You can drive traffic to your website or participation in a campaign (for a client’s campaign, Reddit beat all other social media in referral traffic and awareness metrics). You can keep up on breaking news, trends, memes, and real-time conversations, which can enliven your nonprofit communications and help them stand out. Or, you can simply crowdsource answers to questions that are holding you or your organization back.

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I’m sure plenty of Redditors (users of Reddit) fit the site’s stereotype of geeky, opinionated, atheist white men. But, with 36 million registered users (and plenty of unregistered lurkers) all types of people use Reddit to share news, ask questions, debate, give advice, learn new skills, and talk about their interests.

This isn’t a how-to on Reddit basics—there’s an official Reddit 101 and others have created helpful Reddit guides. In this post, I instead offer my insights on how nonprofits can learn from, engage with, and offer support to people in the Reddit community and get value in return.

Even if you’re anti-Reddit, I recommend you take the first two actions in “How nonprofit communicators can use Reddit” below.

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First, some handy rules:

Rule 1: Have a thick skin.

Redditors share and have conversations about anything and everything, no holds barred. That openness means you will cross paths with inspiring, generous, and wise people and also sexist, racist, homophobic, and hateful people and the vile content they share. There’s also a lot of porn.

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Yet, my experience is that the average Redditor is not evil incarnate. Choose your clicks and conversations with care, and you’ll usually avoid the dreck.

Rule 2: Caution, yes. Fear, no.

Reddit has had lots of drama lately around community management, executive leadership, harassment, and more. Reddit’s leaders promise they’re working on their problems, but there are definitely flaws.

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More than anything else, Redditors are passionate. Some might better be described as fixated. Others as obsessed. Some as trolls. It’s a spectrum. Don’t be intimidated. Proceed with caution and a level head.

Rule 3: Experiment bravely.

Don’t use Reddit like you use other social media. Instead, embrace Reddit for its unique value and culture.

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Don’t panic if you make a mistake. Learn from it and improve your next Reddit effort. Most of all, have fun as you explore this new-to-you social media.

How nonprofit communicators can use Reddit

 1. Protect your brand

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First things first. If you do nothing else, protect your nonprofit’s brand name. Create Reddit accounts with your organization’s preferred username(s). That way, no one can misuse your brand name and, should your nonprofit decide to participate in Reddit, the username will be yours. You might never use that username to post on Reddit, that’s a brand communications decision you’ll make later.

2. Listen and learn

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Like with any social media, conversations about your nonprofit or cause might be happening on Reddit whether you’re participating or not. If you’re not listening, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Listen and you’ll learn more about your audience and what they think about your organization, your cause, and the world. Monitor Reddit for mentions of your nonprofit, check for links to your website, and listen to Reddit conversations about your cause by following related subreddits and keywords.

TIP: Use RSS feeds to keep an eye on keywords, new subreddit posts, specific users, and more.

TIP: Find links to your website by swapping your domain into the end of this URL: https://www.reddit.com/domain/yourwebsite.org/

If you want, you can stop here and forever lurk on Reddit. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I encourage you to keep experimenting for the benefits that await.

3. Engage like a human

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Before you start contributing on Reddit as your nonprofit, gain experience by using it for yourself. First, sign yourself up for an account, choosing a username that doesn’t betray your identity. In most cases, choose a username that you use only on Reddit. Don’t worry, as long as you don’t post revealing details or anger someone vengeful, you shouldn’t get doxxed (when someone exposes your real name and information online).

Then, subscribe to and participate in the /r/Nonprofit subreddit, a community of people who discuss the nonprofit sector (disclosure and self-dox: I’m a moderator). Join other subreddits matching your personal and professional interests, whether that’s human rights, Nicolas Cage, sloths, or disc golf. Stick to subreddits where you feel comfortable; avoid those where you don’t.

4. Be genuinely helpful

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When you’re genuine, you’ll build your karma (a number indicating how much people like your posts and comments) and a posting history, both of which show other Redditors that you’re probably credible with good intentions. You’ll also get much-needed practice before you use Reddit on behalf of your organization.

Once you’re familiar with reddiquette (its values, culture, language, and norms) and have achieved a level of comfort with the site, you can start using it for your organization.

5. Self-promote with a mountain of caution

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While self-promotion on Reddit is not universally banned, some subreddits (like /r/Nonprofit) do not allow it. Always check the subreddit’s rules and message the moderators if there’s any doubt. Break a subreddit’s rules and you could get banned.

The best way to tastefully self-promote is to participate in discussions related to your cause. Answer people’s questions with relevant information. Sometimes you might mention a program or service your organization offers, but often you’ll only share advice and support. Remember: you’re engaging on Reddit to have conversations and be genuinely helpful.

Share links only when they are 100% relevant. It’s a good practice to provide more than just your link, such as an explanation of how the information at the link answers the person’s question or meets their needs. Don’t only use Reddit to self-promote and, when it makes sense, disclose your relationship to the nonprofit you’re promoting.

There are many other ways your nonprofit can use Reddit. If you’ve experimented bravely on Reddit on behalf of your organization, share your experience in the comments.

Lauren Girardin

Lauren Girardin

Marketing and Communications Strategist at Lauren Girardin Consulting
Lauren Girardin uses her creative chutzpah to help nonprofits engage their communities and tell their stories. She shows organizations how to experiment bravely in their social media, blogging, content marketing, web content, brand messaging, and other digital and traditional communications. She counts Caravan Studios, the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, Essential Access Health (formerly California Family Health Council), GovLoop, NEOGOV, Points of Light, Rebuilding Together, TechSoup, TeenSource, and YTH among her clients. Reach her at lg@laurengirardin.com.
Lauren Girardin