The Reddit Effect: Why We Read Ad Comments
Reddit is the 4th most popular site in the US. With an average time on site 53% higher than Facebook, Reddit’s impact on internet culture (and user behavior) can’t be denied.
A key part of the site’s appeal is the comment section. Just like the content itself, the individual comments are voted on, allowing the best to rise to the top through the site’s voting algorithm. It’s the wisdom of the crowd realized.
The comment section is an instant bullshit barometer. In an age of clickbait headlines and fake news, the comments are a way to cut to the chase and uncover insight, analysis, and fascinating conversation.
On average, users spend nearly 17 minutes a day on Reddit.com. That’s almost double what they spend on Google, Amazon, or YouTube.
This shouldn’t be a surprise; people use the internet to interact with each other. We might sometimes think of it as a resource or a repository of the world’s knowledge, but first and foremost, the internet is a network — a place to connect and interact with other people.
We use it to validate, discuss, and learn about each other. And because anyone can publish content, there’s no longer a separation between the expert and the layperson.
The people reading, sharing, or commenting on an article are in many cases just as knowledgeable as the author. So what we often care about more than the article itself is how it makes other people feel, or what they think about it.
What does this mean for advertising?
With an unprecedented amount of content produced every minute, comment sections become a way to filter the good from the bad.
The same idea applies to ads. When we see ads with comments, we click them because we want to know what others are saying. They’re social proof that helps us determine whether or not the ad, product, or brand are worthy of our time.
Guy Kawasaki recently discussed a LinkedIn comment hack — a discovery that means we can logically conclude that LinkedIn’s algorithm favors posts and ads with comments. If an ad has comments, it must be interesting, important, or engaging, so it will be shown more often.
While this “hack” may be short-lived, it brings to light one of the challenges companies have in digital advertising. If comments on your ads can help your brand (they can provide social validation, after all), they can also do the opposite, prompting your ad to be seen more times but for the wrong reasons.
Take the example below that showed up in my Facebook newsfeed for Salesforce. It’s an ad about winning customers over. But look at the comments; it’s clear that winning customers over isn’t really what’s happening.
In fact, current customers have spoken up and given helpful feedback on what they struggle with when they use the product.
Not only is this feedback potentially helpful to sales and product teams, but it’s an immediate opportunity to provide excellent customer service. To directly connect with existing customers and help them get the most out of the product.
Granted, not all comments are valuable, and plenty of them don’t warrant engagement or acknowledgment from the brand. But whether they’re positive or negative, it’s important to monitor and react to the comments that show up on your ads. Because even if you’re not, everyone else is.