Oh, What a Difference a Meme Makes: A Reddit Success Story
Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the downvote
I started my blog for two reasons: to have fun documenting my journey through the craziness of startup-land, and also as a way to connect with other like-minded individuals. I’ve been doing it for about a month now and it has already enabled me to interact with some awesome people. It’s even resulted in some relationships that have tangible value for my career. Of course, if nobody read it it wouldn’t really make a difference. To that end, one of the first places I wanted to get the word out on was reddit. If you are unfamiliar, you should get familiar. You will find that if you dig past all the inside jokes and cat memes, it’s a great place to connect with like-minded individuals about every imaginable topic.
What makes reddit great is that it is the best example of a pure meritocracy of content. As Luke Kingma describes it, “The quality and relevance of content is more important than the individual who posted it.” All content is user-submitted, and users can either up-vote it or down-vote it. The ability to down-vote is key. Unlike on Facebook, where the only possible way to voice your opinion on a post is to choose to “like” or remain indifferent by choosing not to, reddit more accurately reflects how things work in the real world. Your content lives or dies based solely on the value it provides to those who see it.
When it comes to using it as a “marketing” tool, the good news is that reddit is extraordinarily popular, to the tune of over 100 million uniques per month. Reddit is a huge influencer all across the internet. Many times content that ends up on other online platforms originates on reddit. The bad news is that, due to its popularity and the no-bullshit nature of the site, it is extraordinarily hard to break through. But if you can, there’s no better place to get your message out.
So when I decided to promote this blog on reddit, I knew that a general “Hey guys, come check out my blog! Pretty please!” post would come across as a disingenuous plea for attention. Sure, there are relevant subreddits such as r/entrepreneur and r/startups, but these “only” have 50 to 100 thousand subscribers each. Not insignificant, but only a small slice of the reddit audience. I wanted more. So I made the only sensible decision: I made a meme.
For those who don’t know, memes live on r/adviceanimals, which is one of the most popular subreddits, boasting over 3.5 million subscribers. I wanted to post something that fit into the topic of my blogging struggles, but at the same time providing comedic value for the people who saw it. I then remembered a scene from the movie Good Will Hunting, where Matt Damon mentions that he read Robin Williams’ book and he replies with a great self-effacing one-liner. Using this as my inspiration, I posted this, with the headline “Whenever someone tells me that they read my blog”. The post made it all the way to the front page of the site, and generated over half a million views. It wasn’t long before people started asking me to post the link to my blog in the comments, which I did. I quickly noticed a bump in traffic. Thanks to the detailed stats available on Wordpress, I was able to see just how much of a difference this random meme made:
The increase in traffic resulted in a handful of emails from other entrepreneurs- I heard from people on a similar level as me telling me about how it helped to have another perspective, as well as more experienced people who were kind enough to offer their advice about some of the challenges I brought up in previous posts. Not every response was, um, constructive, but I like to think that in this modern digital age, you’re no one until you get trolled.
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