Q&A Session: Will Cady
Will Cady Q&A Session is happening on September 24th 2020 at 10:00 AM PST (1:00 PM EST)
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Will Cady – Transcript
AMA with Will Cady @ Reddit
September 24th, 2020
Hello everyone! I’m Will Cady. I am the Head of Brand Strategy at Reddit and work with my team to find homes for brands within Reddit’s ecosystem of vast and varied communities. Prior to this, I launched, hired, and managed Reddit’s Los Angeles brand partnerships office. I also created and executed programs for a host of Fortune Global 100 brands including Amazon, Toyota, Sony, T-Mobile, and many, many others during my time at Reddit. So…Ask Me Anything!
What’s the one important commonality you think is shared by all brands that have a successful Reddit strategy?
A willingness to listen.
What got you interested in marketing, and how did you get where you are now through that? Always curious to hear the “origin” story!
I started in music first and foremost – studied that through high school and college. My entry into digital marketing came when I got a job filling out spreadsheets for a music magazine going digital. Largely, my belief is that music sits close to the forefront of trends that become marketing. For example, all the time I spent relentless promoting my band in on Facebook,
If you could think of 1-3 things that some of the most successful brands do on Reddit, what would those be?
- Listen – especially to the hard things. Reddit is a great place to separate patterns from noise in the signal because you can glean insights about what people are saying in the context of one community vs another. This is incredibly valuable for choosing a creative or strategic direction in marketing both on Reddit and beyond it.
- Contextualize Your Message – Each community itself has its own culture. This means its own language (e.g. memes), it’s own rituals (e.g. AMAs like this), and it’s own moments & memories. When engaging with these communities, it’s important that you’re speaking their language, you’re understanding their rituals, and you know the broader history of the community. Which brings me to….
- Add Value – after listening and learning what makes a culture work, the biggest breakthroughs come from the brands that understand how their product, service (or even the platforms of their marketing) can add value to the community’s culture. This could be in the form of creating an interesting moment (like a celebrity AMA), or providing a unique tool that the community needs, or platforming the voices of the community itself.
Here are some examples we’ve jotted down to share:
- Netflix – Brand posted in r/Netflix, asked users what they are into, and delivered suggestions for what to watch based on their interests and location
- Jimmy John’s – Original strategy was to encourage Redditors to sign up for its loyalty program by driving directly to that section of their site. Once COVID hit, they paused their original campaign, re-strategized, and decided to focus on delivery only. Not only did Jimmy John’s swiftly change strategy to evolve with these challenging times by focusing the creative on delivery, they also used Reddit copy to lean into the work from home theme that most Americans are experiencing right now. This showcased Jimmy John’s awareness of the changes in people’s everyday lives because of COVID with an element of humor that Redditors especially appreciated
- Coors Light – Coors playfully brought togetherness to the boredom of quarantine by running a video ad on Reddit with the word ‘CHILL’ in signature Coors font gliding around the screen and eventually hitting the corner just like the old TV screensaver we all remember from school
- Charles Schwab AMA – AMA with Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, personal finance expert & life-long financial literacy advocate. “Managing your finances in times of crisis can be difficult, which is why I wanted to do an AMA with all of you! Come on in and Ask Me Anything, I’m answering your questions live 4/22 at 10AM PST!”
We’ve got a bunch of us on deck for the next few hours to help you out. Any hobby, any interest, an genre. Let us know and we’ll find you…
What’s the most important lesson you have learned, the biggest failure and what would you do differently? (got 3 questions, hahah, I hope that’s okay)
Recently, with this incredible acceleration of trends we’ve seen in 2020, I’ve learned one clear lesson: No matter how ridiculous or silly something seems when it pops up on your trend searches…if it’s showing up at all, it’s worth your attention. If it makes you feel uncomfortable…put it in the report! Just do the hard work of explaining why it matters.
The thing about “predicting the future” is that the unexpected comes to pass often enough to tell us that when we’re really doing the job of forecasting right, what we see should also often enough, not make “sense”.
Do you usually advise brands on how to deal with trolls or negative responses on Reddit?
Brands can run ads with comments off, if they want, as a starter.
I always push for comments on…because every conflict is an opportunity to become closer if you treat it that way.
Trolls are gonna troll, and if they’re obstructing the conversation, they’ll be pushed out of it by everyone. That’s why the downvote is so useful.
People who are taking the time to criticize though, usually are the people who care about what you’re doing the most. That’s a precious thing.
Even if you don’t have a good answer to share at that time, just acknowledging that you hear them can be hugely helpful.
How can a brand become actively present on Reddit?
There are two inroads: a Profile aka “u/” and a Subreddit aka “r/”.
Setting up a Profile is far far easier and gives you an opportunity to engage with your existing communities. We’ve seen brands like Hulu, T-Mobile, and many others do an excellent job with this.
Setting a Subreddit is hard and takes time before you see a payoff. This is because it takes time for a quality community to establish itself and people need to see the value of being in there before they begin to engage & advocate for the community. We’ve seen brands like Google do an excellent job with this in their recent work with r/Stadia.
Beyond these two…Ads! Promoted Posts on Reddit are a great way to create an active presence and be discerning about the audiences you want to engage with. This route is very important for advertisers whose priorities are things like brand safety or reaching new audiences where their brand isn’t yet resonating.
What are some essential skills you see for someone who wants to move towards a brand strategy role?
The skills that have worked best for me are all come from my music background. Specifically, they are:
Being able to recapitulate a theme. What does a melody sound like backward, upside-down, or sideways? Same thing as brainstorming an idea.
Helping your band members sound good. You’ve got to listen to how they’re playing to match them. Pick up their motifs & themes. Same thing as working with a team.
Understanding the underlying structure. Improv in jazz is much easier when you know your music theory. It gives you a ground to stand on when you adapt. Same thing for developing a strategy in a cultural context.
What’s the best example of a brand working with the Reddit audience, vs trying to take from it?
Adobe! They’ve done incredible incredible work with the Layer project
OMG it’s even hard to keep up reading
RIGHT! If only there were a way to have an AMA with threaded conversations that show the most upvoted pushed to the top
How do you keep your brand top of mind relative to other competitors in the community space?
Tell me more about who you would consider being in “the community space”. That’s interesting to me!
It depends but in this context, any online space where people go to talk about a specific subject or join a group built around a specific identity/affiliation. so for example, Facebook groups, anonymous workplace apps like Blind or Fishbowl, women’s networks like Ellevate or Elpha (which also has an anonymity feature), Doximity for physicians, or even certain IG accounts that use their stories to run community discussions. why should a user spend their time on Reddit instead of these alternatives? Or alongside these alternatives, but spending more time on Reddit?
On this, I would say, Reddit stands as a large platform with a legacy brand in an emerging space…and Reddit provides an ecosystem where people can hop between community categories and can carry different identities with them.
How can you use Reddit to build your personal brand?
Use your skills to give value to a community, rather than ask a community to give attention to you.
Creating value creates attention.
Creating attention does not create value.
On a personal level: What do you really like and/or dislike about working for Reddit?
The culture of this company is really strong. We have a value called “Remember The Human” and that’s embodied by everyone at every level. Truly.
The hardest part is being in a company experiencing rapid growth. I’ve been at Reddit for 5 years and that has been a constant evolution at maximum speed. It’s invigorating, but you can never fully settle into a groove.
What’s the most effective way to build a strong active community?
The goal is to get a community to become self-sustaining and then self-growing.
In order to get there, you’ve got to think about ROLES. Who is moderating the space? Who is creating content in the space? Who is just showing up to be a part of it?
Some other questions…what is the value of being an early founder? I see that represented really well here in OGs with the user flair.
What is the value for people to invite others into the community?
What subreddit do you find the most useful?
Useful is the keyword these days isn’t it?
Depends on what I’m looking for. What my mindset and intentions are.
Useful for making music? r/wearethemusicmakers
Useful for deciding which car to buy? r/whatcarshouldibuy
Useful for figuring out the intricacies of buying a home (first-time homebuyer over here)? r/FirstTimeHomeBuyer
Useful for understanding how different people think? r/ChangeMyView
What’s the exact demographic of Reddit users? I have a general idea. Would love to hear it from you
– 57% Male
– 43% Female
(Source: Comscore US only, June 2020)
– $92.5K Median HHI
(Source: Comscore US only, Nov 2019)
Global age breakdown:
– 18-34: 58%
– 35-49: 27%
– 45+: 19%
Global generation breakdown:
– Gen Z (16-21): 28%
– Millennials (22-35): 41%
– Gen Y (36-54): 27%
– Baby Boomers (55+): 5%
(Source: GWI Global, Q1 2020)
– Facebook: 16% of Redditors are not on Facebook
– Instagram: 39% of Redditors are not on Instagram
– Twitter: 44% of Redditors are not on Twitter
– Snapchat: 69% of Redditors are not on Snapchat
– Pinterest: 74% of Redditors are not on Pinterest
(Source: Comscore US only, March 2020)
What’s the most important thing to keep in mind when formulating a brand strategy? How do you create a brand that people will remember?
A strong brand has strong DNA.
This means having an identity that is so strong at its core, that it can endure (and thrive even) in all of the ways its identity is re-expressed in different environments.
A shining example of this principle is Supreme. The brand itself thrives on being remixed into all manner of different products. But every time, that core streetwear DNA holds its strength. Super fascinating to see the effect of putting its logo on things like Fishing Tackle and Coffee Makers and Drum Kits.
This identity should be represented through both clear language and strong visual identity.
Similarly to the Supreme example, from a strategic audience development standpoint – I always like to look at the unique overlaps between cultures. That’s where the quickest growth comes from and where you can even be predictive about culture. To run with the streetwear vein – look at the incredible expansion of the Carhartt brand in the last few years. It sits right at the intersection of the outdoors and streetwear cultures. Unexpected, fascinating, and strong! These overlaps are happening everywhere all the time. A good brand strategist is always keeping an eye out for them.
What is your opinion on Reddit’s management and their political views and how that influences the community? Reddit has a strong online presence and even influences presidential campaigns. Do you think that’s a good thing? Also, by how far do you think people are only taking one-sided opinions on Reddit? Because there is a viewpoint that sometimes the majority on there seems to have and when someone has a different opinion that doesn’t make it look like everyone’s jumping on the same bandwagon, that person seems to get roasted by the majority instead of respecting a different opinion.
Reddit stands for democracy. Voting is at the heart of the Reddit experience, and on any given day, users cast more than 165 million votes to determine the content most celebrated and what falls to the bottom of the feed.
This September, Reddit is calling on its 430m+-strong community to harness the same passion for voting in real life, with an all-new campaign to remind people the importance of voting at the polls, in partnership with R/GA
The campaign will be accompanied by a number of other Reddit “Up The Vote” initiatives focused on alerting, educating, and activating users in their right to vote, including a recently announced expert Ask Me Anything (AMA®) series on voting laws, rights, and processes, a Vote Early Day initiative to connect users with pertinent information, and Election Day resources to ensure a smooth voting experience.
As it relates to your last question…yes that can absolutely happen in some communities dedicated to one view. That’s why I make r/ChangeMyView a regular part of my political media diet.
How does Reddit see itself as a brand?
Reddit’s mission is to bring community & belonging to everybody in the world.
What does it take for someone to get hired on the Brand Strategy team @ Reddit?
There are two sides to the discipline on our team:
Creative – knowing how to turn culture into brand voice
Strategy – knowing how to turn data into insights
Generally, we look for a combination of those two skills. I’m a big fan of cross-disciplinary expertise as well, coming from music into marketing myself. So, we really try to look for diverse backgrounds that will help us round out the team’s perspectives.
In the interview process, I always look for how well candidates can tell their stories. Tell me why. At its most foundational….our team needs to be gifted storytellers.
How can startups succeed with their brand on Reddit?
Figure out which communities your product or service adds value to. If that is difficult, start with where your brand’s expertise can add value!
Thank you for doing this Q&A! Wondering what your advice would be to brands and marketers looking to leverage Reddit successfully. What are some key differences in how we should approach Reddit vs other platforms? What’s your top tip for successful content creation?
Reddit is one of the best places for brands to create trust by building a credible presence in the informed communities. And when approaching communities brands should listen, ask questions, and then engage in a meaningful way that adds to community discussions.
The Power of Reddit is its informed communities: people gathering around shared passions that shape decisions, opinions, and culture. People feel like going online is an experience that lacks trust, authenticity, and reliability. AKA – the internet no longer feels open and connected.
So Reddit gives people a place to belong – and brands need to find a way to fit within that mold.
Have you had to deal with brands experiencing a troubled community on Reddit? I can imagine Reddit as an unofficial support channel for the brand that could lead to confusion or disruption. I’m curious about what you’ve learned from unexpected negative consequences like this.
Many brands are using existing or even setting up new communities explicitly for customer service goals – and for research & development.
This is a great way to measure movement in NPS and also to start to build a community where users are helping each other to have the best experience possible with your product.
Do you think Reddit is as much a part of the larger debate around the dangers/pitfalls of social media (many of which were highlighted in the recent Social Dilemma documentary)?
How’s your team working to avoid this type of thing, like the spread of misinformation?
The difference with Reddit is that it is more powered by humans than by an algorithm. The “feed” is composed of distinct communities sharing information that people find by seeking out, rather than being pulled into.
The discussion around the roles of our technology and our mental health is a very important one. I’m most interested in the emerging side of the discussion that takes a hopeful outlook at how tech can support positive transformation for people. In the end, I think we will take the lessons we are learning right now about how social media can hurt us to inform how social media can help us. Some examples of what I’m seeing in this regard on Reddit are communities like r/EOOD (Exercise Out Of Depression) or r/GetMotivated.
To be clear, every social platform has a role to play in the current debate around misinformation. We have a unique system of moderation that relies on our own policies and enforcement, communities, users, and moderators themselves. To that end, we find that our users call out misinformation proactively, and their upvotes and downvotes are the signals that determine whether content/posts rise or fall.
My biggest issue with Reddit as a brand is how the platform has organically evolved from an aggregation tool to a community platform due to how people use it and Reddit has not embraced this evolution.
The design, features, and functionality are half measures holding on to what it was. This is most glaringly obvious when you evaluate the Moderation tools.
This is also very well demonstrated with how there are two distinct Reddit experiences with OLD and REDESIGN. It makes me wonder if Reddit has an actual UX team and if they do, is Reddit’s governing body ignoring them?
How does it fit Reddit’s brand strategy to have such a fractured existence to its users, most especially the Moderators that volunteer their time to bring Reddit immense value, by not having a unified platform?
How does it fit Reddit’s brand strategy to not fully embrace that it is now a community platform?
We’ve created a number of communities for our engineers to directly engage with users on questions like these.
There are many, many dimensions to what’s needed to construct a vibrant community platform. Our approach is to create these distinct spaces to discuss each of these dimensions – and most importantly, to get it right in the end, in collaboration with feedback from users. It’s a dialogue.
Some example communities to join in on:
Given the average Redditors’ hate for brands pushing their products in the subs and how easy it is to slip up (Think EA Star wars battlefront 2), do you find it easy to convince brands to partner with Reddit?
I do! There’s a perception gap at work that leaves out the reality of how excited Reddit’s communities are to embrace brands that support them.
If that weren’t true, I wouldn’t have my job. So, experientially and intuitively I know it to be true…but here are some numbers we were able to glean from a recent study with YPulse on this:
69% of Redditors respect when brands make an effort to participate on the platform, 61% say they’re more likely to trust a brand that participates on Reddit, and 66% of our users say brands can have conversations with them on Reddit that they can’t have anywhere else.
73% of Reddit users learned about a story, brand, product, or idea on Reddit before it’s gone mainstream, and Reddit is the #1 source for learning about products or brands.
Informed communities drive action: 2 in 3 Redditors say if people on Reddit like a product, they’re more likely to purchase it.
Brands are embraced, not ignored: 72% of Redditors say brands are welcome to join the conversation; 69% of Redditors respect when brands make the effort to be on Reddit
Do you have any recommendations for brands responding to crises? Re: COVID, wildfires, etc.
In times of crisis, looking at what specific communities are saying is a great way to find a way to help. Without parsing it like that, things can start to feel really overwhelming.
Alright everyone signing off now. Was fun to chat with everyone in this community! I’ll be keeping this slack on my desktop for a little while and can continue conversations for those who are interested in chatting more. Thanks again, all!
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