For most companies, Reddit is terrifying. Of course any community you don't really understand can be scary, especially one that is home to over half of all Americans, posting and interacting anonymously, and focused primarily on discussion and debate.
Not to mention, most people have seen the horrific examples of companies who didn't take the time to approach the community properly or was already hated by the Reddit community as a whole.
So when TikTok, a social media app used to record and share short videos, decided to run an advertising campaign on Reddit, everyone expected it to be a bloodbath, especially since it is probably the most hated app on all of Reddit, mostly due to their heavy advertising on YouTube and other social media sites.
However, the TikTok campaign actually went quite well (all things considered) and taught us some very important lessons that every company should remember when advertising or marketing on Reddit.
The TikTok Ad Campaign
TikTok ran a number of ads last week, targeting different Subreddits, challenging Reddit users to download their app, record a video, share the video in the comments on Reddit, and have a chance to win some Reddit Gold (now called awards).
They also did something almost no one else does and left the comments on to allow engagement with Redditors.
Almost from the moment the ads were visible, hundreds of comments started rolling in and not a single one of them was positive. It didn't take long to realize that TikTok was likely one of the most hated companies ever to be on Reddit.
However, instead of turning for the door, like so many companies would have done, TikTok started engaging with the Redditors, taking the time to reply to hundreds of comments in a lighthearted, and in some cases humorous, way. TikTok managed to stay really calm during the entire campaign, never once saying anything defensive or in anger.
In fact, it was so impressive, that many Redditors started to comment about how well the TikTok team was handling this apparent nightmare of a campaign.Within an hour of responding, Redditors started to soften their stance, in some cases apologizing and making positive comments about TikTok.
Sometimes marketing campaigns can go south, get nasty, and become quite tough, but if you don't stick it out, you will never have the chance to start changing the minds of your critics. You have to find a way to put the personal comments aside and focus on the task of softening the tone and changing the campaigns audience's opinions of your company and/or products.
Engage like you're a person, not a company.
You can literally see the shift in the comments the moment Redditors realized that a real human was behind the TikTok account. In fact, TikTok started referring to one of their team members, Janice and how she was handling the comments.
Redditors started changing comments, apologizing, and offering encouragement and excuses for the people who were be so harsh.
It is easy to attack a company, as it is not a person and thus has no feelings, but the moment people realize they are talking to a human (and a nice one at that) they immediately soften and discussions become more cordial.
Always address the elephant in the room.
Although TikTok did not come right out and proactively state all the things they knew the Reddit community thought of them, they didn't get defensive and in some ways participated in making fun of themselves.
It makes sense that you would want to avoid discussing things that may be negative about yourself, your company, or your product, but by engaging in the tough conversations you not only show your audience you are listening and willing to talk to them.
Don't force your campaign, follow it.
Although the campaign was initially designed to get Redditors to download the app, record a video and then post in in the comments, it became apparent that due to the reputation of TikTok on Reddit, no one on Reddit was going to do this.
TikTok almost immediately shifted their campaign direction to a reputation management and brand image campaign, taking the time to listen, engage with users, and gilding (the term Reddit uses for giving Reddit Gold.. aka awards) comments that were both extremely critical of their app and the positive comments.
TikTok may not have known going into their campaign on Reddit that their app was hated so much by Redditors and they may not have turned Redditors into TikTok users and fans, but what they did accomplish was taking the first major step in turning their brand's reputation around.
With a campaign that started off with a large number of negative karma (the total score from upvotes and downvotes) and negative comments, they ended up with over 1,600 positive karma and a large number of positive comments, opening the door for them to continue to improve their brand and reputation on Reddit.