Reddit has been in the news nearly every week of 2016. The social news aggregation, ranking, and discussion site has this year proved itself to be a massive force online, undoubtedly playing some role in this year's presidential election, and surfacing countless cultural phenomena along the way. It's the seventh-most popular website in the United States, according to Alexa, Amazon's web-traffic ranking.

But there's a lot to learn to actually become a real Redditor, as the site calls its users. Even the company's own co-founder and chief executive, Steve Huffman, has admitted that its site-design and homepage is clunky (it's being reworked, most likely in both algorithm and aesthetics) and that the site isn't intuitive for outsiders to navigate.

So, how does a newbie figure out how to tap this rich information resource? It helps to get familiar with the site's subreddits--what the company calls its user-created, volunteer-moderated sections--each referenced with its own "r" label.

The most popular topics on Reddit might not actually be relevant to you. (Sorry, r/trees, those who don't consume a lot of cannabis might not be that into you.) And just because a subreddit has "business" in its title, doesn't mean it's going to be helpful on any given day in the business world, either.

What is useful? Knowing inside tips and life hacks that can actually make your days smoother. Knowing what consumers really think of your product--or that of your competitors. And being on top of what's actually in the zeitgeist--before it hits the mainstream media.

What follows is a list of some of the most fascinating and influential subreddits of the past year, with an eye toward what's useful to the business owner.

The Bread and Butter

Here's the easy part. Dive into the straightforward world of discussions of the concept of running a business on Reddit. Reddit.com/r/businesshub is a good starting point, as it aggregates some of the best links from around the internet on all things business, finance, and economics. (It's stuff you read anyway; why not find it in one place?)

The other basic subreddits with content, stories, and questions about starting a business are r/entrepreneur and r/startups. R/smallbusiness is less popular, but can be useful to gain a handle on the basics of getting a new venture off the ground, such as setting up an LLC.

Find Your Niche (and Research Your Competition)

You've probably already gone down several rabbit holes on Reddit. Now find one you want to come back to again and again because it's specifically relevant to you. Looking for funding? There's r/venturecapital. Have two X chromosomes? Try r/ladybusiness. If your startup is in the finance industry, try r/finance.

If your industry is one that nurtures hobbyists, you are very much in luck. Video games, for instance, have a massive presence on Reddit--and one filled with rabid fans who are some of the most loyal redditors. They give the subreddits they frequent not just popularity in terms of subscriber numbers, but create very active communities (meaning they vote and post a lot, which are keys to virality on Reddit). If you're a game-maker, by all means lurk on your competition! More than 400,000 people subscribe to the HearthStone subreddit, and nearly a million love League of Legends.

Is your product itself on Reddit? A simple search will tell you. It's not extraordinarily common, but certain brands do attract organic love from individuals (see r/cocacola, for instance).

Search more broadly for a community that might love your product or service. Starting a T-shirt printing operation? Check out r/streetwear to get a feel for what customers love, dislike, and want to hear about. Recently, an entrepreneur posted about his festival-based clothing business on that particular subreddit, and even though such a topic might be construed as self-promotional (a big no-no on Reddit), the individual got a lot of feedback.

Gain Insight About Your Employees and Departments

Wild guess: The accounting department is a little bit of a foreign territory to you. Snoop on what kinds of questions your team members there puzzle over, and laugh at the in-jokes while you're at it at r/accountingdepartment.

There's a community on Reddit for just about every genre of job--so some other helpful communities to get to know include:

Be a Better Leader

If inspiration is your thing, there's no shortage of links and first-person stories in a multitude of places on Reddit. Check out the ideas, stories, and inspiration on r/growmybusiness for starters. And if you're into life-hacks, try r/productivity.

Other Uses to Consider

Share your story. Who's the most fascinating person in your company or industry? You? Participate in an Ask Me Anything forum. Yes, this especially goes for you if you're in an industry that makes people raise an eyebrow, or that attracts hobbyists. Recent popular casual business AMAs were hosted by a cybersecurity professional and a Disney animator. Bill Gates and Donald Trump have both done AMAs. (Gates has actually done four!) Don't think you're too niche to find an audience: AMAs with plumbers and vacuum-repair specialists are consistently popular.

Find new fans by giving stuff away. It might be a lifesaver. Entrepreneur Sue Sullivan ran a chipotle-sauce company dubbed Hot Squeeze, but wanted to take over distribution after feeling squeezed by distributors. She turned to Reddit, giving away $8,000 in free samples. It was a hit--and her new fans helped out, by calling up their local stores to request her hot sauce. It worked.

Get inspiration to start something new. People share information on a lot of cool new stuff on Reddit. It might just spark an idea for you. R/inventions is a nice starting point, or one of the current fastest-growing subreddits is r/futurology. There's also the classic r/shutupandtakemymoney for coveted products, or r/buyitforlife for the timeless. Ask a question or search out previous ones, such as "Reddit, What Is One Product Under $20 That You Recommend Everyone to Buy?"

Published on: Jan 3, 2017