How we got a 545% traffic bump, thanks to Reddit

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post about how nonprofits can use Reddit, which included a little primer on Reddit culture and a fair number of warnings against being inauthentic (Redditors are a savvy bunch who can easily sniff that out).  The post has seen a small traffic surge in the past week, thanks to an interesting domino effect of Twitter referrals.

Coincidentally, this weekend I tried a small experiment with Reddit that actually paid off. Here's what I did, and why I think it worked. 

Step 1: Write a post with both personality and broad appeal, and test to see if it gets traction on other social networks.

Last week, I posted some musings on fear of risk and failure. I shared it on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, both with the brand and my personal accounts. 

In the post, I included a short video from an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K), one of my favorite TV shows of all time. The video helped me make a point about how we often overestimate the potential fallout from failing, which discourages us from taking risks. So while it was a quirky choice, it served a narrative purpose, and gave me one of those little "I love my job" moments as a bonus.

I was pleased to see the post caught on, and got some pretty decent traffic and engagement. Several people noted they particularly liked the MST3K clip in the post.

Step 2: Find an audience (subreddit) that would be interested in the post, and share it in a transparent way.

Since I made the MST3K reference, I wondered if the post might appeal to my fellow members of the MST3K subreddit. I decided to give it a shot, posting it Sunday afternoon with the title, "One of the perks of my job: Sometimes I include MST3K clips in my company's blog (and people like it when I do!)."

Note how I specifically noted that I was linking to my own company's blog. I'm not trying to trick people, I'm sharing something I genuinely enjoy that is MST3K-related. I could have said, "Look at this blog I found; it's awesome," but that's exactly the kind of behavior that could quickly get me "outed" on the network.

I also chose the MST3K subreddit, because it's one that gets a reasonable amount of traffic but not so much that you have to scream to be heard over the din. If you post something of worth, the odds are good that content will float to the top. 

Step 3: Profit. (Sort of.)

As I'm writing this post on late Monday afternoon, the post, now 24 hours old, is sitting pretty at the #2 spot on the "Hot" feed, with 34 upvotes (which wouldn't make a dent on most subreddits, but on the MST3K subreddit, it's enough to propel you into the top 5).

 

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Not only that, we experienced a 545 percent traffic increase on Sunday, compared to the previous Sunday (and most Sundays, which tend to be a dead traffic time for our site). Roughly half of that newfound traffic came from Reddit. And Sunday was our fourth best traffic day in the past six months, to boot.

While this is pretty awesome, I will couch all this by saying that it's far from a viral home run. In fact, the vast majority of those who visited from Reddit stayed for less time than the average visitor on our site, and almost all of them failed to click through to any other pages on our site. But regardless, I wanted to share this story as a small case study for how to engage authentically on a notoriously tricky network.

Have you had success promoting content on Reddit? Share your story in the comments.