The Possible Downfall of Reddit and other Social Media Communities

I have been a Reddit lurker for 5 months now and certainly been enjoying the variety of posts I read there which ranges from narwhals to political articles that I cannot care about since I am not from the U.S. of A. Nevertheless, I find these posts really entertaining.

Yesterday, something really interesting came up that is worth talking about –

What can be the cause of the possible downfall of Reddit and other online communities?

I believe it is  some kind of hard truth – marketers want to move fast in their promotions. They lack the patience to build the connections needed and with the onset of social media, positions such as social media managers, experts, and consultants bloom like mushrooms. After all, it’s a rule to go where to money is.

For social media “people”, there is also a rule and that is to go where the audience is. Where is the audience? They are in enormous communities or sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Facebook, Twitter and my favorite – Reddit.

Back to the question though.  Some possible causes of Reddit downfall (which is also applicable to other online communities):

Power users can be seen as people like Naruto and Sasuke. Too haxxxed!

Image source: Alan

1. The Abuse by Power Users

A power user is a user of a personal computer who has the ability to use advanced features of programs which are beyond the abilities of “normal” users.

~Wikipedia

On Reddit, a moderator named Saydrah had received the bashing of the Redditors. One member discovered that she had been “gaming” and using Reddit to her client’s advantage. This becomes a concern since Reddit is all about a community of like-minded individuals who share content from all around the web that they find interesting.  Users then get to upvote or downvote these links to their liking which then, if good enough, reaches the frontpage of Reddit – the seat of traffic.

If a power user finds a way to cheat this system then it defeats the purpose of the community.

2. Breaking a User’s Trust

Trust is like a condom; if you break it, you are screwed.

~Me

You have determined that your audience are users of communities like reddit. Now what?

If you are just a normal user, you add friends, submit content, upvote, downvote, and most of all READ AND CLICK! Here’s the thing though – once you gain some kind of popularity as a redditor, aside from the badges and karma, you get trust.

Yes, trust is also an online currency. And truth is even if communities like Reddit are like eyeball farms, trust is hard to gain. All the more harder to regain if you break such trust.

For Saydrah, it will be hard for her to regain that trust. She might have to create another username which is something really easy to do. But what about the lost trust? Well, let’s just say she will be needing another 2 years and 20 badges to earn it all back.

3. Conversion Into “Just Another Media Outlet”

If people can simply get a site to move up the frontpage then it’s viral traffic to the submitter and this really spawns the issue with spammers and abusers. Do not convert your site to be just another venue for ads and spam. The users deserve more than that because they are there for the community and sense of belonging and ownership.

Remember that you are offering something that answers these users problem and that is a site to read top stories without being bombarded by ads.

Clients of Saydrah may be not be overjoyed to know that her involvement with Reddit has come to an end but really, she has learned lots from this experience I assume. That is: Do not treat a community of users as a mere eyeball source. Communities DO NOT want to be marketed to.

4. Closing Your Ears to the Buzz

The users want YOUR verdict – What will you do to an abuser? How will you end a contest? How do you deal with a crowdsourced, nominated name that is not so beautiful like Mister Splashy Pants?

They are right. They might not be paying to use your site and your service but the time the spend on your site is your achievement. To monetize that you have advertisers and merchandise. It will be enough to listen or risk losing these members.

So the best thing you can come up might be to ban Saydrah. Remove badges and karma, will you do that?

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