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Caught Redd-Handed: How Trying To Game Reddit Can Backfire For Brands
If there is one thing as popular as narwhals or bacon on Reddit, it is the community rallying around those trying to infiltrate their system. As we’ve previously reported, Reddit does not like people who spam or who try to synthetically inflate their own articles. People haven’t learned this yet and over the past few weeks there have been some strong examples of just how this can backfire for brands and companies.
According to the Daily Dot, the large Russian news site RT.com has been banned from the news subreddit for alleged spamming and vote manipulation. Now all content from RT.com submitted to /news will be blocked and the mods haven’t been quiet about it either. Moderator dougalsmacarthur commented the following about RT.com and the ban:
“There are basic metrics that are used on reddit spammers all the time both by subreddit moderators and reddit staff. One example is plain domain frequency. The rule-of-thumb is 10%. If you submit a lot, and the proportion coming from a certain domain is way higher than that, you’re probably a spammer. If there’s a lot of users doing that a lot for one domain, you should investigate further to see if it’s people working for that domain.”
It wasn’t just RT.com that gained unwarranted notoriety for alleged manipulative actions, either. A huge hullabaloo erupted when it appeared that Warner Bros Movie Studio was attempting to game r/movies to promote their new movie Getaway. Reddit’s general manager Erik Martin created a post publicly shaming Warner Brothers and stated the following:
A couple days ago your wonderful and vigilant /r/movies mods alerted us to some suspicious postings and comments related to the movie Getaway. We investigate all reports like this and after looking at these posts we were able to determine that this activity did indeed come from Warner Brothers employees, the studio for the film. The posts and comments were essentially ineffective and were actually all heavily downvoted. All accounts involved have been banned and we have spoken with Warner Brothers and let them know this is unacceptable. This appears to be just a few employees and not some company wide or systematic thing. We checked other posts about this movie and there are plenty of posts that are 100% organic and have no signs of manipulation.
However it appears that things have changed since the initial post launch. The post has now been updated with a statement that Warner Brothers employees did not in fact partake in the actions:
Update: After further investigation, we have found that neither Warner Bros. nor any of their employees was involved in this activity. To be perfectly clear, the posts that we detected came from a third party who had no affiliation with Warner Bros. This third party was not part of the marketing efforts of Warner Bros for the film.
We regret confusion about the source of these posts, and appreciate the cooperation and understanding of Warner Bros who has taken this as seriously as we do and has very strict policies on these matters.
So while Warner Brothers appears to not be in the wrong, the unwarranted negative attention and publicity may stay with the movie.
The reason that all of this can be so confusing is twofold. First, Reddit has unbelievably poor communication on what is spam to the novice – and they admit it. They call themselves out on spam being a “gray-area.” Well, if it was black and white, we likely wouldn’t see this type of shaming and redacting. Secondly, each subreddit is different than the rest – with a different set of rules. Moderators can do as they please, ban as they’d like and operate as different entities. Not only is this confusing, but also somewhat random.
Again, the best advice that a marketer can have with Reddit is that if you don’t know what you are doing – stay away and let the community decide if your content is worthy, or be willing to accept a very public brand shaming.