Banner photo: by Matt Crampton. A montage of Reddit users built from images posted on this thread "What do you look like RIGHT NOW!"
How to use Reddit as an Adventurer
What’s in it for you?
However, self-promotion has to be done with care, and respect for Reddit’s particular culture. If Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are domesticated, the cats, dogs and cows of social media, Reddit is more like an ostrich - yes, you can ride one but it can also kill you with a single kick.
If you are only aware of Reddit as:
- The website with the co-founder (Alexis Ohanian) who is engaged to Serena Williams
- The website that had three CEOs in 2015
- The website that misidentified the Boston Marathon bombers
- The website famous as ’a veritable wonderland for the most extreme forms of free speech on the Internet’
Then you are missing out on a powerful and important resource.
Reddit is BIG!
According to Alexa, it is the 8th biggest website in the world, and ranks #1 of the top 50 websites worldwide for daily time spent on the site per user (15m53s). And according to DMR (home to a vast treasure trove of online stats), it has users from over 200 countries, more than 800,000 subreddits, 40 million searches and 5 million comments a day. It is an astonishing collection of crowdsourced expertise and opinion.
Reddit is continuing to innovate
Under the last of those 2015 CEOs, Steve Huffman - a co-founder now returned to run the business - Reddit has settled down, brought in measures to reduce online harassment, and raised another $200 million in funding. It is now valued at $1.8 billion.
How does Reddit work?
Reddit calls itself “the front page of the Internet.” It has something of the look of an old-fashioned web forum. It is divided into thousands of subreddits, each with their own moderators (who are volunteers and fellow users), topics of interest and rules of use. Some have hundreds of thousands of subscribers, others are tiny or long abandoned. Subreddits are preceded by r/, user names by u/. Users decide which posts are most interesting by giving up or down votes, so in theory the most popular content floats to the top.
You can use Reddit with complete anonymity, simply lurking and browsing. There is a wealth of content available on topics like outdoor skills, adventure sports, how to crowdfund, self-publishing, writing, photography, and much more.
If you want to post or comment, you can make an anonymous account - all that is required is to think up a username and provide an email address. Be aware that people can look at all the comments made under a username, so if you give away too many details of your life, you may still be identifiable.
Or if you are on Reddit for brand and audience building, you can make an account that links to you in real life. Some Reddit users have more than one account, depending on what subreddits they are browsing and what they are posting about.
Using Reddit for information
Reddit can be overwhelming in the amount and variety of content on offer. The most effective way to use it for research:
- Set up an anonymised account (you can set up a separate email account just for Reddit).
- Subscribe to the subreddits that are relevant to you. That means your Reddit front-page will only show topics that matter to you.
- Start by searching for terms you are interested in. In picking subreddits, check subscriber numbers to see how active they are, and skim content to see if it suits you. Look on the right of the page (on desktop) to see if they list related subreddits.
- Look across the top of the page for different ways of sorting posts in a subreddit - by newest, most popular, more controversial.
- Before posting to a subreddit, always read the posting rules on the right, and lurk and browse first to get a feel of the culture of the community.
- Some account settings worth knowing about
- 'don't allow search engines to index my user profile' - on by default (if you are posting as ‘yourself’ to raise your profile, then you do want to allow search engines to find it).
- Messaging preferences - you can block people who send unwanted messages and report abusive or spam messages. You can also set your preferences to trusted users only (a list of users you supply) so you can’t be sent random messages.
- On any particular post you make, you can disable inbox replies.
- You can edit your comments after making them, you can delete comments you have made. And you can delete your account completely.
Using Reddit to promote yourself
Reddit is the origin of much of the click-bait viral content you find shared across the web. If you are lucky you can, like Gary Sizer, put up some before-and-after photos of your Appalachian Trail thru-hike one evening - and find that 3 million people have seen you in your underpants by the following morning. But it is very hard to orchestrate that kind of spontaneous sharing.
The most popular form of ‘promotion’ on Reddit is to do an AMA - Ask Me Anything. There are several subreddits that do this but the most popular is /r/IAmA/, which currently has over 17 million subscribers. You will also see [AMA Requests] where users ask for individuals or areas of expertise they are interested in.
Famous AMAs include Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and many more. However, you don't have to be famous to do an AMA. Reddit says that you need "Something uncommon that plays a central role in your life, or A truly interesting and unique event". In this respect adventurers are more likely than most to be able to do a successful AMA.
You will need to provide proof in the text of the post when you open your AMA. If you need to remain anonymous, you can message proof to the moderators and they can verify you. Reddit provides a PDF outlining how to run a successful AMA.
The boost you can gain from a well-received AMA is extraordinary. In Gary Sizer’s guest post of using Reddit, he shows how a successful Reddit AMA brought in a 7000% increase in blog visitors, which in turn fed into book sales. However, there are also AMAs with comments in the single figures. Not every one catches fire.
Furthermore, Reddit is a fickle beast, and users don’t like blatant self-promotion. REI’s chief executive tried an AMA to promote the company’s decision to stay closed on Black Friday so employees could “spend the day outdoors with loved ones.” Reddit is a truly open forum and quickly "current and former REI employees began posting about what they described as the many downsides of working for the company".
The best AMAs are done by people familiar with all the Reddit in-jokes, happy to take on the weird queries along with the serious ones, able to reply quickly with wit and humour, and ready to devote hours of time to answering a deluge of questions.
Some adventurer AMAs, some more successful than others:
- I am Lynn Hill - the first female climber to free climb The Nose of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley!
- I am Bear Grylls: Adventurer, family man & host of ‘Escape from Hell’ on Discovery Channel
- Alastair Humphreys I Am A Professional Adventurer / Explorer
- I'm an adventurer. I've seen most of the world, crossed the Sahara by bicycle, camped in the Siberian winter, climb mountains, wrestled a croc, rode a bike underwater... and traveled the Pan-American highway, silk road and trans-Africa route... Next I'll ride a Bamboo bike through Africa. AMA
- Hi, I'm Jan Meek, a Guinness World Record holding polar racer and ocean rower and a motivational speaker. AMA!
- IamA adventure photographer who just skied to the North Pole, AMA.
- We are 3 adventurers who quit our stable NYC jobs to drive 10,000+ miles from NYC to Argentina and film it for TV. We are the GLOBAL GOULETS, Ask us anything!
- Thomas Andersen Hi, I'm cycling around the world. So far 19000 miles and 4 years on the road. Ask me anything!
- IAmA Pakistani ultra-marathon athlete competing in the toughest footrace in the world!