Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The power of community: Reddit’s Harold Klaje talks people, passion and the pandemic

Harold Klaje interview with New Digital Age

Harold Klaje, Reddit EVP and President, Global Advertising, talks to New Digital Age about community, shared passions, trust, the untapped internet, advertising and how the pandemic has changed the (online) world in an exclusive Q&A.

Where does Reddit sit within today’s digital ecosystem?

Reddit is different from other platforms because it’s made up of thousands of communities of people who are connecting around the things that matter most to them, their shared passions. It’s a place where people come to be hyper-informed by communities they trust, which drives real action.

I think the last few weeks in particular have demonstrated the power of online communities to influence real-world culture. What we have on Reddit is an environment of passionate, informed and trusted users, which makes their conversations some of the most authentic on the internet – and with this bring a very real opportunity for brands.

What is your USP to readers and contributors, and how has this evolved over time?

Our mission has always been to bring community and belonging to everyone on the internet and this has only strengthened in the 15 years since Reddit has been around. Reddit is the world’s largest and most vibrant platform of communities covering every interest on the planet.
People come to us for everything from how to perfect a sourdough, to what kind of car to buy, to how to homeschool during the pandemic. There are now over 100,000 communities on Reddit so there really is something for everyone and we think that’s pretty unique.

How do most people access your content? Is it directly through the platform or via the web?

It’s a combination of the two, but the majority (76%) of UK visits come from mobile (app and web) in the UK, with 24% desktop. This is in-line with our global visits which are majority mobile.

What does Reddit offer advertisers and how has this evolved?

As mentioned, Reddit is different from other platforms in several key ways. So are our users. First of all, they are truly unduplicated and can’t be found anywhere else online, so they represent a really interesting opportunity for advertisers. In the UK, 15% of Reddit users are not on Facebook, 38% are not on Instagram and 37% are not on Twitter, so in this sense, Reddit represents the untapped internet.

Moreover, the number one reason users come to Reddit is to seek information, which means the consideration phase of a purchase path really stands out on Reddit and brings a golden opportunity for advertisers to share their message with a passionate and curious audience. We recently partnered with Verto Analytics to prove out Reddit’s role in the path to purchase journey compared to other social and digital platforms, which confirmed what we’ve long known to be true: consumers that use Reddit are more informed, make faster, higher-value purchases, and become stronger brand advocates.

Our advertising business continues to go from strength to strength. All of the leading indicators of growth are trending positively: retention is up, close rates are up, deal sizes are increasing, and we’re experiencing significant growth in active advertisers.

What barriers do you have to overcome when pitching to new advertisers?

I sometimes hear the misunderstanding that Reddit users don’t like ads, which is simply not true. We know that Reddit users welcome brands to engage with them on the platform, with around 69% respecting when brands make an effort to participate. What’s more, around 60% say they’re more likely to trust a brand that participates on Reddit, and 66% of our users say brands can have conversations with them on Reddit that they can’t have anywhere else — which makes sense given the number one reason people come to Reddit is to seek information. So there is a lot of room for brands who are willing to provide real value in these conversations that are already happening”

We like to say, if your brand aligns with a passion, it should be on Reddit. As a result, we’re really proud to work with brands big and small, across all industries and with all budgets — from Fortune 500 companies to scrappy-start ups. Our advertising business has grown exponentially in the last five years as we’ve continued to build out our offering. In the UK we work with Samsung, Netflix, Pringles and Playstation to name a few.

You talk of an online shift from “me” centric towards “we” centric conversations – what do you mean?

We partnered with Global Web Index last year to explore why online communities are on the rise, what they bring to the digital environment and why they’re emerging as such an important marketing channel. One of the key ideas explored was a shift towards “we” centric conversations rather than “me” centric social sharing, and we found the number of people sharing details of their personal life through traditional social media had declined by 35% over the past five years.

This proves out what we’ve long known to be true, that consumer behaviour online is changing.
We’re not seeing feeds dominated by perfectly curated content the way we were a few years ago. Instead, what we are seeing is an increased desire for authentic, human connection and this is where our online communities come into play. We’ve seen this trend emerging for a while now but the pandemic has taken it to another level as more and more people are flocking to online communities for information, connection and distraction in a time of unprecedented physical disconnection.”

Why are online communities important, and what do people most value?

There are so many reasons — because Reddit’s communities are grouped around passions and interests, the conversations that happen within them are hyper relevant and engaged. Online communities provide valuable information in times of uncertainty, they are quick to respond to peoples’ needs, and they provide positive emotional support via digital interaction. The conversations, connection, and companionship happening within online communities are emerging as a reflection and indicator of real world sentiment.

What new and evolving trends have you seen since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic?

We have definitely seen more and more people discovering Reddit during the pandemic and as a result the value of online communities has solidified — online communities have proven their worth in a whole new way in the past 12 months or so. While the physical world has been constrained in so many ways, the online world has emerged as more crucial than ever for so many. And even in the last few weeks alone, we have definitely seen more people understand the power of communities to drive real world action. I think what we’re seeing is a more mass-scale understanding of what we have long celebrated: that when people come together around their passion, powerful things can happen. We see this play out on Reddit, on varying scales, every day and it’s exciting to see more and more people experience this through the platform.”

Have you seen a shift in what topics are covered and read?

As the stages of the pandemic have shifted, so too has user behaviour which has been very reflective of what people are grappling with and experiencing all over the world. First, it was information gathering as the pandemic started to escalate and people were afraid from a health and financial perspective and we saw traffic to and conversations within r/coronavirus and r/askscience surge during that time.

Since then, we’ve seen people visit the platform for connection and distraction with surges in communities like r/homeschool, r/askculinary, r/television and r/malegrooming. More recently we’ve seen creative pursuits thriving on Reddit, in spite of COVID, with communities like r/getmotivated, r/lifeprotips and r/homegyms all surging as people are settling into the new normal.
All the while, we have seen communities come together to share information, advice, stories and connect in a really meaningful, and also really fleeting ways online – our live streaming platform, for example, has seen surging traffic as people are tuning in to watch Reddit users play music or create art…this idea of “hanging out” with strangers in these creative spaces is a nice interaction that will hopefully stick around long after the pandemic.

Do you think brands today are talking more about local and community advertising than before?

It’s always time to talk community advertising! I think what we’ve seen during the pandemic is an evolving purchase cycle – ecommerce has shifted, consumer priorities are changing and communities are playing an increasingly important role. People can’t get to the stores the way they used to – they can’t touch, try on and discover new products in the traditional way. Instead, they’re discovering within online communities which are as trusted as consumer reviews because they’re made up of real people they trust, sharing real product experiences.

As a result, People who visit Reddit in their purchase path have more conviction in their decision: they decide 9x faster, spend 15% more, are 12% more loyal to the brand afterwards, and are more likely to talk about it publicly. And what’s a better end goal for brand advocacy than to see consumers thanking and recommending brands online after a positive purchase experience?!

How can Reddit help support a wider media plan and brand strategy?

With 52 million daily active users, advertising on Reddit should be considered as a key part of any media plan. We work really closely with our advertising partners to help them succeed on our platform — this includes getting them in front of new audiences, allowing them to take part in the consideration path of a purchase journey and drive direct performance results.”

Reddit is a treasure trove of insights into how people are thinking and feeling at any given moment. Those looking for a deep, data driven understanding of consumer sentiment can turn to Reddit to breakdown how people are thinking, feeling and communicating on specific topics, products and moments, and act on them. While other platforms can provide insight into the loudest voice, Reddit can provide analysis around keywords, conversations, community behavior, share of voice and other first party data, for more prescriptive, actionable insights.

Every week, our Marketing Sciences team provides a data and insights report calling out the key conversations happening on Reddit over the past seven days — that’s one really tangible example of how we help advertisers understand community sentiment and behavior on Reddit, and it’s just scratching the surface.”

Finally, what do you expect to see happening over the coming year?

I think we will continue to see the use of video and live streaming grow as an integral way people are communicating, connecting and expressing themselves online. My expectation is that we continue to see the upward trend of more and more people seeing Reddit as a platform to both watch and read. I think we will also continue to see the power of community demonstrated on a more mainstream level, more people seeing what we see every day: that amazing things can happen when people come together around something they are passionate about.

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