Upvoted – Reddit’s News Site – First Impressions

Every social media buff knows about Reddit. Submit links to be judged by the faceless masses via Upvotes and Downvotes, and if you pass the gauntlet of reposts and re-reposts and re-re-reposts and follow the rules of each subreddit just right, you might just be in the orange. Play the right cards at exactly the right time, and you might even end up on the front page of Reddit. For about four hours before the limited attention span of the Internet buries your post in the second page. All of this, of course, is reinforced by “Karma,” a sort of point system for your account; every link with a positive number of Upvotes adds to your Karma score, a meaningless number next to your username. You might get some recognition if your Karma score is in the tens of thousands, but unless you’re a celebrity or a novelty account like user poem_for_your_sprog, you probably won’t be known for anything noteworthy. Verbose intro aside, let’s talk about Upvoted.com, Reddit’s recently launched news site.

It appears that the purposed of Upvoted is to find the most interesting stories and links on Reddit and expand on them with an editorial process, something that many existing news site already does on a daily basis. It could be that Reddit wants to curate this type of content with the added benefit of getting straight from the horse’s mouth. Given the site’s disastrous history of neglecting users, subreddit owners, and its own staff, using its own editorial staff to dig up and expand on trending topics and freshly popular users might be more than they can handle. Everyone’s comparing it to Buzzfeed, and at first glance, that’s about right. At second glance, it looks about the same. At the moment, the people most likely to see beyond Upvoted’s Buzzfeedesque exterior are current users who are versed in Reddit’s posting culture and business motivations.

Looking at the front page of the site also reveals a great deal about Reddit’s motivations. Front and center is the top story with the number of upvotes associated with the original link at the top left corner, and under it, the top 3 trending stories. Directly to the right and taking up about 25% of your screen…a sponsored link. Advertising. Funding Reddit’s servers isn’t cheap, and Upvoted looks like another way for the social site to rake in more advertising revenue from companies looking to monetize on Reddit’s popularity. The promise is that this sponsored content will be just as rich as normal posts, written and curated by the editorial staff, but paid for and approved by the company. In other words, “Branded Content”. Upvoted does make it very clear that it’s sponsored, so there’s no shady business going on. Good.

Let’s talk privacy. Many of Upvoted’s posts include comments from users. Does the editorial staff ask permission before a comment is used in their curated content, or does the terms and agreements of the site already opt every user in to be fair game? This is an important question because of the “throwaway account” culture on Reddit; people who don’t want their comments or questions associated with their regular usernames will often create a burner account. Make a comment, ask a question, and never touch the username again. I don’t have an answer yet, but I will update this segment when I get a clear answer.

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A Gentle Touch for Customer Feedback

Of course you want to know what you customers think of you! As a business, the number one priority is to give the customer what they want, and no one can give you that information except your customers. It’s not enough to simply study your audience’s behavior to decide your next marketing venture; sometimes the best way forward is to stick with the age-old method of asking directly. Just keep in mind that this invaluable data can only be collected with a gentle touch, so it’s important to ask and not demand. And that means letting the customer send their feedback without trying to nudge them toward the positive. It’s not as subtle as you think, and it comes across as extremely dishonest or even thuggish.

Ultimately any email you send to your customers regarding feedback comes down to this: you’re asking them to perform an action, and it’s important that they understand that it’s their choice. Once your initial transaction is completed, a customer owes nothing to the business with whom they dealt. While this next example from the New York Democratic Committee isn’t a business per se, the letter they sent recently urging members of the Democratic Party to vote was written in the worst possible way: “Who you vote for is your secret. But whether or not you vote is public record,” which was later followed by “We will be reviewing voting records . . . to determine whether you joined your neighbors who voted in 2014.” This is most definitely not the way to convince any form of action, especially an action that is completely voluntary. Even worse, the letter ends with this gem: “If you do not vote this year, we will be interested to hear why not.”

So what can businesses learn from this? First and foremost, your customers cannot be bullied into liking your company, and likewise they cannot be bullied into writing stellar reviews. If you want wonderful reviews, then you have to be a wonderful company that inspires its customers to speak up on your behalf. Tell them that their feedback and reviews will be greatly appreciated, but don’t attach a prize or incentive for them to do so. Any such action will come across as a bribe, which makes any positive review or comment they make look like a bribe…and you can be sure someone will mention your incentive in a public space. If customer reviews and comments cannot be trusted, then the company cannot be trusted. At this point you might be tempted to have comments regarding these incentives deleted, and that’s never where you want to end up.

A lesson to take home: Your actions and reputation as a company is at the mercy of your customers, especially in the online sphere. Do not attempt to manipulate your image by manipulating customer feedback. Honesty from them means honesty from you.