Reddit gets a bad rap for serving as a breeding ground for snark, rants, and memes. Sarcastic comments aside, this social platform has over 100,000 communities, known as subreddits. And it’s one of the few places where initially anonymous users can turn into solid sources for your content.
Tracking them down can be an adventure. The platform prides itself on privacy, and its members are fiercely protective of it.
You can pierce through the veil, though, and land interviews with experts who can lend their credibility to your content. Here is how to flex your investigative muscles to find, vet, and interact with them on Reddit.
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Go niche on subreddits
The magic of Reddit is, if you can think of it, there’s probably a community built around it. It’s the perfect place to research obscure topics and come up with new content ideas.
As you explore, keep in mind the more specific the subreddit is, the greater likelihood experts will be there. These digital water coolers draw people to chat about their industry and shared interests.
Given there are thousands of subreddits to sort through, it can be overwhelming if you aren’t familiar with the platform.
Here are a few places to begin your search:
Instead of beginning with Reddit’s homepage thread, go deeper into the forum’s subgroups. Search for a general term for your topic to see an overview of the communities associated with it. From there, you can identify niche subreddits that fit your specific areas of interest in the topic.
In this case, let’s use “engineering” as the general topic and head over to “communities and users” in the search results:
Now, we can skim the different subcategories and community descriptions related to engineering. Each group has thousands of people talking about everything from troubleshooting the design press mechanisms to debugging lines of code.
Ask me anything (AMA)
The subreddit r/IAmA stands for “I am a” while AMA means “ask me anything.” It gives specialists, public figures, and working professionals a platform to answer questions from fellow Redditors.
You also can find these people elsewhere on the site. Since Reddit’s interface can be slightly unintuitive, a few more steps are involved to identify them. As an example, let’s take a look at r/finance:
Type “AMA” in the search bar and review the results page:
You might be tempted to click on r/AMA, but don’t. This leads to a separate and unrelated community. Instead, click on “show results from r/finance” to see the AMA posts in the finance community.
Vet your experts
Other social networks expect you to display your name and photo, Reddit does the opposite. Users can choose to remain anonymous, giving them the freedom to share opinions without having any personal information attached to them. (The same feature also can be a negative because they don’t have to stand by their opinions.)
But some Redditors share their identity and even post links to their website or other social content. When I needed an expert on intellectual property and trademark law, I found an attorney who conducted an AMA on the topic.
Whether the person shares their identity on Reddit or not, you should begin to analyze whether this potential source is credible before reaching out.
Before making an interview request for this attorney, I used these questions as a starting point to research her background:
- Have they responded to posts connected to their expertise or industry?
If you want to see a user’s post and comment history, click on their profile name. From there, you can begin to check out the types of content they’re interacting with.
- How have they responded to posts and questions from other Redditors?
Look for patterns in how they answered other questions related to their profession, industry, or topic you’re covering. Their comments should provide consistent, relevant, and insightful information.
- Do they have any certifications or listed credentials in their posts?
This question is specific to AMA posts. Communities like r/IAmA require users who create posts to provide proof of their expertise:
Pay attention to how they talk about themselves and their experience. Also, think about how this information and perspective would enhance your content:
- Are their posts and comments leading in directions you feel your audience would benefit from?
- Have they suggested tools, resources, or strategies that would make sense to explore or reference?
- Are they providing any metrics or data you can further look into?
When you know the person’s identity, you also can research them beyond the Reddit platform, using LinkedIn, Google searches, etc.
In the case of the trademark attorney, she linked to her credentials in the AMA post. She also talked about her firm, certifications, and case law in separate threads. By the time we spoke, there was no question about her expertise in this field of law.
Reach out to request an interview
Most subreddits have rules about how their members should engage with one another. Some outright ban users who post overly promotional or spammy comments.
Instead of commenting on a public thread to connect, send a direct message. Since you’re asking these people to step out from behind the curtain and reveal themselves, it’s important to establish trust from the beginning.
Let’s look at what this first message should include increases the chances of scoring an interview:
- Identify your title, company website, or publication name.
- Mention their Reddit post(s) and explain the reason why you’re reaching out to them for an interview.
- Tell them about the kind of content you plan to produce and how you’ll use their quotes.
- Offer several formats for them to do the interview (video call, email, Reddit messenger, etc.)
- Be specific about how much of their time you need.
TIP: If they don’t respond, don’t use any of their comments or insight in your content. Anonymous, unvetted sources are not credible.
Once you land the interview, make the experience as seamless as possible and leave the door open to communicate with your source in the future.
TIP: If the potential source was initially anonymous, make sure to research them after you learn their identity. Make sure they are who they appear to be. Check their websites, social media profiles, or do a search on Google.
Use credible sources
As content marketers, we owe it to our audiences to use every means at our disposal to deliver valuable information. To do that, identifying and connecting with credible sources is a must.
If you’ve dismissed Reddit in the past or never gave it a thought, now’s the time to give it a look. When used smartly, the platform can an invaluable resource to explore niche communities and network with people who are passionate about your topics.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
How to Use Reddit and Quora for Content Marketing
But some Redditors share their identity and even contact info.